In most organizations, knowledge moves in two ways.
There are the important messages flowing down from the top – things like corporate strategy, culture and business objectives that keep employees across the organization on track, moving in the same direction.
Then there’s the information that employees share with each other or with their managers, sourced from the crowd and tapping into the know-how and experience that only those on-the-ground would know.
And where are managers? Well, they’re stuck in the middle. They’re largely responsible for facilitating (or at least encouraging) all the sharing that goes on above and below. Plus, they’ve got great nuggets of knowledge to share, too!
So how can managers influence knowledge sharing for the better?
Your reps shouldn’t share because they have to – they should share because they want to. Sure, you can force adoption on your reps, but it’s much better if you give them good reason to do so and help connect that sharing to better individual outcomes.
To get your reps pumped about sharing:
- Focus on the “why” rather than the “what”. Purpose and meaning are powerful motivators, so showing reps how their actions directly impact your organization and the clients you serve will help get them on board – and feel good about it.
- Set goals for your team, as a team. When employees have input on the outcome, they feel more ownership over their work. And doing it as a group creates bonds that stick everyone together.
- Intrinsic motivation is nice, but sometimes a little extrinsic boost helps, too. A simple shout-out on Slack for valuable tidbits is low-stakes but high-reward. Company swag makes great gifts for your top sharers. Things like that.
Create opportunities to share
Reps are busy, so asking them to carve out even more time on top of a back-to-back schedule will feel like you’re piling on more work. Here’s the good news: sharing doesn’t need to feel like work.
Help your team form healthy sharing habits:
- Make it “just another part of the day.” That means sharing becomes a built-in part of your process, with time set aside to get there, rather than an additional process added on top.
- Not everyone feels comfortable sharing in group meetings, or face-to-face with a manager. Give your reps multiple platforms to share their knowledge (ideally with strong integration so you can catch everything) so no one feels unheard.
- Make it easy to share by using technology to your advantage. Not only should knowledge be easily searchable and findable, but it should be available anytime, anywhere your reps need it.
Show them how it’s done
You play a huge role in setting the culture for your team. So when you start sharing knowledge through your channels, you set an example that others on your team can follow.
Show your team what it means to share:
- Pick your own brain for knowledge left unshared. You have an untapped wealth of knowledge floating around in your head, just as your reps do. And your insights add an important perspective to what’s swapped between reps.
- Amplify the knowledge of others. If someone tells you a great tip face-to-face, encourage them to share with the rest of the team. Be on the lookout for great ideas in your knowledge sharing platform, too, and share them further.
- Look for gaps – and address them. If the same question pops up every couple of weeks, for example, now’s your chance to capture the answer and put it front-and-centre.
Make trust the most important thing
Without trust, there is no knowledge sharing. If your knowledge strategy is going to work, you need open and honest communication on all levels. That starts with you and the way your team collaborates and communicates.
Build trust by:
- Ask for feedback, and really listen to it. When you take action on another’s opinion, advice or expertise, you show their contributions matter. Even if it’s not the right idea or the right time, at the very least, you’re being transparent about the way you make decisions.
- Your reps will be the heaviest users of your knowledge sharing platform, so it makes sense to loop them in and solicit their opinions and experiences as you develop and roll out the strategy. They’ll be much happier to use it knowing they helped build it, too.
- Use knowledge sharing as an opportunity to further develop your reps in their careers, not just complete a task. Show you’re invested in helping them grow by providing resources that’ll help them gain new skills or hone ones they already have.
It comes down to culture
Really, all of these points feed into Managers creating a culture of knowledge sharing. Easier said than done, we know, but embedding sharing into other parts of the day – your meetings, your processes, your decision-making processes, and your playbook – will help you boost team adoption, share knowledge from the top, and manage everything in between.