In modern times, lifelong learning has become essential to both professional and personal development. As technology advances, we need to be adaptable and able to acquire new knowledge and skills quickly.
In this environment, engaging people in learning is crucial, but equally important is encouraging members of a community to share knowledge. In the workplace, knowledge sharing is essential for organizations to remain up-to-date and ready to tackle the challenges of the future.
While people are often inclined to collaborate and share expertise, organization leaders need to create an environment conducive to teams working together to promote the flow of knowledge.
Here, we look at how organizations can go about developing a workplace culture to facilitate collaboration and the benefits of doing so.
Why knowledge sharing is essential to learning culture
In a recent Go1 article, we reviewed research conducted by Towards Maturity, an organization assessing the effective implementation of learning innovation. They found that in an unparalleled era of change for organizations, there is an excellent opportunity for L&D to deliver strategic value.
Their “Transformation Curve” roadmap describes how organizations can develop their learning culture. As an organization develops an L&D strategy, it can expect to go through four stages: Optimizing Training, Taking Control, Letting Go, and Sharing Responsibility.
They also identify six dimensions that impact an organization’s capacity to transform, one of which is informal and social learning. Here, they explain why sharing knowledge is so fundamental to creating a positive learning culture:
“Informal and social learning [is] encouraging the interchange of ideas and mutual support to support personal and business goals, collaborative problem solving, and innovation.”
According to the 70:20:10 model, social and informal learning also accounts for 20 percent of knowledge acquisition.
While knowledge sharing is crucial to developing the learning culture in an organization, it is first essential to lay the foundations for this to happen.
The goal is for communication around learning to become an organic, everyday interaction between staff members. As the “Transformation Curve” sets out, to facilitate these interactions, certain elements need to be in place first.
Next, we’re going to look at these elements, and how organizations can create favorable circumstances for an organic interchange of ideas.
Encouraging your team to share knowledge
According to the “Transformation Curve”, organizations need to focus on developing their learning culture in two ways before knowledge sharing becomes the norm:
1. Governance and decision making: aligning of learning strategy to business goals and objectives, with the smart use of evidence to support decision making.
Creating an environment suitable for learning and collaboration begins with those in leadership. For knowledge sharing to become the norm, management teams are required to think strategically about professional development and give it a high priority.
Employees in leadership positions can also model positive learning behaviors, like showing their openness to learning new information and asking questions.
2. Formal learning: building an efficient, active portfolio of formal learning resources to address skills gaps and support learners’ career development.
When those at the top of the organization have firmly placed learning as a priority, the next step is to provide employees with a range of engaging learning content.
Whether learning takes place through access to online platforms, face-to-face classes, or in a blended environment, learners’ engagement should remain a focus.
It is also crucial that learners have access to content to address gaps in their collective knowledge. Where possible, activities should be personalized to their needs.
In the future, we will likely embed learning opportunities to flow seamlessly into the working day, and there are already examples of this happening.
After a focus on the two initial stages of learning and development strategy, organizations may find that knowledge sharing becomes an organic process. To be rigorous, those responsible for L&D can speak with employees and collect data to assess whether they are interacting with each other in this way.
Organizations can also generate discussion amongst staff members in several ways:
- Build time for learning-based discussion into formal meetings.
- Ask staff members to share anything interesting they have come across with others.
- Use Slack channels or other communication platforms for employees to share knowledge.
- Make the learning process explicit. Ask staff members to think of something new they have learned this week and to tell two other people who might be interested in what they found. Encourage them to speak with each other face-to-face.
- Encourage team members to ask questions of each other whenever the need arises. They shouldn’t be ashamed when they don’t understand how to do something or if they need clarification. To make employees more comfortable with this type of thinking, teams can support each other to develop a growth mindset.
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