The central role social media now plays in society has helped foster a culture of sharing. And, regardless of the fact that most of the content being shared revolves around amusing videos of cats and unfortunate mishaps with gardening implements, we do at least live in a world where people are more inclined to share than keep things close to their chest.
In business, such a culture can be transformative. Imagine a staff base that proactively shares new techniques, insights into competitor strategy, market trends and lessons learned from mistakes. What organisation wouldn’t want that kind of culture to thrive?
Unfortunately, and despite the sizeable thirst for social media in social circles, getting people to share knowledge within the workplace isn’t particularly easy. It’s a challenge faced most commonly by HR professionals; with so many policies, rules and best practices that need to be followed in the modern workplace, it’s essential that employees feel empowered to share the behaviour and coherence that is expected of them.
The alternative is to hold more regular performance reviews and company-wide meetings, but both of these tactics require an enormous time investment from everyone involved and ultimately lead to a dip in productivity as a result.
By contrast, information sharing can take place ‘on the job’ and organically. If you’ve learned a new skill that has shaved an hour off a particular task, why not tell the colleague sitting next to you or reveal your finding on the company intranet? It’s an inclusive, addictive and, ultimately, productive way to work.
So, information sharing is incredibly important -, particularly in HR. But how to you encourage it within the workplace?
In this post, we’re going to consider some of the ways businesses can encourage knowledge sharing internally. The best news? Each method is accessible to all and will likely to come naturally to most staff.
For the uninhibited: the ‘shout-up’
Every business has at least one or two employees that jump at the chance to speak up in front of a crowd, which is why it’s important to create a culture where ‘shout-ups’ are encouraged. That means, if someone suddenly discovers a brilliant new technique or crucial piece of industry news, they feel empowered to stand up (sometimes, literally) and tell the office, immediately.
Those willing to do this can usually be trusted to do so without annoying those around them. It’ll usually be the person in the office known for being adept at making people laugh and for telling engaging stories at the water cooler. These people – too often dismissed as procrastinators – are brilliant facilitators of information sharing in the workplace.
Sniff them out and encourage them to share often and loudly.
For the introverts: the team newsfeed
Facebook recently introduced a new service called ‘Workplace’. Designed to limit the need for internal email and enhance collaboration, Workplace looks set to be, among other things, the perfect home for a team newsfeed.
Facebook’s new venture and its competing platforms play a vital role in information sharing. This is for one very good reason: the vast majority of employees aren’t comfortable with shouting out when they make discoveries but will feel far less inhibited if they’re able to instead post their findings within the digital realm.
If you can introduce a system that features some form of the newsfeed and which can be accessed by everyone in the company, you’ll quickly find that it facilitates a culture of information sharing.
Lead from the top
“Do as I say, not as I do” just doesn’t cut it in business these days. You need to lead from the top if information sharing is to become second nature to employees on every branch of the company tree.
Whether you’re an HR manager, director or team leader, you need to demonstrate a desire to share information yourself. That means giving employees access to your own findings and non-confidential company information and never holding back when you discover something that will benefit your working day (as tempting as it may be to keep it to yourself).
Incentivising and gamification
Bonus schemes aren’t always as effective as they should be. This is largely because any additional money earned as the result of doing a good job gets quickly swallowed up by the tax man, spent and forgotten. Incentivising via other means is a far more effective way to encourage a culture of information sharing.
When someone shares a piece of information that benefits the company significantly and which may have otherwise remained undiscovered, reward them with a trip to the cinema or a surprise half day’s holiday. Such rewards will live long in the memory and others will quickly spot the benefits of sharing, thus encouraging them to follow suit.
Similarly, gamification is a great way to motivate people. The growing trend of introducing video game-inspired competition and reward elements into the world of work can be used to encourage knowledge sharing. Competitions between departments for who can contribute the juiciest tips and tricks will encourage people to share their best-kept secrets by fostering a healthy sense of competition.
Just keep in mind that any form of competition or reward scheme will only work if the focus is on the reward for sharing – not the punishment for keeping quiet.
The importance of recognition
One of the primary reasons people keep their cards close to their chest is because of the overriding fear that someone may steal the limelight.
Imagine you’ve found a brilliant new way to conduct employee reviews that have earned you the title of ‘best HR manager’. Why give the game away and allow others to take the credit?
It’s a natural human instinct to protect one’s own interests, but by sharing knowledge gained, you can make a far bigger impact. To encourage this, recognition is vitally important. It’s therefore essential that employees are rightfully credited when a piece of information or knowledge is shared.
By implementing tips 1 and 2 in this list, you can ensure that no one feels aggrieved when their big discovery goes public.
Information and knowledge sharing is invaluable; it can reduce a company’s reliance on expensive training schemes and create that all-important sense of community within the organisation. Teams that work together are, after all, likely to be far more productive.
In the digital society, we’re all learning constantly. We turn to our smartphones when we need a question answering and hit Google as soon as we encounter a challenge that exhausts our knowledge. We’re our own teachers, but the knowledge gained through self-tuition is of little use if it isn’t shared.
The next time you learn something that helps you do a better job, turn to the colleague nearest to you and tell them all about it. You’ll feel better for doing so and can rest safe in the knowledge that you will have made a tangible improvement to the business as a whole.