Knowledge sharing can engage employees, drive innovation, uncover new business opportunities and add value to your business. But there are barriers to overcome and risks to consider to get it right.

There’s truth in the phrase ‘knowledge is power’. In the modern economy, you can class the knowledge residing in your business as an intangible asset – one with an increasing value.

If that knowledge isn’t shared or managed, a lot may be at stake if the wrong individuals leave. More than that, you may fail to attract the right talent in the first place.

The knowledge residing in your business as an intangible asset. And it’s one with an increasing value

Over 80% of people choose an employer that values open communication over one that offers perks, like free food and gym membership.

It can be hard to break down a culture of ‘knowledge hoarding’, where people feel that protecting information is the key to job and business security. But younger generations of employees now expect a knowledge sharing culture, and they have the clout to demand it – they’ll represent 35% of the workforce by 2020.

That may be why a more open approach to information sharing is taking hold.

Sharing information with the right people is the key to successful knowledge management

A 2016 survey of CFOs found that 25% now share financial information with all employees – up from 7% in 2012. Almost a third say they share financial information with ‘select employees’.

Sharing information with the right people is the key to successful knowledge management. Those who need it. Those who want it if they’re to stay engaged. And those who can build on it or cascade it further.

What makes effective knowledge sharing?

If you want people to understand and develop knowledge, then it goes beyond simply sharing it ‘top-down’. Your teams should be able to share it themselves, comment on it, chat about it, and ultimately challenge it. That’s where collaboration platforms like Workplace come in by allowing your teams to share and comment on the information in real-time.

Pam Holloway, a knowledge management consultant who set up About People, says “when we share, we improve” and believes managers should embrace the feedback they get from their employees. She advises that users should decide the value of any knowledge shared.

Effective knowledge goes beyond the ‘top-down’

On Workplace, that’s easily done with a ‘like’, and by the other engagement metrics that your teams already know and love on Facebook.

Sharing knowledge as a manager is a start, but a culture of sharing with the right people is hard to embed if others don’t share themselves. Holloway advises communicating the benefits of sharing as well as leading by example.

Point out to your teams that this can benefit them personally, as they’ll learn, develop and improve their own performance and support their colleagues around them.

Overcoming barriers to knowledge sharing

It’s often individual barriers to knowledge sharing that can prevent your best efforts to encourage an open culture. A researcher in this space, Andreas Riege, identified 15 including:

  • Lack of time to share knowledge effectively
  • Fear that sharing will jeopardize job security
  • Low awareness of the value of knowledge
  • The dominance of official or ‘explicit’ knowledge in your organization, rather than ‘tacit’ or people-based knowledge
  • Poor writing or comms skills

You can overcome these barriers and build confidence in sharing using quick, easy and people-based platforms such as Workplace. Features such as instant messaging and project groups save time and keep knowledge relevant, correctly attributed and easy to find

How can you control risks?

Some knowledge is confidential and organizations might want to restrict access to certain individuals. Even the tacit knowledge that comes from a sharing and open culture can be a competitive advantage you don’t want others to benefit from.

Closed or secret project groups keep knowledge relevant and in front of the right people

Controlling the risks of knowledge leaking is about controlling access and sharing with the right people – should you share this widely, or within a certain group? Then there is best practice around how knowledge is stored: avoiding USB drives, desktops, laptops and pieces of paper is crucial.

Collaboration tools that are specifically designed for knowledge sharing and communication should have the highest levels of security and allow you to own your own data – as with Workplace.

The benefits of knowledge sharing

Companies such as Starbucks and Hootsuite who champion knowledge sharing, say the flow of information gives them a better and quicker understanding of customer wants.

It’s also enabling them to develop deeper knowledge-based relationships with customers, identify new business opportunities, and foster innovation.

Watch how Virgin Atlantic is using Workplace groups to connect people and get more done. And try Workplace Premium free for 90 days.

What's next

Read more Work hacks

Different collaboration tools? No problem

Working with another company on a project can pay dividends. But how do you make sure everything runs smoothly when working in multi-company groups? Having collaboration tools that integrate with each other can help. Here’s how.

Read more Work hacks

4 effective ways to share work updates with employees

Regular work updates are vital, especially in large organizations or if people work remotely. Here are a few effective ways to keep people informed.

Read more Future of work

4 ways to manage the stages of employee engagement

The way your staff feel about your organization doesn’t stay static – they’ll move through different stages of connection during their time with you. We look at how employee engagement works and why using collaboration tools can help keep people on board.

Read more Work hacks

How to get the best out of contractors and consultants

Working with contractors and consultants can be tricky. Especially when you need them up to speed fast to get the job done. But modern communication and collaboration tools are helping improve the process.