Building a successful digital workplace. Step 3: Boost knowledge-sharing

A key success factor for any company or organization is its ability to gather, categorize and distribute knowledge and information internally. Of vital importance in this context is the efficiency by which employees´ insights and knowledge are harvested and shared with the rest of the organization. How do you ensure that critical information doesn’t stay locked inside employees’ heads or in organizational silos instead of being used to benefit the organization where and when it’s needed? The obvious answer is by having a transparent, social, incentive-driven intranet with a well-defined structure.

In this third posting in our blog theme Building a successful digital workplace, we’ll provide you with tips and advice on how to boost knowledge-sharing in your digital workplace.

If you haven't read the other blog posts in this series, you'll find them here:

Which knowledge should be shared?

In order to know which processes, structures and tools are needed for efficient knowledge-sharing, it’s advisable to, first of all, identify the kinds of knowledge you’d like to have shared. For example, a product-oriented or manufacturing company with its own production, distribution and sales would have business-critical knowledge in the areas of R & D, support, logistics and marketing. By mapping these different areas of knowledge and analyzing how employees acquire, develop and share knowledge in each area, you can identify the kind of support and structure for knowledge-sharing that you’ll need.

The mapping process will also help you identify the knowledge you lose when you see the back of an employee walking out the door. Key knowledge that has not been digitalized can be very expensive to recover.

Encourage sharing!

Just because you’re the kind of a person who’s more than happy to share your knowledge in order to help your colleagues, you might tend to think that everyone else is driven by the same instincts. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. There are a multitude of reasons as to why this is so. Things like office politics, group dynamics, the power of knowledge, cultural values and traditions or just plain ignorance can prevent people from sharing. But everyone can in fact become knowledge-sharing enthusiasts. All you need is a little encouragement and processes that facilitate efficient sharing. This is how to do it:

  • Create incentive-boosting structures and processes in communities and knowledge-sharing platforms that strengthen the motivation of employees to share. With gamification methods, for instance, you can reward various actions and contributions with points and honors, so-called community badges. So when a user writes an article, posts a video or answers a question in a community, a certain number of points are awarded to his or her account. Then, when points accumulate and exceed a certain level, a community badge is added to the user’s profile. By publicly listing employees’ points and badges, you thereby encourage everyone in the organization to share their knowledge.

  • Ensure swift and constructive feedback on employees’ contributions. Nothing is more disheartening for employees than lack of appreciation and feedback when they make the effort to share their knowledge and insights. And even if we all have to accept that “it’s an ungrateful world” and some degree of knowledge-sharing is normally part and parcel of an employee’s job description, engagement and quality will definitely benefit from feedback. You should therefore always make sure that someone is in charge of every knowledge-sharing forum and that the person designated quickly responds to employees’ contributions.

  • Establish a knowledge-sharing culture. Knowledge-sharing seems to be more prevalent in workplaces where management actively encourages employees to improve their competence and where knowledge is rated higher than fancy titles or bigger paychecks. Employees who sacrifice time to share their insights and know-how are admired, and super-sharers are seen as the heroes of the workplace.


Sharing the right way

To get the best results, different kinds of knowledge will require different sharing methods. Some kinds are best communicated via guides or questions and answers (FAQ). Others via videos or podcasts. There are also types of knowledge that you can’t assimilate just by reading instructions. For instance, you can’t learn how to ski, play tennis or drive a car from reading a text. Or, at least, you’ll never become a proficient skier, tennis player or driver this way. No, this kind of knowledge requires supervised instruction, comprising both theory and practical training. But even if face-to-face instruction is more suitable for this kind of learning, digital solutions may well be sufficient or at least speed up the learning process. There are plenty of examples in which supervised online- or video-based learning is successfully used as the only method of training employees in various work tasks.

This is how to set up optimal knowledge-sharing in your digital workplace:

  • Identify how knowledge is acquired, distributed, consumed and understood by the employees who need it. If it’s relatively simple knowledge, which doesn’t require all that much information for it to be understood, a knowledge database in the form of a wiki or FAQ can be the ideal solution. But if it’s of more complex nature, or if the target group is heterogeneous in terms of learning ability, a step-by-step guide and/or video instruction could be an excellent additional method of conveying the knowledge.

    Building wikis and FAQ pages is a simple matter and doesn’t require any prior knowledge. You can, for instance, create wikis in Teams and a FAQ page doesn’t have to be any more advanced than a simple web page with questions and answers, compiled in a neat format. But if you want to offer users better search functionality, more detailed information and the possibility of discussing problems and solutions with others, then it’s better to use communities as FAQ platforms. Omnia and similar intranet solutions have ready-made functions and templates for this.

    You can also use communities for building knowledge databases, covering areas like business processes, products, development, and so on. Community members can write knowledge articles and comment, share and like others’ contributions. Document Management Systems can also be used to create powerful knowledge-sharing solutions.

  • Find out how employees want to share. Some people are not best friends with the keyboard, but they may be brilliant at expressing themselves verbally. So for these employees, the possibility of disseminating their insights via video would be a much more stimulating and efficient method. With video and online-based meetings applications, like Teams, Slack, Skype and Zoom, users can share their knowledge via chat and video in live or/and recorded sessions. The recorded sessions can then be archived in dedicated knowledge forums and databases for later knowledge browsing and viewing.

  • Make knowledge easy to find. Having well-defined and systematically structured knowledge databases online is admittedly a vital prerequisite for your knowledge-sharing, but always remember that a significant portion of your organization’s knowledge is wholly organic. In other words, it resides in the heads of your employees. In order to extract and harvest that valuable source of knowledge, you’ll need to create a rich and easy-to-search competence database. The quality of the competence search will subsequently be highly dependent on the quality of your employees’ user-profiles and the possibility of search categorization.

    Your intranet’s transparency, search functionality and navigation structure are also key factors in making all internal knowledge easy to identify and locate.

Watch our webcast Implementing a Successful Knowledge Management Solution in Office 365 and SharePoint if you want to learn more about how to boost knowledge-sharing via your intranet. The webcast addresses areas such as creating advanced competence search and knowledge-based communities. You can also download our whitepaper A step by step guide to a great Knowledge Management solution.

Keep an eye out for our next blog post, step 4 in this series, in which we’ll discuss how you create functions and processes which make collaboration in the digital workplace easier and more productive!

If you haven't read the other blog posts in this series, you'll find them here: