Knowledge-sharing in any new environment is challenging if you don’t understand the cogs behind the context.
In this article, we argue that knowledge-sharing best practices are based on two pillars:
- Interpersonal communication
- Office culture
You cannot have knowledge-sharing in the absence of communication, and that communication is nurtured by office culture.
Once you’ve honed your communication and adapted your workplace culture, you’ll find the best tools to improve knowledge-sharing in remote work.
That’s what we’ll discuss in the article below, with 23 knowledge-sharing best practices for 2023. There are also some predictions for the future of WFH environments, so keep reading below.
Interpersonal Communication Differences – Remote vs. Office
Communicating with a remote team has its advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, it’s more targeted, better timed, and efficient. On the other hand, some employees feel more estranged and tend to network less.
Let’s see the numbers:
- Remote work communication may be better targeted and more efficient. That would explain the increased productivity in remote work by up to 47%. These stats are post-pandemic, though, when many companies have been forced to implement WFH. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, WFH productivity was 70% lower than office work.
- More focus. It can be argued that workplace communication is effective only if it assists/facilitates productivity. And timing is as important as the message’s substance. From that perspective, people working from home may have the upper hand because they have fewer distractions – 78% of employees agree. Also, 64% of employees prefer hybrid meetings, possibly because these are more streamlined.
- Fewer social interactions between colleagues. Co-workers spend less time connecting around the water cooler mainly because there is no water cooler in remote work. And 70% of them believe these social relationships are as important as being productive. In fact, it could be argued that unhappy employees are not (as) productive.
- Fewer professional interactions between colleagues. 87% of employees agree that the office provides an effective environment for knowledge-sharing and collaboration.
- Fewer learning opportunities. Just 34% of less experienced employees prefer to work from home. The rest of the 66% believe they are missing out on many learning opportunities by doing so.
Explicit, Implicit, and Tacit Knowledge
Nerd alert: This part may sound too theoretical, but bear with us. Knowing the difference between these three types of knowledge is an essential part of knowledge sharing.
And we’ll be as brief as possible.
- Explicit knowledge defines things you know that you can easily express in words and share with others.
- Implicit knowledge defines the application of explicit knowledge, which is what you can express in words, such as applying the same skill in different fields.
New employees can learn this from their mentors in face-to-face interactions, spending time in the same office. It’s much more challenging to do that in a remote work environment.
Tacit knowledge is even tougher to transmit.
This type of knowledge is usually the result of personal experience. It’s what you would often attribute to your gut instinct.
People working from the same office can pick up on specific nonverbal cues and body language, thus instinctively tapping into the tacit knowledge their mentors are using.
Employees who are already articulate can also ask when they see their more experienced colleagues following their instincts.
But here’s the problem:
The screen hides the transfer of implicit and tacit knowledge.
This article, however, will include a few techniques to help your employees collaborate better from that perspective. So, keep reading below.
Ingredients that Create a Strong Remote Work Culture
As you can see from the statistics above, there are specific ingredients you’ll need to help your work culture thrive. If you do that, communication is enhanced, and knowledge-sharing takes place naturally, increasing employee engagement and productivity.
Here’s what to focus on:
- Relationships. Employees must have satisfying professional and personal relationships with their peers, mentors, and the company.
- Language. Any culture (work culture included) is based on a shared language and symbols. People also need to understand each other’s reasons and motivations behind any communication. Arguably, non-verbal feedback can facilitate communication, especially personal one.
- Schedule. Sharing a program and having all employees arrive at almost the same time in a standard work environment creates a feeling of unity and teamwork. Seemingly, everyone pulls together in the same direction. That’s why experts advise WFH employees to use their now free commute time to connect with their co-workers.
- Rewards. Rewards create a feeling of satisfaction, of a “job well done,” thus helping staff stay motivated. Knowledge-sharing isn’t just about sending business paperwork – it’s also about creating that recognition. So, it’s essential for employees to still get feedback from their superiors and colleagues, even in a WFH environment.
Remote Knowledge-Sharing Best Practices
Now that you’re here, you understand the cogs behind knowledge-sharing and the challenges behind knowledge-sharing in remote work.
This next section below will connect the challenges of remote work discussed so far with solutions.
Here’s what you can do:
Facilitate Personal Connections
Relationships between employees are no longer intimate in remote work. People can talk about their personal lives around the water cooler or during a short break more easily (e.g., their kids, spouses, or parents); it’s more difficult to do that through a computer screen.
But as we’ve seen before, employees need personal connections to thrive, and their happiness is the backbone of your company’s productivity.
Pro tip: Employees also need personal connection in the transfer of implicit and tacit knowledge. When you connect with someone at a personal level, you’re:
- more interested in what they have to say and their experience.
- following them more closely.
- more likely to pick up their non-verbal cues.
Those are all essential ingredients for implicit and tacit knowledge sharing.
