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Knowledge silos cost organizations time and resources

Employee experience and expertise should be an organization’s greatest asset. But all too often, the knowledge within organizations is locked away where only a fraction of employees can access it.

How does this happen? As your organization grows bigger, the knowledge within them gets more widely distributed. Employees can no longer simply call out questions across the office, as they might in a start-up. The person with the answers they’re looking for is most likely working at another site – possibly in another part of the world. Without an effective system for sharing information, the knowledge gets siloed, available only to those colleagues lucky enough to be working in the same team or location.

These knowledge silos are costly, 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 many employees struggle to access the information they need to do their jobs effectively. As a result, valuable time and resources are being wasted every day.

Too much time is wasted finding solutions

When your workers struggle to locate the information they need to do their jobs, productivity suffers. Every hour, minute and second it takes them to search for relevant answers is time they could be spending generating revenue, solving problems, building relationships with customers or growing the business.

How common is this productivity issue? A large majority of those (63%) surveyed for the Forrester study said that they spend too much time searching for the right people to help them. So few organizations are likely to be completely immune from the problem. For those with thousands of affected workers, the productivity losses could be worth millions of dollars a year.

Decisions are made based on assumptions

Reduced productivity is not the only disadvantage of silos. Decision-making is negatively impacted too. To make effective decisions, your workers need to be equipped with the most up-to-date information and expertise, wherever it exists in the organization. What happens when they struggle to find it? Short on time, and under pressure to keep pace in a rapidly changing business environment, many workers give up on informed decision-making altogether. With key information missing, they have to resort to making decisions based on guesswork and gut instinct instead. 

This creates yet another costly business problem. Your organization will need to spend additional time and resources sorting out the mess caused by poor decision-making, whether that means fixing issues with products or repairing customer relationships to get things back on track.

Employees become more siloed and disengaged

Knowledge silos aren’t just bad for business. They make life worse for your employees as well. Nobody likes to feel unproductive. When workers are losing hours a day to fruitless information searches, they become increasingly disengaged. The sense of frustration may even prompt good people to leave.

We also know that employees enjoy having the opportunity to share knowledge with colleagues and give others the benefit of their expertise. Knowledge silos make this more difficult. More than a third of the people surveyed (38%) felt that collaboration challenges they see in their organizations are leading to the underutilization of employee skills and expertise.

How organizations can break down silos for good

If you’re serious about breaking down silos, you and your organization need to find a new, more effective way of sharing employee knowledge. Modern knowledge management platforms like Starmind instantly connect your employees with questions to colleagues with answers, even if those colleagues are working in a different department, at another level or on the other side of the world. In this way, they break down barriers to collaboration while also boosting productivity, innovation and employee engagement.

Workers are certainly ready to embrace such a system. Of those surveyed for the Forrester study, more than two-thirds said that being able to connect and engage with colleagues no matter their job role or location would be valuable. A large large majority also thought it would be valuable if they could contribute their own knowledge, allowing colleagues across the organization to harness their experience and expertise. 

Download the full study, The Modern Workplace Demands A New Approach To Knowledge Management (March 2022), to learn more about the problem of knowledge silos and what you can do to unleash the full potential of your employees’ experience and expertise.

Download study