Ebook: How to Use Internal Knowledge Sharing to Improve Productivity Among Employees
Every time experienced employees leave a business, companies lose out on the knowledge and expertise they’ve developed. Over the course of their time with your company, employees build both explicit and tacit knowledge – valuable knowledge that you’ll now have to do without. This often means losing time and money while trying to rebuild that knowledge from scratch. The solution is internal knowledge sharing, which helps you retain the knowledge of your most skilled employees even if they’re no longer with you.
Many businesses also suffer because they don’t have an ongoing knowledge-sharing process. In fact, sometimes there’s a tendency for different departments to hoard knowledge rather than share it freely. In an increasingly connected world, and in an era where remote teams are the norm, it’s more important than ever to communicate and share internal knowledge effectively.
Done right, internal knowledge sharing can revolutionize your company culture, helping to make your organization competitive and successful. Using a knowledge management solution will improve employee productivity and sense of community, and save you time and money, too.
In this ebook you’ll learn:
- What is internal knowledge sharing?
- How businesses benefit from an internal knowledge sharing culture
- How to build and nurture a culture of knowledge sharing
Company internal knowledge sharing and lost productivity
When you don’t use an internal knowledge management tool or process, the stats show there’s a high productivity cost. While improvements in search technologies, such as federated search, have increased search effectiveness, staff still spend a LOT of time searching for information and documents. According to Nintex’s research on what’s broken in IT and HR:
- 49% of employees have trouble locating documents
- 43% of employees say document sharing is an issue
- 33% of employees have an issue with document versioning
In addition, Xenit reports that employees can spend up to one day a week looking for the information they need to do their jobs effectively. And TD Magazine reports that 60% of employees find it difficult to get the information they need to do their jobs efficiently. It estimates that the resulting reduction in productivity could cost small companies as much as $2 million. That could increase to $200 million for large companies.
The bottom line: internal knowledge sharing is an issue companies have to solve to save time and money, and improve their company culture. In this ebook, we’ll look at what internal knowledge sharing is, highlight the benefits of internal knowledge sharing, and identify key ways to foster a corporate culture that recognizes the value of internal knowledge sharing.
What is internal knowledge sharing?
Internal knowledge sharing is exchanging knowledge, information, expertise, and skills with colleagues inside an organization or company. This can happen in a variety of settings, from conversation around a watercooler or coffee machine to more formal internal communications via meetings, workshops, presentations, emails and even internal social media. It’s a way of communicating thoughts, ideas, and processes to help employees and businesses be more productive.
In most companies, employees naturally share knowledge in daily conversation, but that can be patchy. Having an internal knowledge sharing process removes the random element so that exchange of expertise and collaboration are built in.
A key aspect of knowledge sharing internally is a recognition that knowledge needs to be transferable. It’s not enough to tell someone how to perform a task on one occasion. Instead, it’s essential to create long-term expertise that stays within the company so that anyone else who needs to do that same task has access to the necessary information, documents and processes. To do that you need to build a knowledge sharing culture within your company.
What is a knowledge sharing culture?
Have you ever needed a particular piece of information and struggled to find it? A lot of us have. Maybe you had to comb the employee directory, then message multiple people to find out who had the content or document you wanted. Or perhaps you had to search through hundreds of files before discovering precisely the one you needed. Thousands of employees across the country experience this type of inefficiency every day, and it’s completely unnecessary. A knowledge sharing culture is the solution.
A knowledge sharing culture is a company culture in which knowledge and information are shared freely for the good of everyone. This type of culture is the hallmark of a transparent, pro-knowledge sharing organization. It features open communication, collaboration and feedback throughout the organization, filtering from the top down and across all levels. In this scenario, internal knowledge sharing isn’t confined to wikis and internal knowledge bases; it also happens through cross-team cooperation and conversations.
