As a business owner or manager, you want to encourage your staff to share their knowledge with their colleagues. When they come up with innovative and creative ways to perform old tasks, you would rather they shared it with their peers than keep it to themselves.
Yet, you're often the last to know about the new skills that your employees have attained. Fortunately, there are things that you can do to change this. But harnessing your employees' knowledge the right way is not easy. In fact, it takes a lot of work on your part to create an environment in which they want to share what they have learned.
The first thing that you need to do is make it easy for people to share what they know. You cannot just tell them to share their skills with other people. You need to foster a culture that makes sense for them to spend their time teaching their colleagues.
This culture needs to include trust. People need to be able to trust each other for the business relationship to work. The level of competition at some companies can be very high. Some colleagues are mistrustful of each other because they fear that they are being one-upped by their co-worker. It is important to have a solid foundation of trust in the workplace. This will encourage knowledge sharing and allow you to have a healthy work environment.
The best way to do this is to lead by example. Whether you're an executive or a line manager, how you manage your team will serve as an example for your team. If you are open to sharing your knowledge, your team will be more likely to be doing the same.
You can also create a mentoring program for your employees. This helpful for both new employees and old employees. Old employees can teach their newer colleagues the ropes and help them succeed. Yet, the newer partners can bring fresh insight into the business. They can often offer some knowledge of their own to improve the working life of the veterans.
To get the most out of this kind of mentorship, you need to design it in a manner that does not encourage a top-down program. It should encourage mentors to be just as open to new information as their mentees are.
Another way to encourage employees to share their knowledge is to incentivize them to do so. You can include knowledge sharing in performance reviews or even offer tools and incentives to encourage them. It can take a lot for an employee to share their knowledge and they want to know that their knowledge has value. Offering positive reinforcement for sharing will drive innovation and creative sharing at the office.
Offering these positive reinforcements is not about throwing money around. Often, recognizing that employee for their hard work and quick thinking is better than throwing them a cash bonus. It ensures that employees feel valued by the company. This often translates to higher levels of productivity and accountability in your staff.
If you do want to offer a cash reward, you might do it quarterly or annually. You can then reward the employees who contribute the most on a regular basis. This will encourage people to share all year if they are all working towards the same goal of reaching that end of year bonus.
Incentivizing knowledge sharing is a much better approach than trying to force it. If employees are forced to make space for these extra duties on top of their other work, they are not going to prioritize teaching. In fact, they may even resent it. This will encourage hostility rather than pride in their work. This is the exact opposite of the environment that you are trying to create.
Finally, you should ensure that employees have several methods of sharing their information. Each employee will have different passions and different strengths. If you force every employee to share their knowledge through the same channels, you will end up discouraging them from sharing.
Some employees are prolific writers but nervous speakers. Forcing everyone to share through seminars will alienate people who have a fear of public speaking. They will be less likely to share their knowledge if they aren't comfortable with the channel.
You can encourage sharing through mentorships, like those listed above. You can design round table discussions and job shadowing sessions. These allow employees to play to their strengths. Ultimately, it will allow for a better teaching experience.
Creating an environment in which your employees feel valued is important. If you can do this, you will create an environment in which your employees will be happy to share their knowledge. When you cultivate this kind of open, trusting environment, you will have a happier and more productive work place.