A lack of effective knowledge sharing can negatively impact retention and engagement
When we struggle to find the information we need to perform our jobs effectively, the organisation’s bottom line suffers and it can make it harder to keep talented colleagues engaged. Knowledge hoarding (refusing to share) is a huge detriment to productivity while knowledge sharing brings numerous tangible benefits. Hoarding causes distrust, kills collaboration, reduces retention, and costs the organisation valuable time and money as we need to “re-invent the wheel” each time we do a new task. Sharing ideas increases social interaction, creativity, collaboration, problem solving, and preserves existing knowledge (so it is not lost as employees move on). Sharing knowledge is an essential part of crafting a dynamic employee experience that aids retention and organisational longevity.
3 key ways to increase knowledge sharing:
1. Design flexible spaces
Our physical space can directly impact knowledge sharing. Barriers to conversations like a noisy environment or high dividers between desks can reduce collaboration. A collaborative space doesn’t always require a full remodel. Here are a few easy fixes to make your office space more social-friendly:
- Coffee spaces: Set up several coffee areas throughout the office. A variety of coffee stations can encourage people to speak to coworkers they may not usually interact with. An informal chat over a cup of coffee can encourage sharing ideas.
- Flexible room styles: A meeting room doesn’t always have to have a large table surrounded by chairs. Create different layouts based on how your teams like to work. Several smaller tables with groups of chairs around them, couches or work stations surrounded by white boards may help support conversations and the sharing of ideas.
- Casual spaces: Casual spaces in high-traffic common areas can encourage people from different functional areas of the business to have a quick chat to colleagues. Social interactions can create opportunities to share challenges and solutions across functions.
2. Encourage a variety of sharing opportunities
Not everyone is happy sharing their ideas in front of a large group, some prefer a more informal round-table discussion, or a one-on-one chat. The ultimate goal of your knowledge sharing programme should be to help everyone to feel comfortable sharing ideas, challenges and solutions in a multitude of ways. Allow them to begin where they are most comfortable. Every member of the organisation potentially has something valuable to share, when we give them a chance. Here are a few ideas to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard:
- Encourage face-time. For those employees who prefer face-to-face situations set up some time each week for colleagues to bounce ideas off of each other, or to share ideas with their manager.
- Share and contribute content. Set up a set time each month (1-2 hrs) for teams to share a lesson learned, a new process or an opportunity to innovate. This can help ensure that valuable knowledge is being shared and documented.
- Schedule time away from the office. Sometimes just changing the environment can stimulate conversation or enable the team to see a challenge with new eyes. This could be a monthly Friday pizza party or a social responsibility project.
3. Revamp your onboarding and training
Make knowledge sharing is part of your onboarding and training. Give experienced team members an opportunity to share their top learnings and observations. “What do you wish you had know when you began here?” This can help share the knowledge and build team rapport. Here are a few ideas to get your teams collaborating from the first day:
- Establish a mentorship programme: Giving each new hire a mentor is a great way to help them integrate into the team faster. It can help with our first-week nerves to know that there is someone we can go to with questions, without judgement, and it empowers us to speak up if we feel lost. Mentorship also helps embed the ideas in the mentor. There is nothing quite like trying to explain an idea to help us get it on a deeper level.
- Job shadowing: Allow the new-hire to shadow another team member that exemplifies best practice and knowledge sharing for a day or two as they work. This helps them get up to speed quicker and can set the tone for collaboration. We help each other grow.
- Ask for feedback: A great way to make a person feel that their input valued is to ask for it. Actively seek out the opinions and ideas of your new hires. This can be immensely valuable as they can give us a fresh perspective on how we do things. Use these insights to tweak your onboarding and your processes.
Human-to-human methods combined with technology help get the most out of your knowledge management programme. Technology can enable real time sharing across the organisation and create a database of knowledge to tap when required. Adding recognition and incentive schemes can also help drive the programme, but a focus on financial rewards may quickly become counterproductive. Recognition and intrinsic rewards often are more effective than financial incentives.
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