The Definitive Guide to Knowledge Sharing
This guide will cover everything you need to know about knowledge sharing in your business. We explain the various benefits and competitive advantages of knowledge sharing, and the best methods for sharing knowledge in your business.
Knowledge powers your business. In fact, it’s the heart and soul of what you do, how you maintain output quality, and how you differentiate from the competition. As such, you need to be leveraging it at every opportunity for the good of your company. This is where knowledge sharing comes in.
What is Knowledge Sharing?
But, just what is knowledge sharing? Well to put it simply, knowledge sharing is the capture, management and distribution of key information within your business. It typically encapsulates everything involved in the development and delivery of your proposition. This covers the coordination of internal knowledge flows, including the tools, culture and strategy used to bring them to life.
Knowledge sharing is all about optimizing what your workforce already know and recording that information for the use of the rest of the business. It’s designed to maximize the value of your intangible assets and unlock new commercial opportunities through amalgamation and optimization.
Knowledge sharing is often focused on unlocking the true value of your employees and extracting optimization insight, business-critical information and internal process best practices. These data flows are all essential to day-to-day business efficiency and deliver significant intangible value to your business.
The very best knowledge sharing operations ensure this information is available to the right people, in the right place, at the right time. This is good knowledge sharing in a nutshell.
Best-in-class businesses who adopt knowledge sharing successfully are able to empower their workforce, giving them access to a selection of high-value resources, compiled from internal knowledge.
This information should help them do their job to a higher standard, at a faster pace or help to avoid common challenges and pitfalls.
Why Knowledge Sharing is Important
As businesses increasingly look for new ways to drive growth and develop competitive advantages, knowledge sharing can help unlock hidden capabilities and drive efficiency.
By ensuring your employees have access to key information, you can help them to do more with less and enhance the power of your internal knowledge. Beyond helping your employees develop, knowledge sharing should also ensure your businesses’ essential data is captured and stored to avoid unnecessary risks.
Protecting Your Business and Strategy
The knowledge within your business powers the value you deliver to your customers and so it’s essential that it is captured and secured within your business. The reality is, you can’t afford to base your businesses’ capabilities and future on the knowledge of a few key individuals. The risk is just too high. In order to develop business stability, that information needs to be captured, so that in the event key individuals leave, the essential data they hold isn’t taken with them. In some instances, a single employee leaving can undermine an entire business strategy, and this is not a sustainable approach to achieving corporate success.
How Knowledge Sharing Upskills Your Worksforce
Knowledge sharing is designed to help you and your business work more efficiently, and more often than not, this involves upskilling your workers. Helping them to do their jobs faster, to a higher quality, or just slightly differently; the information captured from knowledge sharing can regularly make their lives easier. Beyond that, in the time saved, new opportunities can be explored and company productivity maximized, for the benefit of all.
Enhances Employee’s Specialist Skill Sets in Their Sector
With access to knowledge from their peers, workers can see the tricks, tips and advice of their co-workers to improve their performance in their day-to-day responsibilities. Everything from a quick tip on how a certain system works to fundamental guides on the best way of building something in the business, all this information helps employees do their job to a higher standard.
Empowers Workers to Control Their Own Development
Helping your workers help themselves is a big part of developing an evolving workforce, and knowledge sharing can play a big role. By collecting critical information in a single, easy-to-access location, your employees can find the data that’s valuable to them and further broaden their horizons.
This not only helps develop their career, but also improves their potential contribution to the company. Positioned in the right way, knowledge sharing resources can help you grow and define new competitive advantages in the market through employee development.
Improves Collaboration Opportunities
By making important information available to your workers, they’ll have a better appreciation of the bigger picture, unlocking opportunities for collaboration across both teams and business units.
In many instances, corporate teams work in silos. This can make collaboration tough as each group fails to understand how the others operate and how they contribute.
With a better understanding of how the organization works and the contribution of each team, the opportunity for collaboration grows, which has the potential to unlock new opportunities and potential.
