Knowledge Sharing: What It Means and Why Every Workplace Needs It
It’s the secret sauce in the corporate success entrée. Knowledge sharing breaks down silos and builds up teamwork, transforming your company’s project teams into efficiency superstars. We’ll break down the elements of knowledge sharing and show you why it’s an important component in any successful organization.
What is knowledge sharing in the workplace?
Knowledge sharing is a distribution method that gives everyone in the organization easy access to everyone else’s work-related skills, observations, and experiences.
Employees absorb two types of knowledge: explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge.
Explicit knowledge is readily transferable. It’s composed of the how-tos and step-by-steps of the work your people do. This type of knowledge is catalogued in some form, whether it’s in an operations manual or a software solution. Employees can—it’s hoped—find it easily.
Tacit knowledge is more difficult to locate. It is information learned on the job that lives in the minds of employees. When tacit knowledge is not shared, employees need to relearn it repeatedly, wasting time and by extension, profits.
For a home-based example, Nana’s brownie recipe is explicit knowledge. Anyone can follow the list of ingredients, their amounts, and how to blend and cook them.
Tacit knowledge is whatever’s going on in Nana’s head as she puts that recipe together resulting in brownies that no one else in the family can match. Nana softens the butter before creaming it, a detail that’s not in the recipe, but it results in a better brownie. Unless she shares that detail, your brownies will never measure up to hers.
To put knowledge sharing in place, a company must cultivate a culture of sharing, which can be a challenge. Employees sometimes believe their knowledge equals their value to the organization and that hoarding information creates personal job security. They need to learn that this perspective is counterproductive. Knowledge sharing is a give-and-take proposition that benefits everyone and the organization.
What is the importance of knowledge sharing?
Perhaps you have manuals for repeated tasks, and your employees already routinely share tacit information at the end of a project. It’s a positive notion in theory, but in practice, if you wait until the end of the project, much of the earned intelligence is lost while it’s ongoing.
Knowledge sharing in an ongoing form is important for several reasons:
- It relies on employee input. Often, employees feel unheard and unimportant. Knowledge sharing helps them develop a sense of purpose and value.
- It improves workflow. Better ways of doing tasks are discovered.
- It helps new employees to launch quickly.
- It unlocks potential. Employees benefit from a “big picture” view of the company.
- It offers security. Losing a team member no longer means losing their knowledge, too. You’re also more likely to retain top talent when information flows freely and they can apply it to their job.
What are the benefits of sharing knowledge?
The benefits are many, from fostering collaboration to filling in knowledge gaps. We have identified the following as three key advantages of knowledge sharing.
Saves time. Employees spend precious minutes, even hours, looking for the answer to a question. They’ll consult coworkers, head to social media, even scan through old emails. When knowledge is shared consistently and thoroughly, employees can access it quickly and get on with their work. And with some studies showing up to 25% of working time being spent searching for information, fast retrieval is especially crucial in these times of working remotely.
Improves service. These days, every industry is time critical. Clients don’t want to wait, and customer-facing employees will be better empowered to serve them quickly and accurately. Employees make better decisions and reduce repeated mistakes.
Preserves company knowledge. No matter who resigns, retires, or otherwise moves on, the organization retains its empirical knowledge forever. This not only assists current and future employees, but it’s a valuable asset to have if the company is ever sold.
How do you transfer knowledge and skills?
First, you need to identify and collect the knowledge you have. Encourage collaboration and teamwork. Involve as many people as you can to generate ideas, pinpoint problems, and create solutions. Gather the most-asked questions and look for knowledge gaps.
Then, you’ll need to choose a tool to capture and store the knowledge. This is your knowledge base or knowledge management system. Allowing parts of the organization to use differing knowledge management platforms will create new silos and defeat the purpose. Employ one system for everyone.
With ProcedureFlow, you can create a single source of truth for your knowledge base that can be easily accessed and updated as needed. That way, your employees have the accurate information they need, when they need it.
Next, share the knowledge. Make sure everyone knows where it is and how to access it. Perhaps you’ll designate a knowledge team to coordinate this. Again, a trusted advisor can lessen the burden on you and your team.
Once knowledge is flowing freely between employees and departments, you can set benchmarks, track progress and create new knowledge to feed into the system. New challenges, tasks, and successes produce opportunities to add to the knowledge bank.
Ways to improve knowledge sharing
People hold the key to successful knowledge sharing. Enthusiasm trickles down from the top, so lead by example. Make knowledge sharing one of your company’s values. Encourage executives, managers, and team leads to openly share their successes and failures. Demystify the process of sharing by modeling it.
Employees need to feel comfortable before they’ll take part. Utilize the expertise of your in-house superstars to take the lead in sharing knowledge and motivating others to do the same.
Make it an easy and consistent experience for all employees.
An organization without knowledge sharing is like a beautiful home with loose windows. Warm air is getting out and you’re losing money. It’s not efficient and some areas of the house have a draft when the wind blows. Seal up your company by sharing knowledge in-house and you’ll fortify it by empowering your employees to solve problems and answer questions quickly and autonomously.
Allow ProcedureFlow to help you master knowledge sharing in your organization today.
Written by Lisa Brandt