Knowledge Sharing for Sustaining a Competitive Advantage

Discover why your business is making a big mistake if it’s not taking knowledge sharing seriously.

July 17, 2023
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“Knowledge sharing” and “competitive advantage” don’t often share the same sentence.

But countless studies have shown that an up-to-date company intranet can improve an organization in all the key metrics, from productivity to staff turnover all the way through to boosting its bottom line.

Read on for the keys to knowledge sharing success for sustaining organizational competitive advantage in your industry.

How can sharing knowledge contribute to business success?

Wondering how much difference an internal wiki is going to make to your business? 

You might be surprised by what studies have shown…

Boost productivity…

Improve knowledge sharing across your business and you could be amazed by how much untapped productivity you unlock.

In fact, the average employee spends an incredible 20% of their working week searching for the information they need to complete their daily tasks. That’s an entire working day every week spent trying to find information that would be just a few clicks of their mouse away if you set up a simple knowledge base.

… and the bottom line

It will come as no surprise that all that lost productivity makes a big dent in your bottom line. 

It’s even estimated that inefficient knowledge sharing costs organizations with 1,000 employees a massive $2.7 million every year (rising to a whopping $13M for businesses with 5,000 employees).

The bigger your company, the bigger the impact idea management tools will have, with Fortune 500 companies losing at least $31.5 billion a year by failing to share knowledge.

Decrease staff turnover

No matter which way you cut it, a high staff turnover is bad for business. And leveraging knowledge sharing tools can increase employee retention, with 94% of workers saying they’ll stay at a company longer if there is a learning opportunity.

Knowledge sharing activities don’t just benefit your business – they also open up opportunities for your employees to learn more about how your organization works and helps ensure their role grows alongside their professional aspirations.

Foster collaboration

36% of employees find it hard to exchange information across different teams, causing silos. 

And since 86% of workers say a lack of effective collaboration and communication is the main cause of workplace failures, it’s not hard to imagine the impact knowledge sharing for employees can have on your business.

How to encourage knowledge sharing across your organization 

Now you understand the benefits knowledge sharing can bring to your business, let’s look at how to implement it across your organization.

Stick to these knowledge sharing best practices to make sure your employees regularly add, amend, and access insights in your knowledge sharing platform.

Bake it into your company culture

Studies have shown you need to instill a culture of knowledge sharing across your company if you're going to have any luck implementing a successful knowledge sharing strategy.

And that all starts with your leaders. If they’re generous with their knowledge, your employees are likely to follow suit. If they’re guarded with the details of the company’s strategy and direction, on the other hand, then you can’t expect your people to open up about their insider knowledge.

Beyond that, if your people think your company’s directors are leading them over the edge of a cliff, they don’t have much incentive to try and get there faster by sharing knowledge with others. And since only 22% of people strongly agree with the statement “I trust the leadership of this organization”, chances are that could prove to be a huge barrier to knowledge sharing in the workplace in your business.

To see if this could be a barrier to knowledge sharing in your business, be sure to run an anonymous staff survey asking people to rate how much faith they have in their leaders. Acting on the feedback you get from that is one of the most effective ways out there of fostering a culture of knowledge sharing out there.

Arm your people with the right tools

Your employees aren’t going to use a knowledge sharing platform that’s difficult to access, clumsy to navigate, and impossible to search. Which means the knowledge sharing tool you choose needs to be easy to use – and integrate seamlessly with the software your team is already using.

So, be sure to think carefully about what the right knowledge sharing tools and techniques are for your workplace to help ensure your team engage with them.

Don’t set strict rules

While it’s important to keep your knowledge sharing platform organized, it’s also important to remember that people don’t like to be told what to do. In fact, a massive 60% of people say micromanagement is a demotivating factor at work.

Which is why it’s no surprise that studies have found that “transfer of knowledge is hindered by excessive formalization”. 

Set rigid rules for how your people need to use your knowledge sharing tools and it’s not likely to get much uptake. Instead, focus on setting a positive example with your leaders and fostering a company culture that encourages collaboration so your people are motivated by the carrot and not the stick.

Reward employees for sharing their knowledge

So, if enforcing strict rules for how your employees should use your knowledge sharing software is off the table, how can you make sure they’re updating it regularly and keeping it organized?

By recognizing them for their efforts.

Sounds too simple, right? Well, did you know 40% of American workers say they'd put more effort in at work if they were recognized more often? And 70% of people say motivation and morale would improve “massively” in their workplace if managers simply said “thank you” more often?

So, be sure to reward teammates for adding their knowledge to your company knowledge base. This doesn;t have to mean rolling out the red carpet for an award ceremony every five minutes – a simple, thoughtful, and imaginative reward can go a long way with your employees.

Go beyond the company wiki

Last but not least, be sure not to fall into the trap of thinking that a knowledge base is a replacement for proper employee training.

For example, studies have shown teams learn a new process faster if someone already familiar with it walks them through it in-person rather than just documenting their knowledge and sharing that with them.

And one study discovered that “sharing codified knowledge in the form of electronic documents saved time during the task, but did not improve work quality or signal competence to clients. In contrast, sharing personal advice improved work quality and signaled competence, but did not save time.”

So, be sure to combine your company wiki with knowledge sharing sessions where experienced employees share their personal insights into a process with their colleagues to get the best of both worlds when it comes to knowledge sharing.

The final word

Ask most leaders what the biggest untapped competitive advantage at their fingertips is and not many will say “knowledge sharing”.

But a well-executing knowledge sharing strategy can boost productivity, collaboration, retention across your business – not to mention the bottom line.

Stick to the simple tips we’ve outlined here to unlock your knowledge sharing competitive advantage.

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