All too often, knowledge about projects is held by just a handful of veteran employees, or gets lost in the ether. But a few small changes can unlock a wealth of potential in your organisation.
For many small businesses, knowledge management doesn’t rank highly on their list of priorities. In larger organisations, you might think it is a key focus – a strategic priority, perhaps. But you’d be mistaken.
Microsoft Word and emails are the go-to tools when it comes to sharing information. But let’s face it, not all the emails we receive need to be acted on, and often they don’t contain enough information about a project that enables proper insight and feedback. This creates a system that isn’t necessarily in tune with the business, where even simple processes like version control aren’t in place.
The result? Information and knowledge are dotted around on various servers and given filenames that leave you clueless about the content and context.
Workplace Wiki pages and social networks brought in some improvements, especially in terms of tagging, meta-data and storage systems, but these systems don’t always evolve with the business. Without employee interaction and discussion, they can become out-dated and stagnant. As soon as the information contained within them becomes unreliable, or even more than just a few months old, employees will be less inclined to use it as a main source of information.
It’s only natural
So why is it so difficult to share knowledge in a large organisation? For the most part, it comes down to a lack of correct process. Employees are less inclined to respond when asked to take additional steps to share their knowledge of a project. When presented as an optional extra, they can’t be blamed for not wanting to add to their workload.
When knowledge sharing becomes part of the project itself and embedded within the culture, employees are much more likely to get involved. It should be a natural by-product of a project. Employees should be comfortable sharing their work with colleagues so the wider business can benefit from the collective knowledge and understanding that it brings. Even just asking employees to create short case studies of their projects can unlock a wealth of useful information to enrich their organisation.
Although this might seem straightforward, there is still work to be done in managing the flow of information. Not everyone manages and processes information in the same way, so showcasing the benefits of sharing will help employees to better understand how they can reap the rewards of information sharing.
Modern platforms and apps are great for creating a flow of information. However, the challenge for businesses is to ensure this information can be accessed on demand, and with ease with the proper use of tagging and categorisation.
In the long-term, sharing knowledge can help build and identify future leaders; people who will reuse, test and add their opinions to existing information. IT teams are often the gatekeepers of information-sharing platforms, rather than internal communications teams. In these cases, it should the internal communications team’s job to stimulate a culture of sharing, create stories and make the platform innately more human and accessible.