There are numerous internal and external factors that can influence how well things work in a company. One of the most important ones – which unfortunately, is often disregarded – is not sharing knowledge. The importance of these overlooked factors translates into a lot of lost money.
Let’s get specific: Forbes conducted a study back in 2004, revealing that “Fortune 500 companies lose roughly $31.5 billion a year by failing to share knowledge”. I have your attention now, right?
Dorothy Leonard, Professor of Business Administration Emerita at Harvard Business School, conducted a survey as part of her research for her book “Critical Knowledge Transfer: Tools for Managing Your company’s Deep Smarts”, and published part of the results in an article about preventing experts from hoarding deep knowledge in the Harvard Business Review. And guess what?
“Many companies hire retirees back to do the same jobs they have always done but with double pay: consulting income tacked on to their pension. 42% of respondents reported that kind of revolving door was a typical way of retaining knowledge.”
The time to change old habits that are not constructive for your company is now. So what can you do about this?
Before tackling the subject more in-depth, let’s take a look at a quick estimation made by AWH, an information technology and services company. In a company with 100 employees, with average salaries of $60,000 annually, each of them wastes at least 5 minutes per day looking for answers to common questions. How much money does the company waste because of this?
Surprising, isn’t it? Let’s take a look at a list of 10 ways not sharing knowledge affects your work, your team and ultimately, your company.
1.Failing to identify subject matter experts
In each company, there are specific people who hold what is referred to as “deep smarts” when it comes to a particular topic. Not sharing knowledge automatically means that you will fail to identify these valuable team members.
In this case, sharing knowledge can also help employees create stronger bonds, while solving problems in a quick and effective manner.
2. Not making learning a routine
In this case, routine has its advantages. It can help people make room for fresh knowledge in their busy schedule, because both business and technical teams work in a fast-paced environment. A platform where they can share problems and solutions offers them the incentive to make learning a routine.
When this happens within a company, everyone will continuously seek ways to perform better and improve.
3. Lacking innovation
It’s a no-brainer that sharing knowledge results in giving more power to diverse opinions and ideas. It encourages the members of your team to embrace thinking outside the box, to be more open-minded and to take calculated risks.
This is the foundation for fostering innovation, which is universally difficult to achieve in large enterprises. Don’t miss the opportunity to create an advantage that can set you apart from your competition.
4. Decisions will be taken slower
When people share their knowledge and previous experience, they can empower a better and faster decision making process on different levels in the company. On the other hand, not providing them with relevant information, this process becomes a lot slower.
Set the pace for fast decision making by making it part of the company culture, to avoid delays and encourage everyone to shoulder the responsibility.
5. Not being able to access information in context
According to IDC, cited by Brainspace, 16% of a knowledge worker’s time is spent searching for the information they need. Moreover, half of the time they don’t even find what they are looking for. As we’ve seen in the estimation above, this can become costly for a company.
Avoiding this situation can be done by connecting information to individuals predictively and in context, as the right query and up-to-date taxonomies. Not to mention that it helps with training new hires, whether they’re an in-house or remote team member.
6. Making the same efforts over and over again
It’s a fact that nobody likes spending time doing repetitive tasks, but this actually happens a lot of reasons.
By sharing knowledge, employees can avoid duplication of effort, which keeps their morale up and streamlines workflow. And, most importantly, it saves time that can be allocated to other tasks and increases productivity.
7. The same mistake can be made twice
Knowledge management also offers people the chance to share the lessons they have learned. And here, we’re talking about failures as well, not just successes. Sharing your experience with your coworker not only makes you a valuable member of the team, but it also helps the team grow exponentially instead of linearly.
Whether you’re part of a technical or business team, creating an open community and discussion forums is an easy way to encourage learning from other people’s mistakes.
8. The quality of the work won’t be improved
There are a lot of tools, templates and techniques that can make your work easier and help streamline efficiency. Management teams develop “best practices”, which consist of processes and standards, with the sole purpose of helping employees with their daily tasks.
However, when basic or deep knowledge isn’t shared, it triggers a lack of consistency in how decisions are made, how problems are handled, and in large enterprises, even how employees are managed. And consistency is the key for both discipline and success.
9. Ignoring the company’s best problem-solving experiences
Speaking about best practices, we’ve already agreed with the fact that they can significantly improve the results of any company. Just imagine a quite common situation: multiple headquarters, dealing with the same problem at different points in time without being aware of it. When one of them manages to find a solution, not sharing the acquired knowledge means that others don’t benefit from their experience.
By establishing a process for defining, communicating and eventually replicating proven solutions, large companies can include this in their employee training system.
10. Delivery to customers will be slower
Finally and most importantly, not sharing knowledge within your company can affect customers as well. The products or services you offer are deeply impacted by the level of expertise of the entire team. Being able to quickly identify similar use cases from other clients helps your team deliver better solutions. And makes your company an inspired decision for the happy customer.
Failure to share knowledge leaves a company vulnerable to competitors, especially if they demonstrate better management capabilities.
In conclusion, not sharing knowledge is a real issue in large companies nowadays. But luckily there are tools that empower them to foster continuous learning and employee engagement.