Knowledge is power, so what people know and who they know are valuable assets to them personally as well as to the company. Employees often fear that if they share too much of their expertise that their knowledge will cause them to be terminated after their knowledge is transferred to other workers. Still, team players are needed to give a business the competitive edge it needs to survive in a tough economy so knowledge must be shared among employees in support of the corporate mission. This means that a balance between a willingness to share knowledge with and a need for self preservation must be achieved. Below you will find 10 tips for sharing knowledge in your office that will help you get the best of both worlds.
- Create a trusting environment – When companies demonstrate to their workers that their positions are secure even if they share what they know, knowledge will flow more freely through the organization. Take steps to build and demonstrate trust and workers will be more willing to share what they know with others in the company.
- Emphasize collaboration – Many employers rely on structured meetings and workshops to transmit knowledge from the top down. In real life, however, it is the employees’ working together that gets work done. Companies that stimulate informal learning will build bonds between groups of coworkers that will serve to solve most problems without the intervention of management.
- Collective rewards – The old saying that money talks is more accurate than we would like to admit. By making rewards available based on team accomplishments, companies give their employees good reasons for sharing knowledge among themselves. When worthwhile financial rewards are at stake, most people become more willing to share what they know.
- Company and department knowledge bases and issue tracking – Requiring that all calls, trouble reports, and other issues be logged into a company database is a policy that builds shared knowledge into the corporate framework. Ass issues are logged and documented, knowledge of the business stays with the company even when employees leave. Over time this builds a wealth of information that enhances the resale value of the company while speeding the resolution of customer and internal issues.
- Formal training – As already noted, formal training does not normally work well when sharing knowledge effectively in the workplace. Still, there are important roles that formal training can play, especially when it comes to government regulations, industry trends, and corporate policies.
- Schedule dynamic learning sessions – Managers should take the initiative to schedule time for groups to work together sharing tips and experiences among themselves. By allocating time, it shows that the company values knowledge sharing and suggests that those unwilling to participate might suffer if they don’t participate.
- Produce documentation – Documented workflows are one example where knowledge should be shared. Especially if the organization needs an ISO (or other) certification, every task needs to be detailed in written work procedures and saved to the corporate server as well as in printed form. Many employees are reluctant to participate in these efforts for fear of being replaced by cheaper labor, but such documentation is necessary in order to build a solid operational foundation.
- Mentoring and shadowing – When taking on new employees, companies should assign workers a buddy and also a mentor. The buddy helps get the new employee off to a good start by making introductions to coworkers, managers, and executives. Buddies also help inform new workers about company history, company policies, and corporate culture. Mentors, on the other hand transfer professional knowledge over the long term to other employees, grooming them for advancement within the company.
- On the job training – Sometimes you can encourage knowledge transfer by letting workers figure things out for themselves. After all, experience is a good teacher. From dealing with broken equipment to learning how to research customer inquiries, knowledge can be transferred from multiple sources as employees learn to be self sufficient in important aspects of their jobs.
- Abide by principle – Businesses need to have a plan in place for dealing with the event where an employee is discovered to be unwilling to share knowledge (or even willfully sharing incorrect knowledge). Team members are watching to see whether management really means business when it comes to knowledge sharing.
Use these 10 tips for sharing knowledge in your office to boost productivity, profitability, and potential for your business.