Overcoming the top 5 barriers to knowledge sharing

Knowledge sharing is a crucial factor today for maintaining a skilled, well-trained workforce. It’s no wonder some of the world’s leading companies have embraced knowledge sharing in recent years.

By Kasper Spiro on Aug 15th

Barriers to knowledge sharing

The benefits speak for themselves: providing a knowledge management framework in which experienced employees are encouraged to share their knowledge with others leads to better learning outcomes with a far lower investment of resources, compared with conventional training methods.

One form of knowledge sharing, known as Employee-generated Learning (EGL), is particularly beneficial. Under an EGL knowledge management strategy, employees use easy content authoring tools to create and share their own educational content. 

The result is that newer employees have access to highly effective, relevant training materials that are based on the real-life business experience of their more senior colleagues. These experienced colleagues are also more engaged in their work because EGL gives them the recognition and clout they deserve within the organization. And best of all, EGL is a much cheaper method than conventional classroom training and is also much easier to maintain and scale-up.

When putting EGL or a similar knowledge management framework into place, companies can run into one or more of the five hurdles discussed in this article. The good news is that knowledge sharing itself has the power to overcome these obstacles. With a little guidance and some smart decision-making, you can establish an effective knowledge sharing strategy at your organization. Read on to learn about the top five obstacles you may encounter, and how you can overcome them.

Barrier #1: Lack of time

With the fast pace of day-to-day business, it can be difficult to implement any kind of change within an organization. Knowledge sharing is no exception. Many L&D managers soon discover that employees are reluctant to devote precious time to sharing knowledge. However, it is important for L&D to make a strong business case to their company leadership, emphasizing the powerful benefits of a knowledge sharing strategy: cost-effectiveness, quick scalability, and stronger employee relations.

Use these factors to get full buy-in from your company’s leadership. Then, knowledge sharing can organically become part of your company’s culture. It can become a regular component of managers’ and employees’ job descriptions and routine tasks. 

For example, try scheduling a regular weekly time for employees and/or managers to meet for a knowledge sharing session, or to allow experienced employees time to create and share learning content as part of an EGL strategy. Turning knowledge sharing into an integral aspect of your company’s goals enables employees to prioritize it and make time for it.

Barrier #2: Resistance to change

Besides time constraints, you are likely to discover that some, maybe even most, employees are reluctant to embrace change. We all cling to our daily routines, so being asked to do things differently can seem like a nuisance or even a threat.

Once again, the key is to clearly emphasize the benefits of knowledge sharing. One way to do this is to pick knowledge sharing targets very selectively, especially in the beginning. Look for areas in which employees would benefit most from sharing knowledge with each other. Perhaps it is a technical topic or a compliance-related issue. Identify the leading experts within your organization and help them to share their knowledge by authoring an online course, for example. By picking topics wisely in the beginning, you will enjoy early successes that convince your employees to embrace knowledge sharing.

Barrier #3: Lack of participation

It is often the case that your company’s experienced employees (“subject matter experts” or SMEs) will be reluctant to share their knowledge voluntarily. They may not fully understand how knowledgeable they actually are, so they may not see themselves as “experts” in their fields. In some cases, they may feel like they are too busy to take time away from their day-to-day work to contribute to a shared pool of knowledge.

A great way to boost participation is to use internal communications to spotlight SMEs whenever they do contribute to the shared knowledge base. Incentivize knowledge sharing by giving SMEs the recognition they deserve. Make sure they are credited clearly (with their names showing as the authors) for any information they contribute. This will give them the clout they desire and motivate them to contribute again in the future. 

Barrier #4: Unnecessarily complicated tools

In the past, knowledge sharing was also a pain because it involved working with complex e-learning authoring tools. Clunky, expensive technologies also deterred management from embracing a knowledge sharing strategy.

Fortunately, those days are over. Simple, zero-learning-curve authoring tools like Easygenerator have made knowledge sharing easier and more accessible than ever, also in terms of price. Be sure to select a very easy-to-learn authoring tool to make the content authoring process as smooth and stress-free as possible for your SMEs.

Barrier #5: Anxieties about job security

Finally, some employees may be concerned that sharing their knowledge may have a negative impact on their career or job security. They may want to “horde” their knowledge so that they can outperform their less knowledgeable colleagues. This is a natural response in today’s highly competitive working environment.

To overcome this competitiveness and encourage sharing, give employees the full credit they deserve for contributing their knowledge. What really motivates them is recognition for doing a good job, so make a big deal out of them. Include their names and even faces in internal communications and really hype up the good job they’re doing to make them feel valued and appreciated.

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About the author

Kasper Spiro is the CEO of Easygenerator and a recognized thought leader in the world of e-learning. With over 30 years of experience, he is a frequently asked keynote speaker and well-renowned blogger within the e-learning community.

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