A company should always aim to create a positive culture of knowledge sharing. This includes opening up communication channels and implementing a system that encourages employees to feel like they can naturally share ideas. Still, once this knowledge sharing environment is created, how do companies encourage workers to continue exchanging information? Here we look at the underlying motives behind sharing knowledge and what employers can do to ensure their employees never shy away from knowledge sharing.
Before we look at what motivates employees to exchange knowledge, let’s look at why employees don’t exchange knowledge. First, employees might withhold information because they are afraid they could lose power within their company. When knowledge is shared, it becomes widespread, causing employees to lose exclusive access to the information that differentiates them from their co-workers. Second, sharing knowledge may require additional work. Employees may be hesitant to go out of their way to share knowledge without additional motivation or incentives. Third, employees may not trust people enough to share information with them. This can be problematic in situations involving superiors or even co-workers. If someone else takes credit for an employee’s personal knowledge, opportunities for promotions become limited. Finally, an employee may withhold knowledge because his or her company lacks an appropriate knowledge-sharing system. The system may be flawed, or inefficient, making the ability to share knowledge undesirable.
Despite these drawbacks, however, there are several successful strategies which encourage knowledge sharing among employees. The first and most obvious way to motivate employees to share knowledge is to incentivize the process. Employers can offer bonuses, rewards, or other benefits, which encourage employees to share their thoughts freely. The best way to increase information exchange among employees is to more frequently engage employees in all work materials so they actually want to contribute knowledge. Although incentivising employees is overall effective, research has shown that using too many external rewards can be overbearing and may decrease employee motivation to share knowledge. Despite the importance of external rewards, employers should be creative and craft materials or activities that employees value. Employees will then feel as though they are doing less work and will be more willing to share information.
A second way to motivate employees to share knowledge is to collaborate regularly with employees. Integrating knowledge sharing with business processes is of the utmost importance within companies. Doing so makes knowledge sharing mandatory, rather than voluntary. Although this may seem forceful, it is a good way to keep tabs on which employees contribute information. By rewarding employees and keeping them engaged, they will expect knowledge sharing as a necessary part of their work. If employees know their co-workers are also expected to share knowledge, they will be encouraged to follow suit.
Finally, from a technical standpoint, companies that use knowledge management systems should ensure these systems are easy to teach and learn, and are effective. Employees should feel free to give feedback about their user experience. If employees consistently experience problems using the software, knowledge sharing will be limited. Senexx, for example, promotes knowledge sharing through SolvePath, which is an effective and simple means to find information. One feature allows employees to ask questions directly from their email, versus finding answers online. When knowledge-sharing software is easy to use, more opportunities for collaboration are created, fostering increased idea-formation, and problem-solving. This also creates more employee control: they will feel less frustrated by technical difficulties when sharing ideas.
Overall, to motivate employee knowledge sharing, rewarding opportunities must be created. A positive attitude is necessary, within not just the work environment, but in the mind of each employee – through both external and internal rewards. This process will be most successful when knowledge sharing is integrated within all company activities. Finally, employees must be given the proper tools to carry out knowledge sharing easily and effectively.
Try Senexx’s new Sandbox – an interactive demo of Solvepath! The Sandbox allows you to get an in-depth explanation of how Solvepath works, and simplifies the task of sharing knowledge.
- Gagne, M. (2009). A Model of Knowledge-Sharing Motivation. From www.selfdeterminationtheory.org
- Pitagorsky, G. (2010). Motivating Knowledge Sharing. http://www.projecttimes.com/george-pitagorsky/motivating-knowledge-sharing.html