What’s the best way to find the answer to urgent business questions at work?
We received a broad mix of responses when we asked 1,000 office workers in the United States, Germany and Switzerland what they would do as part of our Productivity Drain Research Report 2021. Send an email? Search a shared drive? Ask your manager? All of these strategies were favored to varying degrees. However, none of them are entirely satisfactory.
In fact, our research revealed a catalog of issues surrounding the search for information — and together, they are having a significant impact on productivity, collaboration and wellbeing in organizations today. Here are the four most common issues involving questions at work.
- Not knowing who to ask
- Questions come with too many barriers
- Technology can make finding answers more difficult
- Organizations lack the ability to help
1. Not knowing who to ask
When facing an urgent business question, the most common action people take is to reach out to a colleague through a collaboration tool or email. It was an option selected by 55% of our respondents overall. Interestingly, the method was even more popular in larger companies (60% of respondents in organizations with 5,001+ employees) than in smaller companies (42% in organizations with 2001-3000 employees).
Reaching out by email may seem quick, easy and obvious, but it is not without problems. For example, what happens when you have a question but do not know who to ask? Almost half (48%) of the people we spoke to face this dilemma at least once a day (with the figure rising as high as 59% in Switzerland). Another critical issue is that approaching colleagues by email is not quite as straightforward as it sounds.
2. Questions come with too many barriers
While email and other collaboration platforms have revolutionized how we do business, they are not always the ideal medium for business interactions, especially not when it comes to finding answers to questions at work.
A significant proportion of the knowledge workers we surveyed told us they had avoided reaching out to colleagues for several reasons:
- They didn’t want to disturb them (24%).
- They were worried about how their question would be perceived (16%).
- They did not want to be judged for not knowing the answer (14%).
These are all unavoidable issues when you use email. The only way around them is to use an alternative platform where people can post questions and search for answers anonymously. By adopting such a platform, you can remove many barriers preventing employees from reaching out for help.
3. Technology can make finding answers more difficult
Organizations are not oblivious to the problems around searching for information. Many, if not all, have already implemented knowledge management and collaboration platforms to make it easier for employees to find the answers they need. Unfortunately, however, as our research frequently highlighted, these traditional platforms are not fit for purpose:
- Almost one-third (30%) of the surveyed workers said it takes them too long to go through documents and presentations stored in knowledge management systems.
- One-quarter (25%) said that when they do find information, it is often outdated or unreliable.
Similarly, collaboration platforms — the solutions usually implemented to help people share information — unfortunately appear to be creating as much work for people as they are saving. More than half of respondents (51%) told us they feel overwhelmed and distracted by the volume of notifications they receive through collaboration channels every day.
4. Organizations lack the ability to help
Perhaps the most worrying of all our research findings was that 24% of respondents said that, when faced with an urgent business question, they would not even try to find an answer within the organization, but would instead just go on the most likely hypothesis. In other words, they would take a guess. This cannot be a healthy situation, either for businesses or for employees. Something must be done.
Companies that implement a knowledge collaboration platform like Starmind can make it much easier for employees to find the information they need by reaching out quickly and efficiently to colleagues with answers.
The advantage a platform like this has over standard collaboration channels is that it connects you to the right people even if you do not know who they are, including colleagues in different teams, departments and markets. It also allows you to pose questions at work anonymously if you prefer, so nobody has to worry about how their inquiry will be perceived.
Could such a platform help revolutionize how work gets done in your organization? The knowledge workers we spoke to certainly think so. A massive 81% agreed that a centralized platform providing real-time access to knowledge would significantly improve productivity.
Download our full Productivity Drain Research Report 2021 to learn more about how a human-centric AI-powered knowledge collaboration platform can help you reduce time spent searching for information and make your business more productive.