Traditionally, knowledge is hoarded by some employees in many companies. Knowledge is regarded as a private asset instead of being shared. Yet sharing information with colleagues also helps your career. This article provides an overview of how employees can be motivated to share information.
The number of so-called knowledge workers in companies is continuously increasing. However, it is not always the employee’s know-how per se that counts, but rather the ability to find relevant information and draw the correct conclusions from it to make good decisions. This requires an appropriate information base that is as freely accessible as possible.
However, because we come from a time when IT systems strongly resembled silos, and existing systems spoke little to each other, knowledge sharing is not in the DNA of many companies and employees. In addition, for years, much information was stored on paper in folders or on PCs locally, so only the person who ultimately filed the report knew clearly where to find it.
With new IT solutions that run in the cloud and can communicate with each other through various applications, knowledge sharing is becoming easier. As is often the case, technology tends to be a minor part of the change. The more considerable change has to be in the culture of the employees. However, this change is much more time-consuming and complex to implement. But if knowledge is not made accessible quickly and efficiently, the company will promptly incur high costs.
Why do some employees hoard knowledge?
On the one hand, technologically, there was no possibility of sharing information or making it easily accessible. By the way, just because a piece of information is publicly filed does not necessarily mean it is easily accessible.
The more substantial (and harder to fix) reason is positioning myself as an expert. The more often colleagues ask me for information on a particular topic, the more likely I am to be seen as an expert on that topic and thus indispensable to the company. However, this leads to significantly more mistakes and dramatically increases companies’ communicative efforts.
Thus, companies/employees have been taught to hoard knowledge for years.
How should the handling of information change?
In the future, our fundamental understanding of knowledge must change fundamentally. We must understand that we can only improve together. This applies both within the company and within the industry. It’s not for nothing that I see in my day-to-day work that IT departments of competing companies, for example, regularly exchange information about the latest developments and technologies. This is the only way to learn from each other and keep up with the latest developments in the industry.
How do I motivate employees to share information?
1. Motivate your team to think as a whole
The amount of data and know-how has been growing exponentially for years. The same is valid for technological developments. It is implausible that one person has all the know-how. It is not for nothing that successful companies consist of interdisciplinary teams. Those who only deal with internal political power struggles (“Who is the greater expert”) will quickly be left behind by the market. Then, in the medium term, not just one job but several jobs are directly at risk.
2. Become a content creator in your own company!
Every software today shows who is the creator of documents and information. Think of yourself as a content creator within your own company. If your colleagues know that the best papers on specific topics come from you, you get the expert status just as before – but you save your colleagues the annoying asking around. If the information is stored in a publicly accessible way, they will find it.
3. See your employees as enablers
Actively reach out to colleagues and share your resources. This can be via regular stand-ups, intranet posts, etc. Recognize employees who regularly share their know-how. On the one hand, this supports the process. The know-how is available. On the other hand, new employees can filter out the experts and relevant information faster and efficiently without having to ask through half the company first.
4. Rely on user-friendly software solutions!
When a user searches for information on the Internet, the user knows that he can find virtually anything with the search engine he trusts. However, in the enterprise (which has only a fraction of the data from the Internet), the search is cumbersome and unfriendly. Nowadays, however, software solutions bring user-friendliness familiar with private life into the company. Even digitally, a modern and intuitive work tool is more fun than the solution from the 2000s!
5. Work faster and more efficiently
Instead of having to communicate all the time internally, even the knowledge-hoarding experts can speed up your workday and get more done when you share knowledge. On the one hand, they are not constantly asked for information by colleagues (which often already happens digitally due to new-work concepts and the spatial separation through home offices). On the other hand, this allows you to complete your tasks and thus acquire more knowledge. The expert status is further solidified if this is subsequently shared (see points 2 and 3).
A new approach to knowledge is not only becoming necessary but is also becoming mandatory because our attitude toward work is changing dramatically. Employees staying with a company for several decades are becoming increasingly rare. Companies that want to retain their know-how cannot avoid establishing a culture of knowledge sharing.
In the future, the companies that successfully democratize existing know-how and make it available to new employees quickly and transparently will be vital.