When Good Workers Hoard Knowledge

Steps you can take to foster a culture of knowledge sharing.

Successful companies encourage employees to openly share their expertise, learn from one another, and work together to achieve their goals. Even in the best of times, there may be the problem of knowledge hoarding. What can you do to foster a culture of knowledge sharing?

Great employees hoard information for several reasons. Some acquire “deep smarts” after years of developing a niche. They become territorial and lack the willingness to share their hard-earned skills and experience. Others feed off of superiority – they enjoy feeling needed and would rather coworkers depend on them for information. Some employees hoard knowledge for selfish reasons; they hope their expertise will result in a pay increase or job security. Lastly, some employees fail to share knowledge simply because they are not encouraged to do so.

No matter the reason, when employees hoard knowledge and know-how, they put the organization at risk. Productivity plummets, employee satisfaction decreases, and the potential for knowledge loss increases. To avoid this problem, companies must encourage employees to share tacit knowledge openly and willingly.

Shared knowledge not only boosts productivity, but also increases efficiency, improves employee performance, creates relationships, and fosters innovation. Here are three ways companies can avoid the consequences of knowledge hoarding:

Acknowledge Employee Experts

Knowledge hoarding is a barrier to productivity. To overcome this obstacle, managers should begin with employee recognition. It is important to acknowledge a team member’s expertise, but also clearly communicate the expectations for them to share their skills and know-how. Explain that their expertise will provide more value to the organization if they share their knowledge and educate their colleagues.

If an expert still needs incentive, managers can demonstrate it is in the employee’s best interest to share knowledge. Dr. David Zweig, assistant professor of organizational behavior at the University of Toronto, suggests, “It could be a part of the performance appraisals. If employees know they will be rewarded for sharing their expertise, they will be more willing to do so.” Managers must reinforce a culture of knowledge sharing and expect experts to must lead by example and make the success of their team a top priority.

Encourage Team Collaboration

According to a study conducted by the Future Foundation on behalf of Google, there is an 81% positive correlation between collaboration and innovation. Therefore, companies should make knowledge transfer an interactive experience. Schedule a workshop where experts can share their knowledge, educate their peers, and collaborate. During the workshops, managers should encourage employees to ask questions and discuss different scenarios where the expert’s knowledge or experience would be beneficial.

These team-building exercises not only ensure information is shared, but they also provide an opportunity for innovation. Through collaboration, employees benefit from knowledge exposure, experts feel important and valued, and team discussions can result in the next great idea.

Implement Knowledge Management Software

For some experts, it is extremely draining to be asked the same question time and again, especially if they are the only ones with certain know-how. It is equally frustrating for employees to seek out the information they need. According to McKinsey & Company, the average worker spends nearly 20% of the workweek looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks. Knowledge management solutions, like AnswerHub, allow Information to be recorded and shared in documents or videos that anyone in the company can access. A searchable record of knowledge can reduce the time employees spend searching for information by as much as 35%.

Once implemented, knowledge management solutions also prevent any individual from having a monopoly on certain know-how. Instead of hoarding information, knowledge sharing becomes a part of the company culture. Employees are encouraged and expected to transfer expertise to other team members, learn from one another, and collaborate to achieve goals.

Knowledge sharing enables organizations to increase efficiency, improve productivity, and foster team collaboration. However, to reap these benefits, companies must encourage employees to educate their colleagues. By acknowledging experts, creating interactive learning opportunities, and implementing the tools necessary for knowledge sharing and documentation, companies can effectively end knowledge hoarding and create a culture of learning and collaboration.