Guest Post by Emil Hajric
Your organizational knowledge is your company's most valuable asset.
Really, it's invaluable. The knowledge your organization possesses as a whole is the thing that makes your company unique and allows your brand to stand out from your competitors.
More than just the tacit knowledge held by your individual employees, your organizational knowledge is the combined product of this individual knowledge applied in such a way as to further your company’s mission.
To be valuable to your company, though, this knowledge must be able to flow freely throughout your organization — and should continually grow in quantity and quality as time goes on.
To allow for this open flow of knowledge, your team will need to cultivate a culture of knowledge and continuous learning.
Key Takeaway: Focusing on a knowledge-sharing culture will improve your company's ability to reach worthy goals.
A group of talented individuals working in isolation just cannot produce the same results as a similar group working cooperatively.
And, a group of talented individuals all working toward different goals just isn’t going to be good for business.
Case in point: Gartner found that organizational alignment can lead to a nine percent increase in revenues — while a lack of alignment can cause a 12 percent drop in employee performance.
In other words, organizational alignment has a direct relationship with both employee and company performance.
This organizational alignment cannot exist without cultivating a culture of knowledge sharing amongst your team.
Or, perhaps more accurately: You can try to create alignment around your organizational mission and vision — but it’s not going to stick over the long-term without an ongoing focus on sharing knowledge.
In terms of on-the-ground alignment, a team that isn’t constantly communicating and sharing information will easily become disjointed and unable to reach even its most immediate goals.
But, a team that does understand the importance of continuously exchanging knowledge will stay on the same page when working toward both granular and big picture goals. This sets the stage for maximum team performance throughout your organization.
Building a culture of knowledge sharing and ongoing learning communicates a clear message to your team members:
Your knowledge and expertise matter to our organization. Without it, our organization would not exist as it does today — and would not be able to grow into what it will be tomorrow.
The fact that you’re calling your team members to share the knowledge they bring to the table shows that their value to the company goes beyond the tasks they perform on the job.
This recognition will go a long way in the eyes of your individual employees:
It’s in the open exchange of ideas, expertise, and experiences that your team’s — and your individual employee’s — purpose becomes truly apparent.
In continuously sharing and gaining more knowledge, your employees will both become more valuable to your organization and feel more valued as a member of your team. This intrinsic motivation is key to optimizing employees’ performance and overall outlook on the job.
Individual knowledge acquisition and organizational knowledge retention are two sides of the same coin.
Of course, each side can benefit from the creation of a knowledge-sharing culture.
In focusing on knowledge acquisition, think employee onboarding and ongoing professional development. Building your organization around the sharing of knowledge means you’ll always be able to get your team members up to speed with any need-to-know information regarding their professional duties.
(As we said earlier, an individual employee’s knowledge will only get them so far. To be truly valuable to your company, they need to integrate their knowledge with that of your organization.)
You’ll also be able to continuously improve your onboarding and training efforts as time goes on. For one thing, as your organization becomes more knowledgeable, you’ll be able to deliver even more comprehensive learning content and experiences to your team members. Moreover, you can make ongoing improvements to these experiences as you survey and gather feedback from your employees over time.
Knowledge sharing also ensures that your organization retains important knowledge when employees retire or otherwise resign. With proper knowledge management processes in place, best practices, step-by-step instructions, and procedural demos will be documented and continually improved upon — and will continue to provide value to your organization long after an employee leaves.
Successful knowledge sharing also leads to knowledge centralization — making it ultra-accessible to all who need it, when they need it. This not only makes onboarding and training a snap, but also enables your team to continue building on the knowledge that accumulates throughout your company’s lifespan.
Your team should always be looking for ways to improve internal processes as well as overall productivity levels.
And, it really does need to be a team effort. In addition to worrying about improving their own processes, team members should also be focused on helping improve their colleague’s productivity levels, as well.
This goes back to creating alignment and helping your employees better understand your company’s vision. It’s not necessarily about any one team member’s performance, but about what the team can achieve together.
As team members begin sharing their knowledge, expertise, and experiences more freely, it will become easier for the team as a whole to understand what works and what doesn’t regarding their current processes.
In contrast, a lack of knowledge sharing means a lack of diversity in terms of insight, experiences, and ideas amongst your individual employees and your overall team. Without this diverse input, breakthroughs and a-ha moments will be few and far between.
This leads to the effective creation and optimization of standard operating practices throughout your organization. Instead of developing SOP from the top down — without actually involving those responsible for completing said tasks — you’ll create them collaboratively, using any and all applicable knowledge possessed by your team to do so.
The best part?
Since your team members will be openly sharing best practices with one another, this development of SOP will happen almost organically. As you make these feedback-based improvements on the fly, you’ll then be able to easily document said processes to bring them into official use within your organization.
So far, we’ve focused on the more intrinsic benefits of building a culture of knowledge sharing among your team.
To be sure, these intrinsic gains will lead to tangible, monetary gains for your business.
Unfortunately, the best way to illustrate this is to show what happens when organizations aren’t focused on sharing knowledge: According to a 2018 report from Panopto, ineffective knowledge sharing causes the average US business to lose $47 million in productivity.
Panopto provides further context, explaining that “a business with 3,000 employees loses $8 million annually, a 10,000-employee business loses $26.5 million annually, and a 50,000-employee business loses $132.7 million annually.”
This massive loss in productivity stems from much of what we’ve discussed thus far:
Check out Best Company’s list of project management software available to find the best tools to help aid your company with knowledge sharing.
Poor knowledge sharing capabilities also hinder an organization’s ability to make improvements. So, in addition to the actual losses sustained, poor knowledge sharing also leads to missed opportunities for growth over time.
With that in mind, it’s accurate to say that the losses your business will incur due to poor knowledge sharing processes is incalculable.
Conversely, cultivating a culture of knowledge sharing can lead to massive monetary growth for your business. Not only will you minimize operational costs and losses, but you’ll also unearth new, previously-unseen opportunities for growth just as a matter of doing business.
For your knowledge sharing initiatives to go as planned, your team needs to have full control over your organization’s cumulative knowledge.
Fortunately, there are a number of tools and services available to help your team better manage your customer-facing and internal data.
Emil Hajric, the founder and CEO of knowledge base software company Helpjuice, is an organizational learning expert and author of Knowledge Management: A Theoretical and Practical Guide for Knowledge Management in Your Organization.