The problem of information silos
One way to tell if your company or organization has an internal knowledge sharing culture is to look at some of the hallmarks of companies that don’t. These include:
- Knowledge is locked away in silos, with little transparency about who owns information and where you can find it
- Most communication takes place through formal channels, and people cherry-pick the knowledge and expertise they share
- There are bottlenecks in getting information to the people who need it
Information silos cost businesses, resulting in:
- Unnecessary duplication of effort and documentation
- Poor decision-making (because nobody has all the information)
- Missed business opportunities, leading in turn to reduced competitiveness
- Disempowered staff, which also affects retention
Clearly, that’s not the kind of business you want to run. Internal knowledge sharing offers a better approach for all organizations.
What are the benefits of internal knowledge sharing for businesses?
It’s hard to overstate the value of internal knowledge sharing in making an organization successful. In an era where information sharing needs – and information – evolve rapidly, a structured approach to knowledge sharing offers a number of major advantages. For example, it can:
Foster organizational transparency
Some 74% of employees think they miss company information as they go through their workday. In fact, there are multiple jokes about the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing in business. One of the benefits of internal knowledge sharing is solving that problem, so you get increased organizational transparency and everyone’s always in the loop.
Organizational transparency also improves internal communication and reduces digital information overload. That’s because instead of wading through a lot of irrelevant information, people can easily find precise information they need. Plus, your customers also value transparency, so it makes sense to build this into the culture.
Improve collaboration and feedback
Let’s face it, not all of the knowledge in your company is stored in databases. Some of it is in people’s heads, and in the daily practices your internal experts have evolved over time. And it’s in the values, attitudes, beliefs and experiences that help to make your company great.
A knowledge sharing culture helps everyone benefit from that repository of knowledge by encouraging collaboration and feedback. When you expect people to work collaboratively and give and receive constructive feedback, you create an internal knowledge community that benefits everyone. This keeps employees engaged, and engaged employees are much more productive.
Retain institutional knowledge
Here’s another common scenario. In every business, there’s at least one coworker who knows why the company does things in a particular way, and how that came to be. That person is one of your most valuable and effective employees. But when that colleague moves on or retires, you lose access to the knowledge they have, and have to rebuild it from scratch. That takes time and effort, and you may never capture it all.
In contrast, an internal knowledge sharing culture lets you retain that institutional knowledge. Through that employee’s tenure, they are encouraged to share their expertise with colleagues, through guides, training sessions, presentations, webinars, FAQs and even casual conversation. That gives you a solid foundation for making decisions based on the best information from the most knowledgeable experts.
A study by Panopto reveals that:
- While many new employees receive 2.5 months of training, it can take up to 6 months for them to learn their role and get up to speed
- 30% of employees feel they don’t get adequate training
- 81% of employees are frustrated by not having the knowledge they need to do their job efficiently
Creating a healthy collaboration culture in which people feel comfortable sharing expertise can get new hires acclimated quicker. Plus it ensures they have immediate access to the information they need to be productive and do their jobs well.
Increase innovation and productivity among employees
There’s no doubt that increased productivity is a key benefit of internal knowledge sharing. The reason is pretty simple: the more people know, the more they can use their knowledge effectively and efficiently. Internal knowledge sharing also reduces context switching, which results in an additional productivity boost.
Studies show that humans don’t really multitask well. Instead, we mentally shift from one context to another. Each time we do, it can take up to half an hour to regain focus. Of course, sometimes we bring this on ourselves, by stopping what we’re doing to respond to an email or check social media. But sometimes context switching happens when we have to search for information, or when we’re interrupted by colleagues who are also searching for information. If the knowledge we need is easily accessible, then there’s no need for context switching.
Knowledge sharing also fosters innovation. In a healthy collaboration culture, everyone benefits from shared insights into processes, industry trends and developments. That boosts creativity and can lead to more ideas for creating or improving products and services.
Create individual expertise and group knowledge
Employees are one of the biggest assets a business has. After all, they know the business context inside out, and are well-positioned to identify opportunities and solve challenges. Creating ways for them to share knowledge helps them feel valued for their individual expertise, encouraging them to keep learning and growing. And it helps increase the store of knowledge within teams and across the company, making the business as a whole more competitive.
