Today’s business environment is characterized by continuous, often radical change. Such a volatile climate demands a new attitude and approach to knowledge sharing and communication within organizations. As organizations have become more complex and information more readily accessible, forward-thinking managers have been challenged to 1) support free-flowing knowledge and 2) manage this vital flow of information and technology at the same time.
A company’s long-term competitive advantage is its knowledge. Managing and sharing that knowledge requires discipline, alignment, and the right technology.
Knowledge Management Requires Discipline
Knowledge management should be part of day-to-day operations. Too often, employees go to work, do their jobs, and leave. They perform to meet the expectations of supervisors. That’s why an emphasis on knowledge sharing should be part of the company culture and included in job descriptions. Employees have a lot to learn from one another, and they’re more knowledgable than we often give them credit for. If you give them opportunities to share their knowledge, you’ll set them up to be more engaged and productive. Plus, they have a stronger sense that they’re contributing value to their company beyond meeting the minimum requirements listed in their job description.
There’s also a lack of perceived benefit from the knowledge sharing process. Gathering and documenting information takes time and effort and is often considered extra work. Increased work loads don’t leave ample time for lucrative knowledge sharing or learning. It’s crucial to cultivate a process that’s simple and effective enough to keep employees productive and well-informed without wasting time.
Knowledge Management Requires Alignment
Companies divided into regions or divisions often have their own sets of processes, communication styles, and ways of solving issues. Knowledge becomes contained as each develops their own knowledge-sharing method. The larger the organization, the more likely they are to have rigid hierarchies that affect the free flow of ideas.
For others, the knowledge collection processes can be incomplete or informal. A company might be great at collecting knowledge but not at sharing it. If this is you, seek to clearly define desired results.
Companies must also account for the long-term. COVID prompted some to retire early, and a whole generation is getting ready to retire and take their knowledge with them, leaving gaps in the knowledge transfer process. Some organizations have filled the gaps by employing tools like EVAN360 that connect employees to retirees for knowledge sharing.
Knowledge Management Requires the Right Technology
Knowledge management systems aren’t always user friendly. Databases packed with information deter employees who just need a quick answer. This is largely due to information overload and a lack of ownership in keeping databases updated. Repositories are formed and forgotten, resulting in unverified inputs and out-of-date information. Our advice? Establish ownership around storing, maintaining, and updating knowledge and challenge people to share their ideas for improving the process. Focus on 1) critical rather than nice-to-know information and 2) finding ways to share actual knowledge rather than rehashing old information.
A big hang-up with technology is that it tries to become a substitute for person-to-person communication. Social interaction is a powerful vehicle for learning, and most people would rather talk to someone for five minutes than search a database for an hour. The EVAN360 app offers just that—an instant connection to the right expert in minutes. Research your options, and invest in tools that enable quick and effective knowledge sharing. And don’t be afraid to use incentives to ensure buy-in of new systems or tools.
If you have questions about cultivating the right knowledge and improving the learning experience, reach out to our team anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.