What effect do technological development, the desire for lower costs but higher productivity, and people’s demand for flexible schedule in the workplace, have in common? All of them are factors that call for remote work. And apparently this call is becoming louder and louder.
The findings of a PGI Global Telework survey, “Trends around the World Shaping the Future of Work”, showed that almost 80% of knowledge workers were already working remotely in 2015. With an eye into the future, a third of companies expect that more than half of their employees, knowledge workers or not, will be working remotely by 2020. Since we live and work in a time when knowledge is a crucial organisational resource, findings like these justify why companies should be concerned about optimal ways to share knowledge across distributed teams.
What justifies the strengthening of the remote working trend? The plethora of benefits it brings about, of course! We have in mind benefits both for the companies (e.g., higher efficiency and productivity, decreased turnover rate, more stable workforce), and for the employees too (e.g., increased job satisfaction, individual performance). Remote work seems to be a win – win situation at the individual and business level.
Knowledge sharing is vital in distributed teams whose members work remotely, because sharing is what helps to spread expertise and thus support learning even at a distance. Here are some recommendation for maximally effective sharing.
5 best practices to share knowledge across your distributed team
1. Be consistent, keep sharing!
Only by sharing knowledge can you actually substantiate the notion of ‘collective intelligence’ and use it as a descriptive feature of your distributed team. Sharing is what allows companies to make best use of existing knowledge resources. This might sound intuitive to you because of your own experience, but empirical research also backs the claim.
Significant reductions of production costs, faster finalization of projects, improved team performance, improved firm innovation capabilities, increased sales and higher revenue from new products and services – these are just some of the benefits of knowledge sharing, according to a human resource management study. Therefore knowledge sharing itself is rightly labeled a ‘best practice’ in the organisational culture of the 21st century, and should be implemented accordingly.
2. Focus on relevant information for sharing
The first step to this end is to find out what it important for each and every team member. One way to do this is asking team members to fill in opinion polls. Polls also have psychological benefits. When people are asked about their opinion, their self-esteem is enhanced because they are made to feel valuable, to feel that their needs are important for the group as a whole.
Since research shows that employees’ high self-esteem has positive effects (e.g., higher motivation, commitment, and performance) in an organisational and work context, even the journey towards relevant information for sharing can be intrinsically beneficial.
3. Keep up with latest updates on whatever it is that matters for the team
‘Relevance-spotting’ as suggested in (2) will automatically make you aware of what it is that actually matters. We live in a fast forward era, when information changes rapidly. So unless you keep your eyes wide open to novelty, it’s not unlikely that you start to grow dinosaur scales.
You could avoid this by being flexible and searching for the most recent information. Using a knowledge sharing platform, you can search for keywords that help to filter out older pieces of information. These are some of the small things that will be of great help to share knowledge across distributed teams.
4. Keep the information flow transparent and easily accessible for all
This makes sharing a fact, and not a theoretical mirage that merely sounds good. Only by so doing can you actually harvest the benefits of sharing. Some concrete things that are worth doing to this end are:
- the use of standardized tags (to allow quick detection of precisely what people are looking for)
- the ability to leave comments (to contribute ideas and give feedback)
- reports and analytics (to identify knowledge gaps and stay on top of company knowledge management)
5. Leverage technological development
Try to stay updated with the dynamic world of knowledge sharing platforms, protocols and apps. Put together something like the team’s ‘toolbox’ for knowledge sharing. It might include services like Skype, Slack, Trello, Google Docs, etc.
The same human resource management study we mentioned above, emphasized the need to get input from your employees in order to make sure that the knowledge sharing tools you decide to use match their own work style and work habits. (This piece of advice aligns well with (2) above, by showing another benefit of asking people about what they find valuable.)
Knowledge sharing offers benefits to all companies, and especially to those with distributed teams. As you can see, this is not hard to do because it seems to call solely for the exercise of people’s innate capacities. The rest comes from technological development.
Chat rooms, discussion forums, webinars, screen sharing, electronic boards, and more are here to help you overcome communication barriers such as e.g., time zone differences. These tools provide opportunities for public expression of opinions and arguments, in other words – knowledge sharing platforms. This way, the effects of information shortages are minimized, while the benefits of “evrika, now I know!” are generalized. Sounds like a good deal, doesn’t it?