Technology can be one of your greatest assets in nurturing a knowledge sharing culture.
The concept might seem simple enough, but there’s much more to establishing a knowledge sharing culture than meets the eye. You create e-learning materials with targeted learning objectives, provide your learners the resources they need to meet those objectives successfully, and let them get to work. But, effectively establishing a culture that embraces knowledge sharing requires careful organization, learners that actively participate, and a strong online e-learning community.
Fostering a company culture that embraces sharing information and knowledge is one that helps your organization fill information gaps, scale output and productivity, and stimulate the leaders within your ranks.
Using technology can be one of your greatest tools to nurturing your knowledge sharing culture , as it can help you remove communication barriers and silos in the workplace and boost the ease and efficiency of knowledge transfer. Making the best use of the knowledge that exists within your organization is among the many essential ingredients for business prosperity, but still, too few companies are leveraging its power by establishing a defined corporate knowledge sharing strategy.
Modern organizations understand that learning occurs through a mix of formal, informal and experiential learning. Using technology, such as an e-learning platform, that supports a blended learning approach can be critically important to bringing an effective knowledge sharing culture to life. But many organizations continue to miss the mark. In fact, many organizations have failed to provide employees with a forum or community in which they can ask questions and share their expertise. For example, a Brandon Hall Group study found that 30% of all organizations don’t have forums or communities established where their learners can contribute and absorb knowledge from their peers. Only 20% believed knowledge sharing was either effective or very effective.
Supporting knowledge sharing within the flow of work has proven to be incredibly effective. Coupling your knowledge management strategy with learning technology produces a number of measurable and actionable benefits. A learning management system can help you deliver more engaging training materials, facilitate blended learning, and boost your visibility into your learners’ activities, which can help to identify skills gaps and establish strategies to close them.
The benefits of a knowledge sharing culture in an organization
Make the most of your human assets to boost productivity and efficiency: Because all learners should participate in your knowledge sharing experience, everyone has the chance to give and receive valuable information and insight to improve productivity and efficiency, making the best use of your human assets. Additionally, organizations can reduce their training costs because there’s less dependency on formal e-learning tactics and materials, depending instead on valuable online discussions that happen organically and other e-learning initiatives build around collaborating and learning in the flow of work.
Capturing different types of knowledge (e.g. explicit knowledge that’s easier to document, and tacit knowledge that’s captured in your employees’ brains) can be particularly helpful when onboarding new employees. New hires—especially remote ones—miss out on those informal, face-to-face, water cooler-type interactions that help people acquire the new knowledge they need to learn the ropes.
Related: Want to learn more on the importance of tacit knowledge and social learning? Check out: Let your stars shine bright with social learning
Motivates learners to play an active role in e-learning conversations: Give learners a way to contribute to conversations, share ideas, ask questions and address the concerns of their peers. Doing so motivates learners to participate and actively engage with the e-learning materials they interact with (and improves knowledge retention!) It also provides learning administrators with a way to gather and analyze the results of existing learning activities and customize new programs based on new goals and objectives that match the future needs of an organization’s learners.
Optimizes your e-learning feedback loop: As knowledge sharing is such a collaborative process, establishing a knowledge sharing culture gives learners direct access to peer-to-peer feedback, which also gives their managers more insight into existing knowledge or skills gaps that might exist within their teams. Management or leadership can also pass this information along to the organization’s learning and development departments to improve their e-learning courses and activities to better satisfy learner needs.
Encourages learners to put their heads together: A knowledge sharing culture enables team members to openly communicate with each other (brainstorming without limitations), giving them free reign over the sharing of opinions and experiences to inflate an organization’s collective knowledge base.