Save time and business cost
One of the ways companies lose time and money is by reinventing the wheel. That means putting new processes into place or duplicating content and documents that already exist. Asana’s Anatomy of Work study shows that most people spend only 27% of their time on what they’re trained for, and up to 60% of their time on “work about work”, including duplicating efforts. That’s a huge productivity and time suck, and could cost your company millions. With a robust internal knowledge sharing culture, you can cut out that wasted time, improve workflows, and benefit from cost savings.
Improve business continuity
Ensuring business continuity is another benefit of knowledge management. In case of disaster, it’s essential to get your business running again as quickly as possible. Making sure that unique and critical knowledge is stored and easily accessible makes it easy to resume operations seamlessly while ensuring that everyone has the information they need.
Increased employee retention
High employee turnover costs businesses, in terms of finances, expertise and productivity. That’s why retention is an essential aspect of business success. One way to keep employees engaged and make them stick around is to recognize their expertise and encourage them to share it. As a bonus, when you have knowledgeable expert employees, your business gains a better reputation within its industry and can help you become a leader in your field.
How to Foster a Knowledge Sharing Culture
Here are some tips for fostering a knowledge sharing culture within your company or organization.
Start from the start
Every new employee represents another chance to expand your internal knowledge sharing culture. On their first day, assign them a mentor who can model the culture for them. Ideally, this will be someone who’s an internal expert, and who is already sharing knowledge in various ways. This mentor can encourage new employees to participate, share and contribute in a judgement-free atmosphere. Not only will this help new hires adapt to the culture, but it will help create a feeling of belonging. In addition, by giving them a point of contact for questions about their role, the company, and the culture, you’ll understand how your onboarding process is working, and if there are knowledge gaps you need to fill.
These days, many of us are content creators. Encourage employees to share the content they create, both internally and, where appropriate, externally. For example, employees can educate each other by posting solutions to a common document repository that everyone can access. Internal communities, wikis and blogs are useful places to post information and content. Your best experts can also share knowledge externally through your company blog. As part of this, implement regular feedback cycles so you can keep improving the information available.
Host social events to share best practices and learning
People will be more inclined to share openly when they feel part of a community. Hosting social events for employees can help everyone feel more comfortable with each other. Events like picnics, movie nights, karaoke evenings, get-togethers in coffee shops and so on encourage team members to get to know each other as individuals, and reduces any awkwardness. Once employees get to know each other outside work, it makes it easier for them to connect in a work setting to share learning and ask questions.
Install a knowledge sharing platform
Installing an internal knowledge sharing platform helps you ensure that you capture knowledge and it’s available when and where it’s needed. Ideally, the system will make it easy for people to add and share knowledge and will help you to prioritize important knowledge worth sharing. The knowledge sharing platform will integrate with the systems you have and will be easy to learn – you wouldn’t want the technology to be a barrier to knowledge sharing.
What is a knowledge sharing platform?
In thinking about knowledge management, it’s essential to distinguish between a knowledge sharing platform and a knowledge base. Here are some key differences.
Choosing a knowledge base vs knowledge sharing platform
A knowledge base is an internal or external information repository. In comparison with a knowledge sharing platform, it offers a limited solution to knowledge management. Some knowledge bases have limited search and retrieval capabilities, unless you use precisely the right words. You may not find the information you need, even if you know it’s there.
Knowledge bases aren’t particularly flexible, either; you’re limited to shoehorning your documents and information into what the software requires. And generally, people can’t interact with knowledge base content. Compare that with some of the benefits of a knowledge sharing platform.
A knowledge sharing platform is a software or technology system that makes it easy for people to discover information. It may draw on information stored across a variety of tools but it provides one place where people can find it. It is an accessible system which allows for easy storage and retrieval of information.
