In theory, knowledge in a team is understood as the knowledge that should be carried out in such a way as to ensure that employees at all levels can use the experience of others and transfer their own knowledge. What is the practical way to share knowledge in a team? Certainly, passing your knowledge to a teammate or a colleague at work is not easy. Among the research conducted on this subject, conditions affecting the process of sharing knowledge among employees can be distinguished. The most common factors include: individual, interpersonal, organizational and technological.
Most of us have experienced a lack of reliable information or felt excluded from the team. What is the effect? According to data from KPMG, about 60% of employees spend 60 minutes a day repeating activities that have already been carried out. What does it depend on? Let’s start with individual factors that depend on personality traits that employees have, like their motivation, education, experience, and beliefs. During the conducted research, it was stated that employees are motivated to share knowledge when they think that it is worth carrying out the related effort and thus help others.
There are also issues of character – some experienced developers lack, for example, self-confidence. They do not know how to propose new knowledge or have no idea what others in the team should know.
In the interpersonal context, the time length of creating a team also matters. The greater the level of team integration, the more likely an individual is to share knowledge with the team. It was also stated by AK Ojha in one of their journals that in teams with a bigger number of women, knowledge sharing is higher due to the fact that women are more willing to open communication.
Trust is important too. Employees share knowledge much more often when they find that people around them can be considered honest and fair. However, excessive trust can also bring a negative result, as well as the lack of trust itself, characterized by a rivalry between people with a long working experience and new employees, and a division into those experienced and not. A person with a lot of experience might think that if knowledge is their strong point, so if it is shared by them, they can lose the position in the team over time.
Organization of work
The organizational factor itself also has a significant impact on knowledge sharing within the team. The important role to mention here is the one of the management that starts with building an organizational climate based on supporting colleagues and encouraging them to exchange information. The decision-maker in the company should, first of all, encourage the team to build an organizational atmosphere as a key factor in creating and maintaining a friendly atmosphere. If the company has not developed a proper organizational form, employees who have knowledge will treat it as an ace in their sleeve, making them irreplaceable in the company, and may treat teaching other people as a threat lowering their value. Thus, the organizational culture is of particular importance for the knowledge sharing.
Organization of work culture encourages openness in the group, revealing ideas, and talking about failures. Using an organizational culture focused on individual competition can lead to a lack of knowledge sharing, while a culture focused on team collaboration helps create confidence and willingness to share their experience. Of course, to introduce such culture, you need to motivate employees to do it.
With regard to technological conditions, the use of communication and information technologies makes it easier to acquire knowledge in the company. The flow of information is faster, we have more access to acquiring knowledge regardless of the geographical location.
The most common excuses?
As you can see, many factors may influence knowledge sharing and therefore, lead to making the whole process complex. The most frequent excuse from an employee’s perspective includes the fear of sharing the knowledge gained thanks to years of experience and then becoming less important and underestimated in the team. David Zweig, a professor dealing with the issues of Human Resources in Toronto, conducted research on the behaviour of employees.
He distinguished the most common methods of ‘hiding knowledge’, including:
- evasive responses – we provide information so that it is unclear and incomprehensible to the team,
- pretending that we do not know the answer ourselves,
- hiding information due to lack of authorization to provide information.
Know-how does not mean falling
Let’s follow the example of Tesla. In 2014, Elon Musk announced, “All our patent are belong to you”. Tesla has made all its patents related to the production of electric cars available to open public. Why? So that the technology of electric car production could develop even better and was not inhibited. Tesla shows that sharing valuable know-how does not result in a fall. On the contrary. Thanks to this we can strengthen the team and create projects together at a higher level.
To start sharing knowledge, we do not have to be the famous Tesla. The first step is to build a knowledge base. Each employee describes their duties and shares the way to solve the existing problem with colleagues and makes it available for use by others, such as trainees. A manager’s role in all of this is to motivate to share knowledge and, from time to time, settle from performed duties. Another example of achieving a better exchange of knowledge is to provide them with some motivating factors. Training for the best, bonuses, competitions and rewarding during ceremonial meetings. This is something that will make the person not only stand out but also motivate to take further action. Another idea is open meetings such as Meet Ups or BarCamps that ensure informal atmosphere and promote openness, exchanging experiences and ideas.
Knowledge Management – the Social Intranet?
Since more and more companies came to understand the importance of knowledge and the competitive edge it provides, it has also become more often to implement Knowledge Management process enabled within OTRS ITSM. This simple, quality-assured and easy-to-use tool limits or even eliminates any instances of knowledge being overlooked, lost or corrupted. By using basic processes and creating effortless procedures it is possible to achieve a convenient and natural way of knowledge sharing within the entire company. Thanks to Knowledge Management all relevant information and resources can be easily accessed by employees at all levels anytime, important knowledge is kept even after employees move on to a different workplace, and duplicated efforts are avoided.
A knowledge pool in a form of a social Intranet also seems like a reasonable solution for the environments that have difficulties sharing knowledge due to personal aspects. Wikis, blogs, and collaborative workspaces are just a few examples of the possibilities that extend a company’s knowledge base.
One thing is certain, it is worth to share knowledge, even though the beginnings will not be the easiest ones. It may often require the managers to convince the board about the perks that follow such approach. The perks for the company, team and most importantly, individuals. To effectively act as team members, we must be able to communicate openly and honestly, resolve conflicts, go beyond personal goals for the benefit of the team. It is crucial to value teamwork, share knowledge and be willing to solve problems. For this, we should deny passivity, competition, and unjust authority.
What is your view on knowledge sharing? What practices do you use in your company?