• United States



by Erica Rugullies

Changing Culture is Key to Effective Knowledge Sharing

Apr 02, 20034 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

Some organizations find that their company culture is not particularly conducive to the sharing of knowledge. Changing this is a priority for them if they hope to retain the knowledge of their key employees; in fact, Giga finds that it is one of the foremost people-related hurdles to widespread adoption of team collaboration software.

Concerns about job security (knowledge of a domain, process or system gives a person a sense of job security), workload (contributing to team collaboration workspaces is viewed as an unnecessary time sink) or privacy (a person has the perception that Big Brother is watching) can cause people to resist participating in team discussions, posting documents in a repository or contributing to best practices databases. But when employees don’t contribute their knowledge to a repository, a number of things can go wrong. When they leave the company, their knowledge goes with them. Or people waste time as they try to track down the current version of a document or file or locate someone who might have specific knowledge. And people end up reinventing the wheel because they do not know that another person has already come up with an idea, solved a problem or created a document. To change this behavior, organizations need to cultivate an environment in which knowledge sharing is encouraged and rewarded, or even required.

Giga recommends the following best practices:

  • Work with people and groups one at a time. Give people the time and attention needed for them to make these changes. Giga has talked with companies that found it took a year to successfully change the culture to support knowledge sharing.
  • Demonstrate to users the value they personally gain from putting their knowledge into the new system (e.g., spending less time on annoying tasks like answering calls from others asking where a file is located, completing projects more quickly, obtaining recognition or rewards, demonstrating and potentially quantifying their value to the company by tying their contributions to new or increased business, cost savings or other benefits). People may have to take extra steps to post files in the repository or participate in discussion groups, but then they will be able to quickly find information related to team activity, easily search through documents, and reuse work that has already been done.
  • Treat knowledge as an asset that has not only current but also future value. Consider the potential for bundling corporate intellectual property into new products or services. Giga knows of one company that turned a product-related repository into a deliverable for a new level of premium support contract, which generated additional revenues.
  • Work with senior business leaders to change the culture to reward or require knowledge sharing. Urge human resources and senior management to modify training, recognition, incentive compensation programs to elicit desired behavior. Some companies have implemented policies stating that non-contributors will not be able to achieve their full raise the following year or that people who contribute maximum value via the team collaboration software will get an extra bonus.
  • Have the implementation team offer training sessions for business units at times that are convenient for the end users. Offer to bring in lunch. Get on the agenda at monthly partners meetings or quarterly sales rallies.
  • Sell to users the benefits of the system to the organization (e.g., improved customer service, increased revenues, reduced costs). Arm yourself with fresh success stories from other parts of the organization. Giga spoke with people at several global companies who went on world tours with the software, sharing success stories and training users.

These practices can help organizations overcome not only resistance to knowledge sharing but also other common hurdles to adoption of team collaboration software: users are comfortable with e-mail as their primary electronic collaboration tool and don’t want to give it up, people do not have incentive to change their behavior, teams that want to or are selected to use the software do not have strong team leaders, and senior management is not actively involved in or does not support the team collaboration initiative.