Sharing Knowledge in the Workplace
As a manager, you know that your team includes some brilliant, skilled people. You also know that each of them has knowledge and skills important to the organization. But what if those people leave the company or take another position? What if other team members don’t know who to ask? Then their knowledge goes to waste.
What is knowledge sharing, and how will it benefit your team?
Knowledge comes in different forms. There’s knowledge that is written down, in the form of a policy or procedure. There’s also knowledge that people develop with experience. You have probably heard the saying “knowledge is power.” But really, is knowledge power if you can’t use it? In a 2014 Ted Talk, General Stanley McChrystal, the former commander of forces in Afghanistan, said that he believes that “Information is only of value if you give it to people who have the ability to do something with it…instead of knowledge is power, sharing is power.” Exchanging information between people or teams that have it and those that don’t (yet) is the core of knowledge sharing.
Putting the knowledge your employees have into the hands (and brains!) of other employees who can use it can make those employees more productive, increase their sense of belonging, and build a stronger, healthier team. It can make your organization more responsive and quicker to act,1 and helps to retain organizational knowledge in times of transition. It can also help with employee retention – in a 2019 LinkedIn report, 94% of employees say that learning opportunities make them more likely to stay at an organization.
How can managers encourage knowledge sharing?
If you’re a manager convinced that knowledge sharing would benefit your staff and organization, you might be wondering how you can bring its benefits home. After all, employees sometimes find it hard to share what they know. Here are a few strategies that might help you make this change in your group:
- Make it easy. Communication between team members isn’t always easy, whether they share an office or work remotely. Make it easy for team members to develop relationships, by encouraging friendly conversation or providing tools they can use to communicate simply, like Microsoft Teams or Slack. If employees feel comfortable with each other, they’ll be more willing to share information.
- Make it normal. Create opportunities to share knowledge. Think about teaming younger employees with more experienced ones on group projects or creating an agenda item on a meeting that allows someone to share a recent lesson learned (positive or negative).
- Make it worthwhile. Recognize people who are generous with their time and knowledge. Give public acknowledgement, small gifts or other bonuses that show how much you appreciate their actions.
- Make yourself an example. When it comes time to share a lesson learned, speak up! It normalizes knowledge sharing and lets more junior employees know that continual learning is part of your group’s culture.