Knowledge sharing is key to organisational success. When knowledge flows freely in the workplace, it improves performance, productivity and innovation. It also improves the employee experience and employee engagement.

But, to achieve these benefits, it’s essential that organisations ensure all employees – all employees – can access the knowledge they need, when they need it and how they need it.

A strong knowledge sharing culture also facilitates problem solving. It helps employees come together to share their issues and solutions. This has a knock on effect of preventing reinvention of the wheel – something that happens a lot in organisations where knowledge sharing is weak.

Knowledge sharing tools and platforms

Now, knowledge sharing isn’t a new phenomena – it’s gone on since the dawn of time. But there has been a resurgence of interest in it in recent years, partly because of the explosion of knowledge sharing tools and platforms. These tools and platforms, including the 5App hub, make it much easier for people to share knowledge and by knowledge, we mean information, skills, ideas and expertise. The focus on knowledge sharing also reflects a wider drive for more collaborative and less hierarchical ways of working.

Knowledge sharing – is it happening?

The big question is: ‘Is it happening?’ The answer is yes and no. Some organisations are very good at facilitating the flow of knowledge, while others have a long way to go, but the general trend is definitely moving in the right direction. The multinational professional services network Deloitte has charted developments in knowledge sharing and knowledge management for several years.

Back in 2014, its Global Human Capital Trends report identified knowledge sharing as an important business driver. Later reports highlighted the emergence of internal knowledge sharing programmes and new learning and knowledge sharing systems. Learning in the flow of life was the top ranked trend in the 2019 report. Deloitte said this shift to ‘Learning in the flow of life’ (known more widely as learning in the flow of work) represents a shift from knowledge sharing and learning being something that happens as a discrete process (ie. a training event) to something that happens every day, all day, in the workplace, consciously and unconsciously.

That is the essence of knowledge sharing – employees learning from and with each other, as and when the need arises. It’s peer-to-peer learning, across teams, across departments and even across organisations. 

In order for this exchange of knowledge to happen, and the resulting increase in learner engagement, employers need to encourage and facilitate it, at and across all levels.

What happens when knowledge sharing is weak?

The implications of poor knowledge sharing are huge in terms of the cost to the business through decreased productivity and performance. According to research by the software company Panopto, the average US businesses loses $47million in productivity every year because of poor knowledge sharing.

So, what are the problems facing employees and employers in organisations where knowledge sharing is weak?

Information overload

It’s no secret that information overload is a huge problem. Employees waste a lot of time searching out and recreating knowledge that already exists in their organisation. The Panopto report found that knowledge workers waste 5.3 hours every week waiting for important information from colleagues or recreating knowledge that they should have had access to. Over half (60%) said they found it difficult, very difficult or nearly impossible to access vital information from their colleagues.

It slows down the decision-making process

And when employees struggle to access the information they need and when they need it, how do you know they are finding the right information? The information that is most relevant and useful to the business?

When knowledge is not shared in an organisation:
  • It prevents diverse opinions and ideas from surfacing. This stifles innovation, creativity and diversity of thinking.

  • There is no learning culture. The sharing of knowledge is vital to a learning culture. Without it, employees fall into patterns of knowledge hoarding and silo working.

  • It is easy for employees and organisations to make the same mistake twice or more.

  • Delivery to the customer is slower or impaired

  • Onboarding new employees is made harder and slower. It takes them longer to get up to speed with their new role and can affect their morale and motivation and the overall employee experience.

Knowledge drain

Another real problem when knowledge sharing is poor is the loss of knowledge capital when a person leaves the organisation. They take their information with them. This is a significant issue for organisations, particularly if the employee was in a business-critical role and they held a lot of useful, organisation-specific knowledge. In many organisations, there isn’t a process or a structure for recording and retaining knowledge, so it is simply lost.

Improving knowledge sharing

Knowledge can exist in lots of different systems, when it needs to be held in a central point, a point that everybody knows about and has ready access to. That’s what we do at 5App. We help organisations, teams and individuals with their knowledge sharing and learning needs.

 5App’s three pillars

Our approach is based on our three pillars of agile learning:

1. Development

To support the development of individuals and teams, by curating the digital learning people need to develop their skills.

 2. Knowledge

To improve operational performance, by curating the information and resources people need to do their job.

 3. Communication

To connect people with what is going on in the organisation by curating the news and information people need.

 These pillars reflect the way learning and organisations are changing.

 Building a better knowledge-sharing environment and culture reaps dividends for organisations. Our partner Hemsley Fraser uses the 5App Hub to connect employees and help share knowledge around the organisation.

 And Spirit Energy, an oil and gas challenger brand, uses the hub to set up internal networks/special interest groups.

Conclusion

Knowledge sharing is an increasingly important business driver. It fosters agility, helping organisations maintain a competitive edge in a landscape of constant change and innovation. Knowledge regeneration is essential in this fast-moving environment and if employees can do it together, so much the better, for them and for the organisation.

Use a knowledge sharing platform that supports new ways of working and learning, and can help to stop the knowledge drain. The 5App Hub supports your L&D strategy, creates a learning culture, and aligns learning with the business needs and objectives.

Get in touch to find out more.