A knowledge sharing platform makes it easy to collaborate by allowing people to find the information they need for any venture and it suits the needs of different people. Overall, an internal knowledge management platform is trustworthy, providing a single source of truth for company knowledge, expertise, and culture.
Encourage an open culture from top-down
Creating a knowledge sharing culture starts at the top, but it’s not hierarchical. It’s about modeling the behavior you want to see throughout the company or organization. And it’s about realizing the value of a range of perspectives and inputs.
One way to make this happen is with an open-door policy that allows for easy communication. If this policy starts at the top, it will trickle down through the management culture, enabling a two-way information exchange.
As part of this, discourage knowledge hoarding – the tendency for people to hold on to what they know. Instead, actively encourage knowledge sharing to help develop internal expertise. Build sharing into daily and weekly workflows. For example, when someone returns from a meeting or event, they can do a quick report that tells everybody they’ve learned. And create opportunities for sharing, via internal updates and events.
Actively encourage knowledge sharing with technology
Not everyone has the option to congregate by the coffee machine or water cooler, especially with more people working remotely. So it makes sense to use technology to encourage knowledge sharing. The right technology solution can provide a central place for adding, finding and sharing knowledge.
Use internal knowledge sharing tools that simplify the process
When thinking about internal knowledge sharing tools, simplicity is key. If you’ve ever had to trawl through messaging software or large databases, you know that over time they become harder and harder to search. That’s simply not sustainable over the long term. Instead, you need a knowledge sharing tool that keeps your information organized, is easy to update and makes it super simple to share.
This is one of the big advantages of GoLinks. Since GoLinks creates short memorable links for any kind of information, you can put an intuitive search and retrieval process in place to make internal knowledge management easy.
GoLinks integrates with the technology you’re already using, so there’s no need to change. You can easily create a single source of truth for your organization. That means employees will be able to become subject matter experts in seconds, with all the company knowledge at their fingertips.
Incentivize employees who share knowledge
Another great way to encourage knowledge sharing is to give recognition to those employees who contribute to the company’s store of knowledge. It’s a great way to motivate people to take action. Recognition helps increase engagement, encourage better performance, and boosts retention. Consider creating a contest to encourage knowledge sharing, giving a gift card or award to excellent contributors, or simply making a public acknowledgement of valuable contributors.
Create opportunities for knowledge sharing
Every organization has go-to people, who seem to know everything about practices and processes. Good managers should identify those people and create opportunities for them to share their knowledge so everyone can benefit. This could be through internal events, presentations and workshops. And if they also receive recognition (see the tip above), they’ll be even more motivated to participate.
Let employees know it’s okay to make mistakes
In many corporate cultures the idea of making a mistake causes fear and stops people from sharing their knowledge and having the chance to learn from others. In a knowledge sharing culture, it’s important for people to know that it’s ok to mess up. We all love to share success stories, but stories of failure are just as important, especially if there’s a lesson in it. Rather than embarrassing or humiliating employees who mess up, use mistakes to create opportunities for learning.
Build mentorship into the organization
Mentorship is an important part of knowledge sharing because it allows new employees or employees taking on a new role to learn from those with more experience. As mentioned earlier, mentors can model the company culture of knowledge sharing and encourage employees to contribute right from the start.
Having a mentorship program also means that new hires have someone to go to to ask their questions and to guide them into a knowledge management culture.
For best results choose a mentor who is already an active contributor to your knowledge database and who collaborates well with others. It’s the best way to set a good example for new hires.
Get started with internal knowledge sharing
As you’ve seen, internal knowledge sharing has multiple benefits for organizations. It can help improve onboarding, create a network of internal experts, and boost productivity, innovation, creativity, and competitiveness.
A knowledge management culture also fosters employee engagement and improves retention, while enhancing your organization’s status with customers and industry peers.
But in order to make knowledge sharing work effectively, and reap these benefits, it’s essential to choose an internal knowledge sharing platform that makes it easy to add, organize, share and retrieve information, and build internal expertise.Try GoLinks for free