The good news: You can build trust and relationships through other means (which are also in line with today’s media). For example, employees can:
- Engage with their coworkers on social media. Their personal achievements, milestones, family relationships, and political opinions are there for all to see. So, it’s arguable that social media streamlines personal knowledge-sharing.
- Connect through a shared sense of humour. For example, employees can send each other suggestive memes after a meeting. That’s how connected communities like Reddit have formed. And again, this type of communication may be more personal and effective than face-to-face one, enhancing employee engagement.
- Find common values that create bonds. Social media is an engine behind people uniting for various causes; your employees can also find common ground from that perspective. And the advantage compared to face-to-face communication in an office is that employees can get straight to the point on social media, eluding small talk. You win extra points if you can include your brand in their causes because that enhances loyalty and, as a result, productivity.
All these points above define a different kind of intimacy than talking about personal matters; however, it creates relationships that contribute to building that work culture.
Knowledge-sharing best practices to create personal connections include the following:
1. Don’t force endless Zoom meetings with tons of employees.
2. Facilitate one-on-one communication between people who work closely together.
3. Use a platform like Slack to allow employees to migrate together and congregate in specific groups. Of course, you would have to create and define those groups in the first place.
4. The manager should touch base with their employees regularly, personalising each interaction.
Timing is critical in ensuring that all team members have access to the information they need when they need it. For instance, important information could be missed if someone shares valuable insights with a specific team during their own time zone, but not with the rest of the global team. On the other hand, sharing at the wrong time can also disrupt productivity and workflow.
Here are the solutions:
- Use a planning or calendar tool to share the right messages at the right times.
- Do not interrupt your employee’s work time or free time. Even if their homes are their new offices, that doesn’t mean office hours are every time they’re home. So, strictly no business texts at 2am.
- Facilitate collaboration using the right software and tools depending on your company’s needs. For example, you can use an app like Asana to share tasks and monitor their progression. You can even use Google sheets so that employees can share specific files with each other and complete tasks faster.
Knowledge-sharing best practices to respect timing include the following:
5. Keep track of time zones for everyone.
6. If you need certain communication to occur at specific times for everyone, specify it in your contract.
7. Schedule specific times for knowledge-sharing and collaboration.
8. Ensure that everyone has equal access to crucial information.
9. Make sure your employees have all the right tools to finish their work and share it.
Opt for the Right Channels
To choose the right channels, consider the knowledge you are sharing. For example, a discussion about project updates might be best suited for a team meeting or Zoom chat, while a smaller update could be transmitted through instant messaging or email.
On the other hand, channeling all communication through one platform, like email, can lead to miscommunication and important information getting lost in a crowded inbox.
Pro tip: If you want to facilitate implicit and tacit knowledge sharing, use visual channels and face-to-face training rather than recorded webinars.
Here are some solutions:
- Consider the size and purpose of the information being shared to choose the most effective channel.
- Use the right software tools and platforms. Test different ones until you get the right fit for your team. You can even use multiple platforms for different purposes.
- Don’t let anything slip through the cracks. Come back with the right clarifications to avoid any misunderstandings.
- Also, remember that language is the cornerstone of your work culture, communication, and, implicitly, knowledge-sharing.
- To strengthen your remote work culture through knowledge-sharing, you need to focus on specific language particularities, such as, a) using common symbols and shared stories, and b) creating memorable jokes and legends to facilitate personal communication.
- Leverage this personal connection during the professional part of knowledge-sharing to:
- Create more goodwill. Remote work communication lacks the non-verbal cues of face-to-face communication. As such, a formal email may be misconstrued as too authoritative; an abrupt question on Slack can seem too forward, lacking the proper preamble. But if the employees have this trust built through shared stories, there are fewer chances of misinterpreting the shared professional knowledge.
- Increase focus. Some people tend to zone out or check their phones when attending Zoom meetings. But if you have built a personal relationship with them, they tend to focus more and contribute to that meeting. That’s how you can increase employee engagement and productivity.
Knowledge-sharing best practices for choosing the right channels include the following:
10. Actively encourage communication between team members rather than relying solely on emails or messaging platforms.
11. Consider setting up weekly meetings where team members can share updates and ask questions in a more personal, interactive way.
12. Establish ground rules for communication channels – for example, ensuring that urgent questions are directed to the right person on a specific platform rather than getting lost in a deluge of emails or chat messages.
13. Create an organised system of communication to improve efficiency and foster a sense of connection and collaboration among remote team members. For example, make sure that everyone in your marketing team has access to the same tools, like the CPA calculator.
14. Harness the power of face-to-face communication through video calls – they may seem less convenient at first, but they offer valuable opportunities for non-verbal interactions and relationship building. As we noticed above, video calls are especially important for the transmission of implicit and tacit knowledge.
Facilitate Professional Interactions
Professional interactions in remote work culture have several minuses. As you’ve seen from the statistics we quoted, new employees especially suffer from the lack of face-to-face work communication that would help them learn the ropes faster.
WFH also seems to impede collaboration, even from the point of view of more experienced employees.
