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Longread: Knowledge sharing inside the company. What do you need to know?

24.06.2015

Sometimes it seems that the knowledge sharing is a low-priority matter, which may be left “until later”. Generally, understanding of its importance comes only when the information is lost in the process of work or suddenly emerge some “blunders”, leading to reduction in overall performance. Below I will try to answer the question, is the knowledge sharing important for a company?

There are several myths connected with employees training and knowledge sharing, in which we trust. Here are some of them:

Myth 1: Everything a person needs to know on any topic can be found online, in books or by taking some training, (there are lots of them nowadays).

Myth 2: One should spend a lot of time and efforts on it: glean the material, prepare, develop a system and apply it. Where should one find this time, which one is always short of?

Myth 3: I will teach an employee everything and he/she will leave for other job. As a result, I will bring up a specialist for my competitor.

Let's start with the beginning. What is the knowledge sharing in a company? What is the overall objective?

Michael Armstrong gives the following definition, “Knowledge management is about getting knowledge from those who have it to those who need it in order to improve organizational effectiveness. The purpose of knowledge management is to capture a company’s collective expertise and distribute it to “wherever it can achieve the biggest payoff”. (M. Armstrong “Armstrong’s Handbook of Human Resource Management Practice”, ?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /London: Kogan Page, 2011).

A company collects and accumulates knowledge for years and it will be at least incorrectly not to use it. If we want to achieve the biggest payoff from work, to be highly effective, it is necessary to learn to collect, share and apply them. You are gathering pieces of information, gaining invaluable experience, changing inside along with external changes of the market and economy – all this is a very useful and unique knowledge. You will not find such information anywhere for sure, unless you collect it yourself. Competitive advantage of the whole company is built on the basis of knowledge received during work. This is the foundation of your future success in case of its proper use.

What should be done?

If done right, training and knowledge sharing will not take much time. Certainly, when launching a long-term program, you will need to apply certain efforts but later it will take only a little of your time. The main thing is to pay attention to the process of knowledge sharing constantly, every month during the whole year. 

To prevent cutting-off of your initiative in the prime, it is very important to support those who are ready to share knowledge, to involve people in this process. Consult with employees what topics will be of interest for them to learn, what issues they face most frequently in their work. Poll them orally or in writing and draft the annual plan based on obtained results. It should include, at least, one hour-long training per month and some additional options for self-studying.

Don’t be afraid that you train an employee and he/she will leave to your competitors. Certain knowledge requires little time to learn and you will be able to pick fruits of your labors rather quickly. Normally, specialists appreciate the information they receive, ask them to share information as well to make the process not unilateral and then everyone will benefit – both employer and specialists. For example, you may ask someone to read a new book in his/her speciality or on related topic and simply to tell about it, focusing on the most interesting and important points, which will be useful for everyone.

Motivation of specialists to self-study of any topics with the purpose of sharing the most interesting information with others allows a specialist to practice skills of presentation, summarizing the information “for members only” and gives others an opportunity to acquaint quickly with some novelties or trends in the industry. Besides, it is possible to include “Insight” topic in the plan of meetings and organize, for example, a “Question-Answer” session for sharing experience within its limits.

Individual coaching with promising specialist is very effective as well. Choose a specialist you want to train, ask if he/she were ready, draft a scheduled plan of training, meet every month and communicate. To make a personal coaching successful, at least two conditions must be met: the specialist you’ve chosen must be interested to learn something from you and must work independently all the time.

What we use

This year we decided to pay special attention to training and knowledge sharing inside the team. We learn from each other and by means of external sources. In the beginning of this year, we elaborated and launched internal mini MBA program for this purpose, pursuant to which once a month is delivered one unit on a particular topic, for example, on intercultural features and negotiation skills, on international law, etc. Adjustment of such programs inside the company helps not only to share knowledge but also to do it in view of company’s specific profile. Besides, there are regular internal mailings of interesting information about the industry, books and forthcoming events, and we practice individual coaching.

In my opinion, each manager should pay constant attention to the teaching process by means of general trainings and one-on-one coaching. After all, the main value in our work is people. Training others, you will make you life much simpler, help raising overall performance and strengthen competitive advantage of your company.

Author: Svetlana Sverchkova