Knowledge Sharing Strategy – What Data Has Value?
Knowledge sharing can be used to capture multiple forms of data and depending on your strategy, the value to your business derived from these information opportunities will vary. There are 3 different data types that can be captured and mined for value:
- Industry-Specific Data
- Technology-Specific Data
- Business-Specific Data
Information that is unique to the industry you work in often falls under this category. Those who’ve worked in the industry will understand the critical value of this information. In many cases, this information helps you to upskill individuals who may not have an appreciation for particular industry factors.
Capturing this data also helps protect your business as often it is the foundation for the value you deliver. If your company is considered an expert in a particular field, it’s important information that warrants the reputation is safely captured and stored. This future-proofs the business’s strengths and helps to upskill new workers who may not have the knowledge on arrival.
Technology-specific information plays a key role in your business success. With a combination of technologies deployed and customized to meet your business needs, it’s likely they’ve been adapted to accommodate for legacy infrastructure and bespoke company requirements. As a result, the way they operate and work with other technologies will differ in comparison to their out of the box functionality.
Long story, short, it’s likely they’ll work in a way that is unique to your business. As a result, only people within your organization who work with the tech every day are likely to have a view on how it all operates together. Rules, processes, challenges and benefits of working with your specific tech stack combination will only exist in your business, and so it’s essential this information is captured and kept up to date.
In the event information like this is not captured, then your company will be vulnerable to losing that information when staff leave. This is particularly problematic when it comes to replacing them and onboarding new staff. If you don’t have access to the specifics, then how will you be able to pass that information on to new employees? Because it’s likely information found elsewhere will differ to reflect tech stack configurations, technology-specific data is some of the most important information to have on record. Worth considering when developing your knowledge sharing strategy.
Business-specific information is the most valuable of all. It can only be found in your business and if it’s stuck in your employee’s head, once its gone, it’s gone. Depending upon its complexity, it may be easy to recreate through upskilling, but without a view on how things were done before, it can make the simple process of identifying what a replacement needs to get the job done well very difficult.
Business-specific information impacts all employees every day. Every company will have some sort of information that is unique to them, and in many cases, this can be absolutely critical to every day operations and success. It can be something basic like how a particular process works to something fundamental like company secrets around your offering. Whatever the case, this information cannot be replaced when lost and so it need to be identified, captured and secured for the security of your companies’ future.
As this information is specific only to your business, all new arrivals will need to have the relevant access to help them do their job, this just emphasizes the importance of capturing and storing this information, so it’s easy to access when needed.
The Role of Knowledge Sharing Culture
While your strategy will dictate how you embrace knowledge sharing, you also need to consider the culture you build around it too. In fact arguably, your knowledge sharing culture may be even more important than your strategy, as it will influence the buy-in you get from your workers and the enthusiasm they show towards the systems you put in place.
To build a good knowledge sharing culture, it’s critical that trust and goodwill are shared among employees throughout the business. Without that positivity, getting worthwhile contributions may be tough and create significant challenges in the success of even the best knowledge sharing strategies. Employees must believe the information they share will be used to help others and not to undermine their contribution to the business.
Simplify the Process of Sharing
By making the process of sharing information quick and easy, you can maximize employee enthusiasm for the project and encourage regular contributions. This reduces the impact knowledge sharing initiatives have on your employees regular day, and avoids deprioritization. The easier it is to share knowledge in the business, the more likely your employees are to embrace it as part of everyday working culture.
Allow Culture to Develop Over Time
Any kind of cultural objective takes time, employees are not going to adopt knowledge sharing over night, it will take careful nurturing to ensure it becomes second nature. It’s important that early on in your knowledge sharing efforts the benefits are clear for all to see, this is critical to gaining momentum and driving the development of a healthy culture.
