A McKinsey & Company study from May 2014 found that the average interaction worker spends an estimated 28% of the workweek managing email and nearly 20% looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks.
That’s right: information professionals and knowledge workers spend over one-quarter of their time looking for information, writing emails and collaborating internally.
This means that streamlining knowledge management could have a dramatic effect on the productivity of an organisation. Furthermore, making information accessible and well organised helps unlock the value of the collective knowledge held by employees.
Fortunately, this does not require investing in expensive new tools. The same McKinsey report said that most companies could double the current value they get from social tools by removing online hierarchies and creating an environment that is more open, direct, trusting and engaging.
Here are eight ways to enhance knowledge management in an organisation.
1. Embrace the desire to socialise
Humans are social creatures. Employees have a natural tendency to socialise, and this does not have to be treated as slacking off or a distraction. Encouraging employees to form relationships encourages knowledge sharing because it is through these interactions that employees get to know each other.
Socialising enhances their awareness of each others’ strengths and weakness. They will know who to go to with specific queries and feel more comfortable reaching out, which helps them act faster and make better decisions.
2. Encourage dialogue and collaboration
Today’s employee wants to feel that their voice is heard within the organisation and they place a high premium on collaboration. They are active users of mobile and social technology, and do not want to stand on the sidelines – they want to get involved.
Employers cannot and should not fight this. Rather than bosses expounding about their ideas for hours, they should cultivate an atmosphere of open communication. Create opportunities for employees to share their thoughts and ideas with each other and allow for improvisation. Remember that true organisational change has to occur at every level.
3. Solicit feedback and questions
The old adage of “there is no such thing as a bad question” certainly holds true with knowledge management. Questions are how people learn, whether they are a CEO or an intern.
One of the best ways to get employees to share their knowledge and exchange insights is to seek feedback. Ask employees for help and solicit their opinions, expertise, and advice. Invite others to work with you, even to make small contributions. Be transparent by sharing what you are doing and why, and ask your team how they would do it differently. Lead by example.
4. Centralise information
As mentioned above, an organisation has a goldmine of collective knowledge at its disposal. In addition to open communication, a centralised repository where that knowledge can live is important, so employees can access it when they need to.
Take advantage of a platform that facilitates and documents employee interactions. This enables staff to quickly locate conversations and/or colleagues who can provide the insights they need for projects or decisions.
5. Generate new ideas
Good ideas can come from anywhere. Open up crowdstorming and collaborative brainstorming to the entire organisation by crowdsourcing product and service ideas. This allows you to identify potential challenges, collect a broad range of perspectives, and develop solutions in an intuitive, user-friendly forum.
6. Establish immediate communication and sharing
Communication is not just important on the individual level. B2B supply chains also involve various teams, branches, vendors and more.
Part of effective knowledge management is ensuring that all these moving parts are able to easily talk to each other, because otherwise your workflows will hit roadblocks. Remove as many silos as you can and streamline communication. Breaking down barriers will drive productivity.
7. Encourage a change mindset
Someone with a “change” or “growth” mindset approaches problems as opportunities. They embrace challenges, learn from their setbacks, don’t give up, and take control over their actions. For knowledge sharing to have the greatest results, this is the mindset you want to cultivate in your employees.
Leaders can do this by aligning the organisational structures and processes to support that vision. Set performance goals for individuals and for the organisation as a whole, and then motivate your team to achieve them. Leaders can also model change by setting examples of desired behaviors in day-to-day interactions, enlisting help from influential people within the organisation, and most importantly, ensure that teams are held accountable to the changes.
A change mindset involves helping employees grow. Develop their talent and skills by evaluating performance, rewarding high-performing individuals, and offering a range of educational opportunities so they can work on their weaknesses and hone their strengths.
Finally, make sure you have commitment and understanding from your employees by making sure employees know why changes need to happen and how they will be supported. Keep track of progress so it aligns with the company's overall mission and employees' daily work.
8. Tap into intrinsic motivation
Employees are more motivated to share knowledge when they find their work interesting, stimulating and enjoyable. The more motivated an employee feels, the more likely they are to share knowledge.
Instead of driving motivation through external feedback – which can leave workers feeling manipulated or controlled – inspire your team by encouraging autonomy. Autonomy is an essential part of motivation and job satisfaction, and employees who have some autonomy in what they do are more likely to feel enthusiastic about their work.
Areas such as scheduling, decision making and process management provide excellent opportunities for developing a confident, engaged team.
Ultimately, employees are more likely to share information and grow a company's productivity and competitive advantage when they feel heard, have access to the knowledge and resources they need, and have a positive environment with leaders who are committed to collaboration.
Sourced from Tim Eisenhauer, president of Axero Solutions