Knowledge sharing within an agency has never been easier—as long as you have the tools and the will to tell others what you know.
The problem is that research shows more information generally leads to less knowledge sharing within a team. A phenomenon called “knowledge hoarding” may be to blame, or something less sinister, like employees not having the necessary tools to share what they know.
So, what does that mean for your workplace?
For starters, data shows 74% of employees feel like they’re missing out on important knowledge at work. This is why your team's openness is critical for creating a positive and creative work environment.
In this blog, we'll look at what defines knowledge sharing and also give you five ways to boost your team's ability to actually share knowledge.
What is knowledge sharing?
Knowledge sharing is when agencies share information, documents, and best practices among themselves to collectively raise the skills and wisdom of the whole team.
There are three ways we usually share knowledge:
Explicit knowledge: This is information that you know is true, and you share it with confidence
Tacit knowledge: This is an action, like sharing knowledge you know with someone using practical examples
Implicit knowledge: This is wisdom, like sharing thoughts or experiences
According to research from Human Resource Management Review shows knowledge sharing builds more innovative, creative, better-performing teams. The problem is that we aren’t sharing our knowledge as well as we should. With a third of companies rating their knowledge-sharing culture as average, team members are missing out.
Agencies can improve this by taking practical steps—like building knowledge bases or using team incentives—to encourage people to share what they know.
1. Build plenty of knowledge sharing channels
People like sharing information differently.
Some people like to talk to large groups, while others prefer to share information using email or documents. Your team needs to have access to as many channels as reasonably possible to share information in a way they are comfortable with.
Building a knowledge base through a centralized workspace software is a perfect place to start. These spaces can hold how-to articles, process documentation, and policy guidelines so your team can share practical knowledge without spending hours searching.
Last year, our Engineering team reorganized their workflow into 2-week Scrum cycles after realizing they needed a better way to manage projects. To keep everyone in the loop, they created a knowledge base to store end-to-end process documentation.
Here, the team can access anything from Scrum and Agile principles to sprint plans and backlogs. Spaces categories allow teams to organize and store information much easier.
Connecting your team still requires you to take the time to actually connect
Knowledge centers act as a single source of truth for the team. This helps them gather feedback and stay aligned on every project.
However, sharing information needs to go beyond knowledge bases. You need to give your team time to connect and share their knowledge by:
Setting up 1-on-1 brainstorming sessions: Some people work better in groups and others in one-on-one sessions. Carve out some time in your calendar every month so people can share what they know with you and encourage them to do the same with their teammates. This is especially important when managing remote teams so collaboration is more encouraged.
Scheduling group catch-ups: A bi-weekly catch-up can be a great space for your team to share ideas and information. Harvard Business Review recommended using these sessions to focus on real-world problems so your team can learn, collaborate, and share skills based on real-life situations.
Giving employees sharing channels that suit them: Some people on your team may prefer to just write down what they know instead of sharing it in person. Offer an outlet like a collaboration space allows them to share ideas without feeling intimidated.
2. Share knowledge from the top
Knowledge sharing is more than just building an in-depth knowledge base—it’s also about passing on wisdom and experiences to the rest of your team.
For knowledge sharing to work, your team has to tell each other what they know or what their previous experiences have taught them. But here's the tricky part—your team will only do this if they feel comfortable.
And this starts at the top with your team leader. Creating a culture where your team feels comfortable sharing can also be kickstarted by:
Leading by example: Show your team that it's okay to share and spark conversations.
Creating safe spaces to share knowledge: Whether anonymously or through collaboration channels, your team shouldn't have to worry about competing with each other.
Collecting feedback: Your team should know that you're learning with them and willing to take on their ideas by making sure they're documented.
For example, if you gather your team for a virtual coffee chat or a catch-up in the office—make sure it's organized. The discussion should stay on topic, and encouraging ideas (good and bad!) helps create an environment where participants feel comfortable sharing thoughts and asking questions.
That's why Teamwork Spaces is a great option to track meeting notes, team agendas, and project charters. When our team comes together to discuss ideas, we make sure everyone feels like they can participate, ask questions, and enjoy some pizza!
3. Tap into your teams' motivations
If a team member is holding back on sharing their knowledge, you need to dig deeper—why isn't this person motivated to tell others what they know?
Humans are naturally motivated—either positively or negatively—by many different factors. A team member may be negatively motivated by issues like company hierarchy, frustrations with other departments.
Or they can be positively motivated by encouragement and feedback from their manager. It’s up to you to motivate your team by tapping in things like:
Interests: Acknowledge your team member's interests or what drives them.
Ownership: Ensure employees know the importance of their role and the ownership of specific actions at your business or agency.
Emotions: What is driving your team or individuals in their specific role? Do they feel like they're being heard? How can you make your team realize that what they have to say is important?
Prevent knowledge hoarding before it creeps up
Another reason you should incentivize your team to share their knowledge is that it stops them from hoarding it. Yes, knowledge hoarding is real, and it's a problem for companies that want to increase the amount of information shared by their teams.
Knowledge hoarding happens when employees feel threatened in their role or don’t trust that their knowledge will be used wisely. The same HBR research mentioned earlier found that employees who have cognitively complex jobs tend to share more.
On the other hand, team members who felt like people relied on them too much were more likely to hide information. But there are some experts who say team leaders can combat this by rewarding employees who consistently share their knowledge.
Additionally, other researchers have suggested the best way to overcome hoarding is to tell your team exactly how their knowledge will be used and explain what benefits sharing will bring to the team.
4. Have a knowledge sharing plan
Knowledge sharing only works if you have a plan.
That's because knowledge sharing takes more than just posting a comment in a group Slack chat. You need to have a plan on how to create, store, and share the knowledge nuggets your team is willing to share. Start with:
Knowledge creation: Have your team put their knowledge in a document so they can share it with the rest of the team.
Knowledge storage: Figure out where your team should store their knowledge to make it easy to share, like Teamwork's Spaces.
Knowledge sharing: Reward your team when they create and share knowledge. Make it easy for them to distribute their knowledge using team collaboration channels like Chat software.
Once you have a plan to share knowledge, you need the right tools.
5. Invest in the right software to make knowledge sharing easier
Take a look at how your team currently shares information and document what they use. You may quickly find your team uses email, cloud storage, internal wikis, different chat platforms, and HR software that stores things like comapny handbooks.
That's a lot of tools.
And with so many tools and different channels, your team will spend way too much time searching for stuff. In fact, McKinsey estimates that teams spend 20% of their working week searching for internal docs or colleagues to help with specific tasks!
Investing in software that allows your team to easily create, store, and share information within a single platform will help solve this problem. Knowledge-sharing software like Teamwork acts as your single source of truth when searching and using process documents or tutorials.
Your team can also use Teamwork Spaces to collaborate and create ideas under one roof. Using the document editor, your team can join forces and create, edit, and share content.
Now your team can easily collaborate on anything from processes to playbooks. And thanks to the search functionality, finding the right piece of content takes seconds–not hours.