Alleviate Employee Skepticism
Your employees are the foundation of your knowledge sharing efforts, and so it’s key they understand and appreciate how knowledge sharing will benefit them in their roles. Communicating the opportunities knowledge sharing presents on both a personal and organizational level is important to encourage uptake, involvement and belief. These are all critical for any successful knowledge sharing initiative.
The success of knowledge sharing in your business will be largely attributed to the culture you develop around it. You must be able to mobilize your workers and they must be able to appreciate the role of the information they share in the success of the business. Only then will you have the internal philosophy you need to making knowledge sharing a total success.
The Best Knowledge Sharing Methods
So it’s easy to see why knowledge sharing is so important and presents such fantastic commercial opportunities, but just how is it achieved? What are the best methods to driving a successful knowledge sharing initiative and capturing the key information needed to see optimal benefits from the strategy?
Most knowledge sharing methods are focused on creating opportunities for employees to share. In many instances, it’s often difficult to find the time to contribute, and so it’s important strategies are implemented that help employees make time. However, these methods go beyond just the opportunity to share and also focus on how that information can be relayed effectively.
With the peer assist approach, teams gather together and share their experiences. This is designed to help employees across the business recognize common problems and challenges, with the view of coming together to find solutions. With multiple perspectives involved, issues can be approached from different angles and new efficiencies developed. Sharing knowledge and insights around a particular element of the business can help to improve the skills and capabilities of all involved.
After Action Reviews
An after action review is a session that occurs once a project is finished. Using this approach, at the end of an initiative, those involved come together and contribute what went well, what didn’t and what they learned throughout. All this information is then shared into the knowledge sharing system, allowing others to gain from their experiences. By implementing an after action review strategy, repeat mistakes can be avoided altogether and challenges can be deconstructed to understand why they occurred in the first place.
A storytelling method to knowledge sharing focuses more on how the information is shared. By creating narratives around key data that’s captured, important data can be converted into content that’s valuable, captivating and educational. This is important to motivating employees to proactively access and engage with the insights captured.
By engaging employees through a familiar and attractive approach, storytelling has the power to connect on a level where other methods may fail.
Mentoring is a much more personal method of knowledge sharing than the previous approaches. Focused on just 2 individuals, the mentor and mentee, it involves a senior staff member imparting knowledge to a junior. The aim of this relationship is to help younger staff members develop while also ensuring the information held by senior staff is well distributed, reducing the risk of it leaving the business entirely.
While similar to mentoring, coaching is a more task-focused knowledge sharing method. Coaching initiatives typically have a focal objective and are more structured, laying out the foundations that need to be covered in order to achieve the goal within a set period of time. In most instances, these objectives are relatively short term and focused on the development of particular skills. In most coaching initiatives, it’s conducted on a 1-to-1 basis, with a coach (who is an expert on the target topic) and the coachee (who is looking to develop their skills).
These knowledge sharing methods can all contribute to a successful strategy and help maximize the impact within your business, so it makes sense to evaluate each and see what can work for your organization. Remember, it’s important to consider how the information is communicated and captured, not just that it is. No matter how valuable the data, if it’s presented in an unattractive format, its value to your employees and ultimately, the wider company, is likely to be limited.
The Benefits of Successful Knowledge Sharing
Knowledge sharing offers companies big and small the opportunity to enhance worker development, efficiency and satisfaction whilst also reducing risks around knowledge loss. These benefits are significant and can have a fundamental impact on an organization’s corporate success.
With the right knowledge sharing system, culture, process and strategy you can:
- Reduce your organization’s vulnerability to losing key information
- Unlock internal collaboration opportunities
- Provide greater ease of access to your customer facing employees, enhancing service
- Upskill employees in key areas
- Drive internal efficiency and productivity
- See the bigger picture and identify internal knowledge gaps
By embracing knowledge sharing, companies like yours can develop a fundamental competitive advantage, maximizing opportunities to develop your workforce, improve company stability and enhance productivity and performance. You can’t afford to miss out!
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