Knowledge sharing is a vital part of fuelling growth, especially between virtual teams who could feel disconnected in their goals and processes.
Here are some recommendations based on the latest academic research to help encourage the flow of knowledge in your organisation.
Effective knowledge sharing requires strong social bonds
The Palgrave Handbook of Knowledge Management highlights that the primary motivator of knowledge sharing isn’t financial rewards; it’s the desire to improve interpersonal relationships. In other words, wanting to connect with and help others fuels our desire to share knowledge.
To encourage knowledge sharing, you must cultivate social connections. Ordinarily, that would mean coffee stations, conference rooms, casual seating, and break-out spaces instead of cubicles and isolated islands of desks and chairs. However, during the current move to remote working, digital equivalents have had to be found instead. For example:
- Create a digital space for celebrations and good times. An instant messaging channel that’s dedicated to informal chat can be a great way for employees to let off steam, share jokes, and congratulate each other using GIFs or formal HR tools.
- Encourage personal sharing during video meetings. Remote meetings often feel very matter-of-fact. To give people a chance to bond, encourage them to share at the outset how they’re feeling, what they did at the weekend and other things that aren’t directly related to work.
- Propose peer-to-peer communication. When in-person meetings aren’t possible, team members can go a long time without one-on-one interactions with others, especially people outside their department who they’d usually catch up with at the watercooler. Peer-to-peer learning, facilitated through video calls, can be a great way to stimulate social contact while encouraging cross-department knowledge sharing.
Trust is a key ingredient in fostering a positive knowledge sharing culture
Research has shown that a low level of trust can lead to knowledge hoarding. And workers are more likely to hoard knowledge when the information is implicit (e.g., their own personal techniques and methods) than explicit (e.g., a report, PowerPoint template, or memo).
One reason people hoard knowledge is that they aren’t sure if they’ll lose the advantage that possessing the information affords them. To combat this concern, knowledge sharing can be promoted by:
- Name-checking generous team members in team channels.
- Giving small prizes to those who frequently demonstrate strong collaboration.
- Building knowledge sharing into performance reviews and 360-degree feedback (in which workers rate each other’s contributions).
These measures can help raise collective awareness that knowledge sharing benefits the company and the individual.