How to share knowledge in the company?
Knowledge management is an increasingly popular term that refers to programs and ways to distribute knowledge within a company. In human terms, it is about transferring knowledge between employees and between departments. How to do it effectively?
First of all, it must be stressed that the transfer of knowledge is always a great challenge. Its essence was well expressed by the American writer Robert A. Heinlein: “when one teaches, two learn”. When it turns out that according to 40% of graduates, studies have not prepared them for work, finding the right specialists in the IT labor market becomes very difficult. Equally important is the continuous development of employees.
Gartner research shows that proper knowledge management reduces the time needed to train a new person by 35%and this is not all the advantages of effective knowledge sharing in the company.
81% of employers indicate that gthe main motivating factor for knowledge management is the development of the competence of employees, 63% mention speeding up operations, 50% increase customer satisfaction, and 44% indicate cost reduction.
It shows that knowledge is worth sharing. Unfortunately, this is not always easy.
Sharing knowledge does not seem particularly difficult when there are high-class specialists in the team, but in practice it can become a big problem. All because in many IT companies there are various barriers that effectively limit learning within the team.
There are personal issues – for example, some great programmers lack confidence, do not know how to offer new knowledge or do not realize what other employees should be able to do.
It comes to this fear of too much effort that will not be properly rewarded.
Such an employee does not see for himself the benefits of passing on knowledge. We also have barriers at Team level – the manager cannot motivate the transfer of knowledge and manage it properly. Not unimportant is internal competition between workers. When it comes to exchanges between different departments, there may be a desire to retain good practices within departments or a lack of time to train other staff.
If the company has not developed an appropriate organizational culture, employees will treat their knowledge as a bargaining chip: they will want to be irreplaceable in the company, and teaching others will “reduce” their value. The barrier can also be lack of trust between employees, competition between experienced and new employees and the creation of a “young-old” division.
The problem is also lack of training, lack of research on their effectiveness and the fact that they do not have the opportunity to use the new knowledge in practice. Sometimes the supervisor does not reward for his knowledge and cannot stop important employees who leave, taking with them valuable know-how. However, most of these barriers can be overcome.
How to effectively share knowledge?
Getting into the habit of sharing knowledge takes a lot of effort, but it is invaluable in the long run. Companies have different ideas. Below we will describe a few that may inspire you to implement them in your own company.
Building a system of corporate knowledge bases in which employees describe their duties and share ways to solve problems related to software development.
Of course, this requires the involvement of managers who will not only encourage knowledge sharing, but also hold employees accountable for such activities (e.g. quarterly). However, if the employer requires knowledge sharing, he should set the working time needed to create the databases.
You can also not forget about adequate employee motivation – it is worth to reward those who are most willing to share knowledge. Some companies organize special competitions and reward the people whose knowledge has benefited the most employees. The award ceremony usually takes place during a formal gala. This competitive mechanism often works perfectly. Of course, a separate problem is the use of the knowledge accumulated in the company’s databases. The manager must ensure that employees, especially young people, use such bases. Otherwise, the project will quickly fail-no one will see the point in preparing sources of knowledge that no one uses.
To begin with, it is worth accumulating knowledge in databases from one area or technology, over time expanding them to new issues. You can prepare a detailed instruction for creating databases and use various applications for this.
Databases do not, of course, exhaust ideas for practical knowledge sharing. Building corporate know-how can be carried out within the framework of various programs and the use of the knowledge of hired experts.
They work well, for example mentoring programs.
However, the problem is that a mentoring culture needs to be built step by step, it is not a quick process. However, the mentor-student relationship is a win-win. The mentor can refresh his knowledge on some issues, and in addition develops his coaching skills in practice. On the other hand, a person who wants to gain knowledge, has the opportunity to directly observe the work of a specialist, excel in solving various problems. You can use pair programming, which we recently wrote an article about (the learner sits at the keyboard, the mentor supervises). Of course, the mentor must also constantly develop, expand their skills and knowledge. This is often an elite solution, offered to the best employees who want to go to a higher level. Before this happens, the employee should first use more traditional solutions, such as training. Other ways to share knowledge are, for example, various kinds of meet-ups, which should be organized regularly. They often involve a discussion between participants, and at the same time are an opportunity to integrate employees.
How do we know it works?
All efforts will be in vain if we are not able to assess whether employees are actually learning from each other.
How do I find out? Excellent opportunity are staff shortages and recruitment. Then you can really tell whether there is an employee inside the organization who can be promoted, whether you need to look for appropriate competencies outside the company.
If we have to bring in an outsider, it’s a warning sign that knowledge transfer may not be effective.
Another test of effective knowledge sharing in an organization can be a company’s ability to retain an employee. When specialists leave and do not do it for financial reasons, it is an alarm that you need to act. Perhaps the employer did not provide them with appropriate conditions for development.
Effective knowledge sharing in a company is not always easy. It is often necessary to take active action on the part of managers and convince employees that it pays for the company, the team, as well as the person who transfers knowledge. It is worth making sure that the transfer of knowledge becomes part of the company’s development and permanently fits into its organizational culture.