Inefficient knowledge sharing costs the average large U.S. business (17,700+ employees) nearly $45 million a year in lost productivity. Employees waste hours upon hours waiting for their colleagues to share the information they need to do their jobs.
And for dispersed teams who don’t share an office space, exchanging information is more difficult. Since those workers miss out on casual hallway conversation and tacit knowledge they would otherwise pick up through proximity to their coworkers, remote employees have to be more intentional about seeking out and sharing knowledge.
Prevent information silos and protect your remote teams’ productivity by giving them the tools, skills, and incentive to share their expertise and boost your company’s collective knowledge.
Invest in knowledge-sharing systems
Knowledge-sharing systems are tools that make it easy for workers to exchange information and access the information they need to do their job. Knowledge-sharing systems are a necessity for remote teams because they don’t have the option to physically turn to coworkers.Here are the five types of knowledge-sharing systems all remote teams need:
- Learning management system. For remote and hybrid teams, a learning management system (LMS) like 360Learning takes the place of in-person training. An LMS is used in onboarding new employees as well as ongoing education for veteran workers who are up-skilling or re-skilling.
- Instant messaging platform. An instant messaging (IM) platform (think Slack or WhatsApp) enables two or more employees to communicate through text, either in real time or asynchronously. It’s a quick and efficient way to ask a question that doesn’t merit an email or video meeting.
- Real-time collaboration tools. Real-time collaboration platforms allow team members to work on the same project at the same time, regardless of location. They range from document-sharing tools like Google Workspace to virtual white-boarding software like Miro.
- Asynchronous (or async) knowledge-sharing tools. An async platform like Scribe or Soapbox lets your employees share—and absorb—information at a time that’s convenient for them. A subject-matter expert (SME) can create a step-by-step guide or record a video to walk new hires through a process once, and their teammates can view it any time and as many times as they need.
- Knowledge management system. A knowledge-management system (or knowledge base, intranet, or wiki) is a digital repository where employees can self-serve explicit knowledge about your company and how work gets done. Your team can aggregate valuable knowledge that has been shared via Slack, email, or even in-person, so it’s always available in one place. Guru and Tettra are two examples of modern knowledge-base platforms.
Together, these systems enable your teams to share and document what they know, which makes turnover less painful when employees move on.
Know the difference between knowledge sharing & knowledge management
It’s important to understand the difference between knowledge-sharing and knowledge-management platforms so you can choose the tools that meet your teams’ needs. “Knowledge sharing” and “knowledge management” are often used interchangeably, but while the two types of platforms have similarities, they’re used differently.
A knowledge management system, as mentioned above, is a digital library of information about your company that’s accessible 24/7. Its purpose is to empower people to self-serve information and free up knowledge-holders to work on more complicated tasks. Most knowledge-management systems offer one-way communication.
A knowledge-sharing platform is what SMEs use to actively share know-how, synchronously or asynchronously. Knowledge-sharing tools take all kinds of forms, from instant messaging to video chat to screen-recording platforms. The most powerful platforms enable two-way communication so your teams can make sure the information is always up to date. Once a process is captured with a knowledge-sharing platform, it can be stored within your knowledge-management system for future reference.
For some teams, either a knowledge-sharing platform or a knowledge-management system is sufficient, but many teams use both. Check out our post,
Create a culture of knowledge sharing
Once you have the right tools in place, you’ll want to create a culture of knowledge sharing that encourages your employees to use them. In a survey by Panopto and YouGov, 60 percent of respondents said it’s “difficult,” “very difficult,” or “nearly impossible” to get the information they need from their colleagues to do their job.
However, a separate study from Deloitte showed that the number of workers who find it easy or very easy to obtain information from their colleagues is “23 percentage points higher among those who say they work in a company where enabling knowledge transfer is a major priority.”Here are a few ways to help your teams understand the benefits of knowledge sharing:
- Lead by example. A knowledge-sharing culture starts at the top. Share knowledge with your teams regularly and ask them about their work. This will increase your employees’ comfort level and inspire them to both ask questions and share what they know.
- Incentivize sharing know-how. Reward employees who are generous with their expertise with prizes like gift cards or company swag or by acknowledging them publicly for their efforts. You can also tie knowledge sharing to job performance.
- Facilitate skill-sharing sessions. Host lunch-and-learns or skill-sharing sessions where your SMEs educate their colleagues on some facet of the job during normal work hours. And be sure to record them so the knowledge lives on!
When sharing know-how is encouraged and expected, it will become second nature and prevent knowledge-hoarding within your organization.
Give employees the tools they need to share information and work together
Every remote and hybrid team needs tools (like Zoom and Slack) to facilitate collaboration and knowledge sharing. But new remote-collaboration tools that can take your teamwork to the next level are emerging all the time. Here are a few examples that we’ve broken up into categories:
- Visual collaboration tools. Platforms like MURAL and Lucidchart enable your teams to conduct virtual white-boarding and mind-mapping sessions when they can’t all huddle up in the same conference room to brainstorm. This speeds up decision-making since everyone is on the same digital page.
