Leading the way: 11 methods to encourage knowledge sharing and collaboration

The knowledge your employees bring to your organisation is your most valuable resource – it’s the human power that keeps your organisation running

This is an edited version of an article which appeared on About Leaders.

Why is knowledge-sharing important?

As a team leader you have the opportunity to implement a game-changing knowledge-sharing strategy. It’s about sharing ideas, motivation, and creative potential. Improving the circulation of knowledge throughout your organisation will boost efficiency and encourage innovation.

With the right encouragement and approach, you will enable every department to get the information they need and to have a supportive platform for sharing fresh, new ideas.

Here’s how you and your leadership team can improve knowledge-sharing and collaboration in your organisation.

Create a collaborative workspace

If your organisation has a physical office, then there is much you can do to encourage collaboration and innovation in the workplace.

Gensler 2016 workplace study found that workspace design was one of the key determining factors for innovation. Innovative organisations were five times more likely to have a design that prioritised both individual and collaborative spaces.

Supportive workplace culture

from hundreds of organisations and found that employees’ organisation quality ratings were 20% higher at places with a strong, supportive culture; factors included opportunities for collaboration, a friendly work environment and authentic values.

Beyond having a physical space that supports collaboration, you want to create an environment where employees feel respected. This means giving them ample opportunities to contribute ideas, offer feedback and even raise issues about existing organisation systems or policies.

Offer incentives for innovation

For many employees, work can quickly lead to a ‘clock in, clock out’ mentality. With no incentive to contribute ideas, or solve problems, many employees will stick to only completing their daily tasks.

To encourage knowledge-sharing and collaboration in your organisation, it’s recommended that you offer team members incentives to be innovative so that they are encouraged to contribute ideas.

Inspire innovation by building trust

No employee wants to feel like they are going above-and-beyond without fair recognition or compensation and, though this does happen, it can be quite rare. You want to inspire an innovative mentality across your entire team. Some tips to inspire innovation include:

1. Creating a climate of reciprocal trust.

2. Offering incentives in the form of bonuses, commissions, new projects or opportunities, leadership roles and networking events.

3. Encouraging a culture of upward communication.

4. Emphasising speed over lengthy studies by large committees.

5. Offering candid communication and honest feedback.

6. Inspiring through action.

Offer comprehensive employee training

An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest. While many team leaders are inclined to take a ‘sink or swim’ approach to employee training, the statistics are definitely stacked against this approach.

In fact, studies show that organisations see far greater success when their employees are adequately prepared from the get-go. The Association for Talent Development found that organisations that offer comprehensive training programs have a  than organisations without a clear training process! They also see a 24% higher margin compared to those which spend less on employee training.

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By having a clear, streamlined training process, you prepare your employees for success from the very beginning. You are also able to brief them on the knowledge of other members of the team, where to find additional resources and how to contribute new ideas.

We recommend documenting a step-by-step training process so that all new appointments are prepared to become a cohesive part of the team.

Make resources readily available

Implementing an effective internal knowledge base is the best way to organise information within your organisation; this makes it easier for employees to both contribute knowledge and tap into the collective resources. Internal knowledge base software allows employees to collaborate and distribute all organisation knowledge and information internally with ease.

While the content of your knowledge base may vary it will, typically, include resources like training manuals, organisation policies, how-to guides for using organisational tools and much more.

Utilise communication tools

In organisations both large and small, knowledge sharing and communication can be slow.

When you have a lot of information changing hands, it’s easy for important details to get missed in the transfer process.

Communication and knowledge transfer tools enable you to cut communication time in half, all while increasing collaboration.

Implement a long-term knowledge-sharing strategy

Knowledge sharing is about more than simply getting information from A to B. It’s about tapping into the individual and collective expertise held by your team members – and making that knowledge readily accessible to other people in your organisation.

Create a knowledge-transfer plan

A knowledge-transfer plan is a straightforward system for collecting, organising, analysing, applying and creating knowledge. It is a cyclical process that encourages constant knowledge production and distribution within and throughout your organisation.

When there’s a set system in place, it’s easier for everyone to contribute knowledge and access existing knowledge; this makes your team stronger, more cohesive, and, ultimately, more productive.

An effective knowledge transfer plan consists of:

1. A clear process for knowledge-collection,

2. A method for organising knowledge in an intuitive way (i.e. a knowledge-base).

3. Easy access to knowledge by members of the organisation.

4. Incentives for applying knowledge.

5. A strategy for encouraging further knowledge production (like idea-generation sessions, expert panels, etc.)

Your exact plan will depend on the unique needs of your organisation, so try different methods until you find the right system for you and your team.

An organisational culture of support and innovation

Knowledge-sharing and communication are made easy when you build a organisational culture of support and innovation, and have the right systems in place.

By making existing knowledge readily accessible, and encouraging team members to contribute new ideas, you’ll improve your bottom line and gain a competitive edge.

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