How to achieve learner buy-in to encourage a knowledge sharing culture
Illustrate the benefits of knowledge sharing: The pace at which today’s organizations must operate is a symptom of the technologies that enable knowledge to be continually refreshed. This isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s a valuable resource when making the case for building out a knowledge sharing culture because it ensures that any information a learner might want to access is not only up-to-date, but also valuable to whatever their circumstances may be at any time. This means establishing the mechanisms necessary to show people how their knowledge is shared and absorbed, and what value it brings to the entire organization and their peers. For example, doing so can be as simple as verbalizing or writing down an idea or challenge and asking for feedback. The odds are pretty high that the idea or solution will only improve with added input from other stakeholders.
Re-think rewards and recognition systems: In a knowledge sharing culture, rewards and recognition systems don’t reward individual effort and knowledge, but instead celebrate the creation of knowledge, and the sharing and re-use of that knowledge among the collective organization. Doing so effectively requires a connection between business objectives and strategies, the people involved, and the factors that motivate them.
Show your learners what knowledge sharing looks like: Identify the people that live to learn new concepts and share their know-how with their peers. Give them roles that provide value to their efforts, and then elevate their status within your learning platform to make them “go-to” individuals when insights are needed on specific topics. Doing so creates a pattern where others will model their own behaviours after those who are elevated as subject matter experts.
Make knowledge sharing a requirement of everyone’s job: It’s easy for people to say they don’t have time to do things. It’s a natural response to the fact that people are overworked and may struggle to match the pace at which their organization needs them to perform. The reality is, to effectively integrate knowledge sharing into your corporate culture, it must be worked into everyone’s everyday work processes and job requirements. Knowledge sharing should never be seen as an additional chore, but instead a valuable activity the benefits all within the organization. Only when including knowledge sharing in all employees’ job requirements (and even making it a part of their job description) can your organization truly create a real knowledge culture.
How to facilitate knowledge sharing in e-learning
Build a one-stop shop resource library: While collective collaboration among learners is essential to the process of building a knowledge sharing culture, there will be times during their learning journey when they need quick access to information. Building an online repository or resource library give learners the ability to enhance their knowledge and improve skills asynchronously—at their own pace. Resources will likely include online videos, webinar recordings, simulations, infographics or online presentations. Make it easy for your learners to access their e-learning materials by deploying a learner-centric learning management system (LMS) that guides your learners along their learning path. It’s also a good idea to sort any learning materials based on different categories (or job requirements/skills) to ensure learners are always consuming content that’s directly related to expanding their roles and improving their skills.
Identify knowledge sources from within: There’s a pretty high likelihood that there’s a wealth of information to tap within your organization. The only way to do that is to provide those subject matter experts a place to share their expertise and encourage them to do so. Audience research is a great way to identify areas in which there’s significant expertise within your ranks. Use surveys, e-learning assessments, and interviews to identify where your learners’ expertise lies. Most learners will have something to contribute to the development of their peers, but it’s up to L&D to determine what that expertise looks like. Once identified, encourage subject matter experts to create their own e-learning materials and share relevant knowledge among their peers. Invite feedback and questions. Encourage discussion and opportunities to rank the quality of that feedback.
Stress the importance and benefits of knowledge sharing: Knowledge can be a huge competitive advantage. It can improve problem solving and streamline decision making, but only when it’s shared across the entire organization. You’ll likely encounter some resistance from some employees over the concept of knowledge sharing, especially those who are competitive and see hoarding their knowledge as a way to boost their own reputation within the organizational ranks. For this reason, it’s important to illustrate the benefits of contributing knowledge and idea sharing for collective rather than personal gain.
Give them the motivational nudge they might need
Establishing a truly effective knowledge sharing culture take teamwork, and it can’t be done overnight. Doing so takes time and buy-in from all necessary stakeholders within your organization, including subject matter experts and those with a desire to boost their chops. Knowledge sharing requires significant online learner involvement to be successful. Your learners must be ready and have the tools they need to actively engage in the process and share their experiences and expertise with their peers. Making sure these mechanisms are in place is key to promoting a culture in which people are acknowledged for sharing their knowledge, and encouraging others within to start doing so as well.
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