In the modern business world, an organization’s biggest asset is the experience and expertise of its people. Employees use each other’s knowledge to solve problems, make key business decisions and meet customer needs. The free flow of ideas sparks innovation. Shared learnings and insights give companies their competitive edge.
But are organizations making the most of this precious resource?
Not according to a recent commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Starmind. Based on a survey of knowledge workers in the US, Switzerland, Germany, and Austria, the study finds that current knowledge sharing practices barely scrape the surface. With approaches that are both too narrow and too rigid, organizations are failing to get anywhere near the full value out of all the experience and expertise they contain.
Information is scattered
One of the biggest knowledge sharing problems organizations have right now is that employee knowledge is scattered across too many tools and sources. If someone gets stuck at work, the information they need to resolve the issue may be stored in a team database. Or listed somewhere on an intranet subpage. Or buried away on p37 of a PDF. There is no single, go-to resource for people with work-related questions. Instead, documented answers accumulate in random corners of the digital environment – assuming they are ever documented at all.
Too many tools
To be clear: the problem is not that organizations lack knowledge repositiories. If anything, they have too many. Employees are storing and sharing information on assorted tech tools of their own choosing. These may well vary between teams, business areas and locations. Result: knowledge gets siloed. That’s fine for those lucky few who are already in the know. But for everyone else, it means getting locked out of the information loop with no way of accessing the knowledge they need to make critical business decisions. More than a third of the people surveyed for the commissioned study agreed that one of the challenges they faced in getting answers to their questions was that different teams used different platforms and tools, making it hard to exchange information across the organization.
Information is outdated
Even when employees can locate the documents they are looking for, they may still not be able to find the right answers. More than a quarter of survey respondents (26%) said that the information they manage to access at work is often outdated or redundant.
Three problems arise when old knowledge proliferates in organizations. First, knowledge searches are slowed down even further because employees are forced to sift through a sea of obsolete material. Then there’s all the time people will waste tracking down knowledge holders to ask them for more up-to-date information. Last but not least, employees are likely to lose faith in the knowledge sharing system altogether if the answers it throws up are consistently irrelevant or out of date.
Update knowledge sharing for the modern business world
The workplace of today looks very different from that of ten, five or even two years ago. Until recently, organizations regularly brought workers across the globe together to share ideas, exchange information and collaborate. But the shift to hybrid working means that many employees now work in isolation from their colleagues. Knowledge sharing practices need to catch up.
Employees everywhere recognize the need for an updated approach. A majority of survey respondents said they would benefit from a knowledge platform that enabled them to reach out to experts for help. Most said they would like to be able to ask questions anonymously without fear of being seen as incompetent. There was also a large majority who thought it would be valuable if they could contribute their own knowledge, allowing colleagues across the organization to harness their experience and expertise.
Modern knowledge management platforms such as Starmind enable just this kind of inter-employee interaction, putting human knowledge at the core of productivity and innovation. They break down barriers to collaboration and allow knowledge to be shared across different teams, different levels of the organization and different parts of the world.
Download the full study, The Modern Workplace Demands A New Approach To Knowledge Management (March 2022), to learn more about the knowledge sharing problems modern businesses are facing and discover what your organization can do to update its approach.