When your employees don’t share what they know, it creates information silos that compromise productivity.
In a recent survey, 60 percent of employees said it’s “difficult,” “very difficult,” or “nearly impossible” to obtain the information they need from their colleagues to do their job. These employees reported spending, on average, almost six hours per week duplicating work.
Building a company culture where knowledge-sharing is encouraged, facilitated, and rewarded will help you knock down information silos to improve productivity and employee engagement. Here’s how to do it.
Invest in knowledge-sharing tools
One reason your employees don’t share information could be that they don’t have the time or means to do so easily. Invest in knowledge-sharing tools that make it effortless for SMEs to convey what they know — and for other team members to access that information.
All the apps your employees use to communicate (think Zoom, Gmail, or Slack) can be knowledge-sharing tools. But they don’t necessarily help you break down silos. In fact, they can even perpetuate them with interactions that are confined to small groups. A knowledge-sharing platform like Scribe helps you knock down information silos by making it painless for your SMEs to document and share their processes. Users just hit “record” while they work online and Scribe generates editable step-by-step guides with text and screenshots that can be shared with virtually anyone. Your SMEs can share their know-how without cutting into their productivity — or even leaving the application they’re working in.
It’s equally important to store this know-how and other FAQs in a knowledge base to prevent data silos and designate a single source of truth for your organization. Platforms like Notion and Guru are feature-rich yet user-friendly and easy to keep up-to-date as your tech stack grows and workflows change.
Facilitate (and record!) skill-sharing sessions
Create a culture of knowledge-sharing by making time for cross-training and professional development during the workweek. Encourage your SMEs to give presentations — to their teammates, different departments, or other stakeholders — and record them so that the knowledge lives on.
According to the latest LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report, 59% of L&D professionals said up-skilling and re-skilling were their most important areas of focus in 2021. You have a built-in resource in your employees — everyone is an expert in their job!
Optional lunch-and-learns or skill-sharing sessions are an effective tool for breaking down information silos and increasing the flow of information across teams. For example, members of your sales team and marketing team can each present to the other how they use your company’s CRM. This way, both teams can continue to focus on their different priorities, but with a big-picture understanding of how they can better collaborate.
From there, you should add the recorded presentations to your knowledge base so team members who couldn’t attend can access them.
Break down information silos with social platforms
Social platforms like Slack, Yammer, and Chatter can facilitate connections between team members by making communication simple and informal. They can also be effective tools for learning — especially when conversations are publicly viewable.
Harvard Business Review found that employees who used a social platform in the workplace were 31 percent more likely to find colleagues with the expertise they needed to meet their job goals. They were also 88 percent more likely to identify colleagues who could connect them with the right experts.
Even if an employee doesn’t use the platform to actively ask questions, they can learn just by observing the interactions of others.
Users can gain two types of knowledge from internal social tools: direct knowledge and metaknowledge. Direct knowledge is an understanding of how to do something. Metaknowledge is understanding who the subject matter experts are — and therefore knowing whom to ask for help with a given task or problem.
For example, say Jeff asks Alexis in a public Slack channel how to create a joined report in Salesforce, and Alexis shares a link to a Scribe walking through the process. Michelle isn’t a part of the conversation, but just by witnessing the exchange, she understands two things: how to create a joined report in Salesforce and that Alexis is a good resource for questions about Salesforce.
Reward SMEs for sharing knowledge
Prevent your employees from developing the silo mentality by showing them that sharing what they know makes them more valuable, not less.
Incentivize knowledge-sharing within your organization. For example, reward people who host skill-sharing sessions with tangible prizes like gift cards, company swag, or a voucher for a free lunch. If you see someone educating a teammate, give them a shoutout during an all-hands meeting or in the company newsletter.
You can also tie your knowledge-sharing initiatives to job performance. Let employees know that it’s expected and something they’ll be measured on. For example, updating entries in the knowledge base might be one of their KPIs. Another route is to simply let them know that sharing their expertise shows leadership and will be rewarded with pay raises and promotions.
Lead by example
It’s often said that culture comes from the top. The leadership team sets the vision and policies for an organization and provides a powerful example when they model the behaviors they want to see. Here are a few ways leaders can create a culture of knowledge-sharing.
- Encourage curiosity. Never belittle or shame an employee for asking questions. Instead, thank them for their courage and do your best to address their concerns.
- Share content yourself. Whether it’s via email, Slack, or during meetings, talk about articles you’ve read, experiences you’ve had, industry trends, or anything relevant to your company’s mission. Be sure to explain why it’s relevant and share-worthy and ask employees to share what they think about it.
- Ask your employees about their work. The benefits of asking your employees questions are threefold. In addition to demonstrating leadership by example, it makes your teams feel seen and heard (and, therefore, valued) and can provide valuable insights into how your team members work — and feel about your company.
- Institute an open-door policy. Set office hours (real or virtual) for people to ask questions or share ideas. This builds a sense of psychological safety and creates opportunities for growth (on all sides!).
This way, knowledge-sharing becomes an understood common goal, and information flows across your organization in all directions — which ultimately benefits everyone.
Make turnover and transition less painful
Sharing information helps your teams ensure that existing knowledge is preserved and doesn’t walk out the door with a retiring employee. It also eliminates bottlenecks, duplication of efforts, and mad scrambles to mine someone’s expertise before they take time off, and it increases connections between different teams and individual workers. Finally, it enables faster decision-making and creates more engaged employees who are invested in the company’s success.