There are many reasons employees choose to keep information hidden even though sharing would strengthen the group as a whole and benefit everyone, including themselves. They may fear they’ll lose their edge in the company, or that without a monopoly on knowledge, they’ll become replaceable. It could be they’re frustrated with having to interrupt their work to educate others, feeling that if they learned it themselves, so could others.
Whatever the reason, hoarding information weakens businesses. Hiding information from each other can breakdown communication, limit growth and disrupt productivity. Work progresses better when information flows freely. Sharing knowledge can lead to greater collaboration and innovation. So if someone is holding back valuable information from the rest, it’s crucial for those at the top to put in place practices that promote regular knowledge sharing.
Provide a Reason Why
As already mentioned, there are many motives behind an employee choosing not to share their knowledge. This is why it is so important to give reasons for why an employee should share. Knowing there is a reason–especially one that addresses their reticence–goes a long way to encouraging information exchange.
Cultivate a Social Environment
Sharing information doesn’t need to be formal. Often the best on-the-job knowledge sharing happens casually. It takes place when people feel comfortable relaxing with one another and discussing their current affairs.
Provide social spaces in office settings that lend themselves to natural information sharing. An inviting coffee station or casual seating areas in various corners allow employees to gather and share knowledge organically.
One of the reasons many don’t share what they know is because there’s no incentive too. At most, they are at times forced to by someone higher up the chain, which leads to resentment.
For this reason, businesses should find ways to encourage sharing through incentives. Incentives can take the form of a small bonus for participating in a mentorship program or office perks, like reserved parking if they’re the “top sharer of the month.” Find ways to give positive reinforcement, and highlight the positive outcomes from knowledge-sharing, making it more attractive to speak up than keep quiet.
Make it a Rung on the Ladder
On the note of incentives, a powerful way of making sharing part of company culture is to tie knowledge sharing to upward mobility. Making mentorship or other knowledge-sharing initiatives requirements for promotion could generate more participation and enthusiasm for sharing.
Do Away With Time Drains
Many employees only object to knowledge sharing because it cuts into their own valuable work time. They don’t mind giving over information, so long as it doesn’t waste time that could be utilized for their assignments.
This reluctance can be countered by incorporating knowledge sharing as part of the workday and schedule. Part of project wrap-ups could be sharing what was learned from success or failures, and weekly meetings could start with a round of quick takeaways learned over the last seven days.
Alternatively, employees could be tasked with regular sharing write-ups that could be posted in a company knowledge-database. This allows anyone to access employee knowledge without having to disturb them later on.
Set an Example
Finally, company leaders must set an example of sharing. It’s one thing to tell employees to collaborate; it’s another to take part in the process actively. Management needs to take point, modeling the knowledge-sharing practices they want employees to adopt.
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