3 Ideas for Knowledge Sharing at the Workplace
Most successful learning organisations are great at sharing knowledge, both formally and informally. As more and more organisations comprise of knowledge workers, we should no longer undermine information exchanges as a tool for keeping the expertise up-to-date. At the same time, even companies with more practical jobs face a challenge of getting employees up to speed through onboarding as well as staying on top of the constant change in the business. These are all areas where fluid workplace knowledge sharing can make a big impact. Naturally, social media and collaboration platforms are a relatively easy way to get things started. However, here are three ideas that go slightly beyond that.
Letting employees train employees
In the conventional corporate setting, L&D is usually quite a top-down effort. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be. An interesting experiment could be to provide employees with tools to train their peers in the organisation. For instance, small group webinars could be a low entry point way of easily sharing knowledge. But you could also go a step further, and let employees start creating training content. This could take the form of micro-programs, short lessons and topical updates. Nearly all of us nowadays carry a smartphone – a powerful content production tool in its own right. Should you want to shoot practical how-to videos or capture work processes, you don’t have to look any further than that.
As many digital learning platforms nowadays come with rather easy-to-use content authoring tools, this kind of an approach doesn’t necessarily require much training. If you think about this as simple knowledge sharing rather than rigid learning design, the content should be valuable as long as the topics are relevant!
Sourcing tacit knowledge from employees
Now, if you’re still hesitant to give away the keys to the L&D kingdom, there’s another approach you may try too. No matter the job, people and teams always develop some specific, tacit knowledge about the tasks at hand. This may be e.g. improved workflows, better practices, systems knowledge or stakeholder insights. This is the kind of expert knowledge that you don’t learn “in the book”. However, it can be extremely valuable for the job in question.
Similar to employees training each other, we could surely extract this knowledge and formalise it into a learning experience. For instance, if you’re looking to train retail staff on store operations, you could ask the people at different locations to document and submit pieces of information to the L&D team. The L&D team could then use this “raw material” to build a more structured learning experience, or curate a pool of resources. In terms of knowledge sharing value and relevance, this is likely much higher than conventional content.
Employee or team challenges to unlock new ideas
While the previous parts have dealt with employees sharing existing knowledge, that’s not to say there’s no value in tapping into them for new ideas. On the contrary, the “front line” of any given job usually knows the workflows, routines, challenges and problems so well that they can be a major source of incremental process innovation. Most likely, there are a lot of ideas out there. It’s just that people don’t voice them for a variety of reasons. And often these are things that the company would be better off listening to as well!
So, instead of losing out on all those possibilities, how about trying to extract some of these new ideas? Now, this could take many forms. In the digital realm, the process could be similar to the few outlined above. Employees can submit their ideas, review others’ and suggest improvements. Alternatively, this could also take the form of a design sprint or a hackathon. With these facilitation mediums, it might also be convenient to prototype the ideas further. You could also turn this into a problem-based learning challenge. Regardless of which medium you choose, the relevant decision makers could then tap into this flow of ideas, and see which ones could be successfully implemented.
Overall, effective knowledge sharing can be a huge tool of competitive advantage. It helps you to constantly improve, stay on top of change and even lead it. However, when implementing these kinds of initiatives, don’t forget to incentivise. If you wanna create a sharing culture, you need to establish a safe environment for it and then reward the behaviour accordingly. And if you think you may need help in figuring out how to implement these kind of things in your own organisation, don’t hesitate to drop us a note. We’d be happy to embark on an exploration with you.