- Wiki and knowledge-base software. The first generation of company wikis was rife with problems, from navigational issues to information simply going stale because they were too frustrating to use. Today, platforms like Guru are making knowledge bases more user friendly and easy to keep up to date.
- Document collaboration tools. These platforms allow remote workers to collaborate without having to send files back and forth. Google Docs is one standby we’re all familiar with, but tools like Notion and Bit.ai take document collaboration to the next level with more flexibility and helpful integrations.
- Asynchronous communication platforms. Tools like Threads and Range are taking the place of daily stand-ups for teams whose members are dispersed across time zones or who simply choose to work asynchronously. They help streamline conversations and keep them organized by topic so important information doesn’t get buried in email or Slack.
- Procedural knowledge-sharing tools. Learning how to use software and complete online tasks is decidedly more complicated for remote teams who can’t just look over a neighbor’s shoulder to see how work gets done. Platforms like Loom and Scribe enable employees to share video walk-throughs and step-by-step guides with screenshots. It’s even better than being in person because you can view them again and again without pulling your teammates away from their responsibilities.
Adding tools like these to your tech stack can improve productivity and employee engagement, as well as reduce distractions and frustration among your remote teams.
Set boundaries for effective remote collaboration
Effective remote collaboration requires that workers establish boundaries. They need to both set aside time for deep, focused solo work and maximize the time they spend working together.
Here are a few tips:
Codify communication best practices
Assign (and stick to) specific channels for certain topics—for example, restrict all conversations between employees and People Ops to email. This will prevent your teams from wasting time scrolling through various communication channels to find the information they’re looking for.
Set expectations for response times. If you need an answer right away, say so. If it can wait—or if a response isn’t needed—communicate that.
Be brief, but be clear in your written communications. It’s easy to misread tone in text, especially if you’re missing context. Make sure to include the relevant information (and only the relevant information) in your messages.
Structure meetings and meeting times
Resist the urge to call quick meetings to discuss one-off topics. Regular, scheduled stand-up meetings enable team members to organize their time and show up prepared.
Always designate someone to run the meeting—and always have an agenda.
Embrace asynchronous work
Schedule time on your calendar for deep work so your colleagues know not to disrupt you during those hours. (And respect the time of your coworkers who do the same!) Set regular “office hours”—and stick to them! Don’t respond to Slack messages sent to you after hours.
Leverage asynchronous collaboration tools like the ones mentioned above to ensure effective collaboration with teammates on differing schedules and speed up problem solving.
Following these rules will help your teams get the most value out of their collaboration time and eliminate distractions to protect their focus time.
Learn from the experience of other remote and hybrid teams
While some of us are still adjusting to remote and hybrid working, many teams have been remote-first for years. We asked leaders of remote and hybrid teams for their tips on effective knowledge sharing and received tried-and-true tactics that you can implement for your teams.
- Use a cloud-based knowledge-management system. Almost every leader who responded to our survey said they rely on some kind of knowledge base for documentation. This makes everything from process documentation to webinars to professional development resources available to anyone, anywhere. Officely CEO Max Shepherd-Cross, whose teams use Notion for their knowledge base, said, “we are more transparent now than when we were in the office.”
- Conduct content audits. As we mentioned earlier, one of the biggest problems with knowledge bases is that content often gets outdated if it isn’t regularly maintained. Yarooms’ CEO Dragos Badea offered this solution: “Formalize a content review process that happens on a regular basis to weed out old and irrelevant documents, make updates and keep things from getting too bloated.”
- Share video recordings. Michael Alexis, the CEO of TeamBuilding, said his teams rely on videos for knowledge sharing. “The reason [it] is so useful is that it captures nuances that supplement written communication, working as a ‘show and tell.’” With video, onboarding employees can watch veteran team members walk through a process again and again.
- Schedule regular meetings. Leena AI Product & Growth Director, Chirayu Akotiya, recommends regular stand-up calls where team members provide updates and discuss their goals and blockers. Shepherd-Cross advises against arranging too many updates calls, which is inefficient. “Our golden rule is that calls should never be organized for data transmission, only data transformation,” he said.
- Facilitate informal communication. So much valuable information within a company is tacit and hard to document that it’s important to create space for informal interactions. Badea recommends providing your teams with a social platform like Yammer or Slack to get answers quickly. ResumeSeed HR Specialist, Diane Cook, says she instituted coffee chats and office hours for face-to-face meetings, “giving my team the sense that my door is always open and a clearer direction of best times to ask questions/ping me for advice.”
Implementing these best practices will help increase your organization’s collective knowledge, giving you a competitive advantage.
Increase employee satisfaction with effective knowledge sharing
Remote and hybrid work isn’t going anywhere. In fact, today’s workforce demands it: According to FlexJobs’ 10th Annual Survey, a staggering 97 percent of workers want their employers to allow at least some remote work.
The better your teams can share and access organizational knowledge, the more productive they will be while working remotely—which is a win for them and for you.