Knowledge-sharing “should never be awkward”

One behaviour expert says HR should put systems in place to make passing on information as easy as possible.

Knowledge-sharing “should never be awkward”

Knowledge-sharing is an essential component in any successful organization yet some employees struggle to find a suitable opportunity – here, one expert says it doesn’t have to be that way.

“If we're talking about sharing knowledge, rather than sharing complaints, criticisms or gripes, then allowing employees to share their knowledge should never be awkward,” says leadership coach Mark McPherson.

According to McPherson, there are two types of knowledge that learners can share – simple, “straight down-the-line” information which can help colleagues or the organisation and that which will still help the organization but may not be received quite so well.

Regardless of the type, McPherson says HR must establish systems which encourage employees to share their knowledge as often as possible.

“Do it on a regular and ongoing basis. Don't wait until an employee is departing to give them an opportunity to share their knowledge,” he says. “Set up frameworks, processes and even what we might call rules for staff to share their knowledge.”

McPherson said this helps ensure employees can be as helpful and objective as possible, and that any comments and suggestions which could be seen as criticism are delivered in a way which is as supportive and polite as possible.

“If it's appropriate, and makes sense, have employees share their knowledge confidentially. This can be done by phone, e-mail, meetings, etc,” he said.

“But it can also be done in what we'll call here for convenience, a ‘suggestion box’ or ‘knowledge box’. It can be a physical place or a digital one - although with a digital one it's harder to ensure confidentiality.”

McPherson added that in any case, if employers decide to have a ‘suggestion box’, they need to:

  • Make sure the boundaries and parameters are very clear – employees deserve to know what is expected, what is allowed and what isn't acceptable.
  • Make sure staff are not wasting their time – shared information must be read, analysed and either acted on or responded to.
  • Let staff know that knowledge has been received and considered – explain what will happen next or why no action was taken.
  • If appropriate, let employees know what other knowledge has been shared and how it has been acted on.

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