There is a saying that goes, “Power is gained by sharing knowledge, not hoarding it”.
The start-up world is often highly uncertain, full of twists and turns, and moves along at rapid fire pace. The priorities in most start-ups are getting the product to market, raising funds, getting customers, building a brand …. What is often neglected is training and knowledge sharing. It is understandable, yet there are unquantifiable benefits that knowledge sharing can bring to a start-up.
Whether your start-up has 3 employees or 50, everyone is an individual who has different experiences and expertise. Useful and practical knowledge already exists within your start-up. We must establish a system to manage the flow of knowledge.
Knowledge management is the process of improving an organisation’s performance through designing and implementing systems or tools to enhance the creation and sharing of knowledge. Through knowledge management, companies can develop better products, retain employees and improve customer satisfaction. How can we increase knowledge sharing at work?
Here are 6 ways to help create, share and use knowledge:
1. Allow employees to take time off work to attend training and acquire new knowledge
Whether it may be workshops, trainings or seminars, these are ways that your team can acquire new knowledge. Founders and managers need to plan at the start of the year a training schedule for all employees and to devote time off for them to learn new knowledge and skills. According to research, 68% of workers claim that training and development is the most important company policy. Therefore, when employees are granted the opportunity to go for training, they will become happier workers. As a start-up, resources are always tight and there may not always be budget for training or you may feel that your team cannot afford the time off for classes –but you can think of it as an investment into your business. Of course, there are many inexpensive ways you can get your employees trained, for example, online training which gives them flexibility to pick and choose what and when they want to learn. Just don’t expect them to do it on their own time and expense. A happy and motivated employee will come back recharged and find better ways of doing their tasks.
2. Design office space to facilitate interaction among employees.
Even though telecommuting is common for many start-ups these days, it is still important to schedule regular meet-ups in a shared physical environment. A report revealed that in many organisations, there is not much emphasis on workplace design, yet it has a significant impact on employee engagement and satisfaction. Humans are social beings and we feel a need to connect with others when we are at work. Most companies are doing away with traditional work cubicles in favour of an open space layout to increase opportunities for co-workers to interact throughout the day. The open environment ensures that people are aware of what is going on in the office and they can ask questions or exchange ideas rather than keep to themselves. There are also many co-working spaces available for start-ups which use an open concept and are well-designed to encourage collaboration.
3. Create opportunities for employees to share
Having an ‘open door policy’ is a small step for founders, but a huge leap of faith for employees as it suggests that the founder is approachable always and encourages employees to share ideas or information. Employees, like everyone else, can be risk-averse and founders should assure them that there is no such thing as a bad idea. Some ideas may turn out to be game-changers, while others may appear to have minimal impact or fall flat altogether, but founders should welcome all suggestions as employees take the brave step of speaking up. Other ways to provide opportunities for employees to share knowledge is to schedule mini brainstorming sessions during team meetings, create an online portal for employees to submit suggestions and conducting best practice sharing sessions.
4. Establish knowledge management leadership roles
Some companies have created job positions such as chief learning officers and community learning leaders where they are responsible for organisational development. Start-ups may not have the luxury of having such dedicated positions, but the founders and team leaders need to take on this role. The role of these leaders is to develop and implement a culture of learning, and to build up a network to support continuous learning. They must ensure that all employees support and contribute to the development of knowledge sharing practices. On a day to day basis, chief learning officers should locate knowledge, capture it and disseminate it to the relevant persons. Their goal is to ensure that knowledge management translates into tangible benefits for the company.
5. User-friendly technology
A lot of larger companies use learning management systems to manage the learning and development process. In start-ups, it may not be necessary to have these in-house. Instead, there are many cloud-based learning solutions which track learner progress, although such formal systems may not always be needed in a start-up. Perhaps what is more important in a start-up is a good document sharing system, like Dropbox, Box – where employees can store and backup their files. A process needs to be put in place, so that files are consistently stored in the right locations, and employees can easily find information they need without always having to ask someone for it.
6. Use “after-action reviews’’
After action reviews (AARs) are a simple process of allowing knowledge to be shared at work. These can be done in a team setting so everyone can benefit from the sharing. Knowledge sharing may involve audits or reviews of projects once they are completed, followed by sharing insights gained from the review. The team may reflect on 4 questions:
The reflection process is useful to draw out different perspectives on the work process and it could help to improve work performance in similar situations in the future.
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