Office work somehow allows employees and managers to migrate instinctively toward collaboration. It may seem easier to ask for someone’s help if you’re sharing a desk. It may also be easier to network with people you meet in the elevator or the lunch room.
Professional interactions in a face-to-face work environment also establish a clearer hierarchy, and facilitate implicit and tacit knowledge sharing.
But knowing that professional interactions need a nudge in the WFH environment is a good first step.
Here are some solutions:
- Clear communication is key. Make sure expectations and deadlines are clearly stated, and tasks are well-defined.
- Set aside dedicated times for virtual meetings or check-ins rather than expecting immediate responses at all hours of the day.
- Assign mentors. Make sure each new employee has a mentor within your firm who they can ask for advice. Recommend regular check-ins and virtual meetings between mentor and mentee.
- Allow mentees a few days when they can follow their mentors via video calls instead of simply relying on pre-recorded tutorials or conventional check-ins. This tactic should help the transfer of implicit and tacit knowledge sharing.
- Encourage people who collaborate on projects to use calls rather then prerecordings or texts, especially when they have to brainstorm or come up with a strategy. This step also encourages implicit and tacit knowledge sharing.
- Make the connections yourself. You know your company and your employees better than anyone, meaning you can facilitate networking between certain people who don’t yet know each other. The result is increased productivity and employee engagement.
- Consider offline workshops and training. You can arrange regular offline professional meetings even if your employees work from home. Organize seminars, conferences, and workshops to help people hone their skills, share knowledge, and interact with each other.
Knowledge-sharing best practices to facilitate professional interactions include the following:
15. Foster a culture of open communication and trust. This means creating an environment where individuals feel comfortable sharing their ideas, opinions, and expertise without fear of judgment or criticism.
16. Promote active listening.
17. Take active steps to facilitate networking and learning in your company.
18. Acknowledge people’s contributions and recognize their merits in specific meetings.
19. Conduct regular meetings and check-ins to keep everyone on the same page and ensure the information is properly disseminated throughout the organisation.
20. Make sure professional meetings are straight to the point and targeted to specific teams and employees.
Create Milestones in Your Schedule
Creating recurring milestones in your schedule is important because any culture (work culture included) needs specific moments that bring everyone together.
- Working from an office allows people to gather in the break room at lunchtime to celebrate Audrey from accounting’s birthday.
- It allows them to start work at 9 am daily, seeing each other get to work.
- Employees in the same team attend the same weekly planning & strategy meetings. If someone doesn’t understand something, they can raise their hands and ask.
- When a problem arises, employees can meet ad-hoc and brainstorm solutions.
All these things prove that recurring milestones in your schedule facilitate both personal and professional interactions:
- Personal relationships enable future professional communications and enhance employee happiness (which is essential for knowledge-sharing), and
- Professional interactions are centered around effective knowledge-sharing.
That’s why it’s important to have these milestones.
Here are some solutions to create them:
- Set specific times for personal celebrations. If it’s Rajesh’s from product development’s birthday, you don’t want to flood your Slack with bland “happy birthday!” messages. Imagine the slew of intrusive notifications your employees will get daily, especially if you’re running a larger enterprise. Instead, ask HR to organise a 15-minute meeting to celebrate Rajesh within his team. Or, send him a personalised gift instead.
- Use the right software. You need to keep track of these specific moments in your company culture and arrange meetings or discussions that would help mark them.
- Organise efficient meetings. You need people to stay on track with their to-do lists, but you also want to facilitate communication between them. Make sure these meets have Q&A sessions afterward.
- Give credit where it is due. Organise specific moments to reward valuable employees.
Knowledge-sharing best practices to mark important moments include the following:
21. Organise regular check-ins and team meetings where team members can discuss their progress and successes.
22. Encourage the use of shared documents and communication tools, such as Google Docs or Slack, where all team members can easily access information.
23. Don’t underestimate the power of face-to-face communication. Schedule virtual meetings or conference calls with individual team members to discuss important updates or brainstorm solutions.
The Future of remote Knowledge-Sharing
As remote work continues to become an increasingly popular option for companies, the way that information is shared and accessed will also need to evolve.
Traditional in-person meetings and presentations may give way to more virtual options through video conferences or digital slideshows.
This shift towards virtual communication may also lead to the increased use of artificial intelligence technology, such as virtual assistants and chatbots, to assist with sharing knowledge and disseminating information.
You will also notice a rise in specialist agencies that facilitate remote knowledge sharing. For example, executive resume-writing service agencies know how to write and organise the information in an online CV to support both employers and employees.
Virtual communication could streamline processes and improve efficiency, but it may also negatively impact interpersonal interactions and collaborative learning within teams.
It will be interesting to see how companies approach the balance between technological innovation and human interaction in the future of knowledge-sharing in this WFH culture.
In the meantime, you need to assess the challenges behind knowledge-sharing and transform them into opportunities. Following the best practices above is a good start, but appropriating the reasoning behind it (based on the principles of interpersonal communication and work culture), is even better.
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