When we talk about tribal knowledge, we focus a lot on the stuff your employees develop with experience: things like the ins and outs of ways in messaging, the best subject lines for cold emails, and which browser extensions are most helpful for prospecting.

But there’s a pool of knowledge on the other side of the table, too. Your executives are experts on your business, your strategy, your products, and more. They have vision across departments and have insight into organizational targets that the boots on the ground simply don’t see in their daily work. 

All of that together is valuable knowledge that can boost the development of your front-line team.

So what can executives do to further the cause?

 Step 1: Invest in the initiative 

Executive buy-in (or lack thereof) can make or break your knowledge sharing plans. Before anything else, you need your executive team to make an investment, both in time and money, to kick things off.

To get that executive buy-in:

  • Just as you’d do research ahead of reaching out to a prospect, you need to do research ahead of meeting with your executive team. Find out what their goals, wants, and needs are to tailor your pitch.
  • Align your success metrics with the executive goals of the company. Chances are, you’re aiming for the same thing anyway – saving money, boosting productivity, and earning revenue. You just need to frame it in their terms.
  • Have plans to make implementation easy so your executive team won’t have too much to do once they reach a decision. For example, outline which tools you’ll use and how you’ll roll them out.

Step 2: Spread the word

Even with the best systems and processes in place, you need strong believers at the top to make sharing a priority – and a reality – in your company culture. Executives are perfect for singing those praises and building credibility among the ranks

To build momentum, executives can:

  • Record short videos or write short content talking up knowledge sharing. Hit the key points about what it means for your employees and the company as a whole.
  • If possible, find an executive who’s willing to be the face of your initiative in your internal communications. By showing their personal commitment, they give your message a huge lift in impact.
  • Keep the messaging going beyond the initial launch. Employees need to know this is a sustained effort that’s embedded in the culture, not just work added on top of an already busy plate.

Step 3: Lead by example

Of course, employees look to their leaders for direction. If they see those leaders sharing knowledge, they’re more likely to follow suit and get involved, too.

  • Setting a regular cadence for executive sharing within your knowledge-sharing platform. Not only will your team benefit from those insights, but it sets a standard for incorporating sharing as a regular part of the job for all employees.
  • Asking top-down questions and sourcing bottom-up answers. Seeking input from the masses within your knowledge sharing ecosystem shows employees that support goes both ways.
  • Connecting microcontent between teams to help break down knowledge silos and create organization-wide alignment on goals, processes, and conversations that are already happening.

Step 4: Reward good sharing

As you roll out your knowledge sharing program, you’ll find some employees jump on board while others lag behind. A little recognition from the top can help those early adopters keep the momentum going and convince those who are unsure to join in.

Get the team motivated:

  • A little goes a long way. A thank-you can show appreciation without a lot of fuss – there are even Slack apps built for this purpose. And the fact that it’s coming from an executive-level means employees feel like they’re valued and being heard.
  • Set sharing goals – preferably team ones that require collaboration, not single-employee effort based on competition. Once you hit those goals, give winners a tangible reward, like a lunch out or a small token of appreciation.
  • Gamification can also boost the uptake of a knowledge-sharing initiative. It could be as simple as assigning points to specific behaviors and allowing employees to cash them in or tapping into the competition between teams for larger prizes.

Put employees front and center

As much as executive participation can help get the ball rolling, the more important point is to make sure you design your system for employees first. If it doesn’t solve a real pain or help them do their jobs, no amount of support from above will get things off the ground.

But hit that perfect mix of platform and participation, and you’ll have lightning in a bottle.

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