Knowledge Sharing: Spread Knowledge to Reduce Risk

For most businesses the most important resource is their employees. Without the employees productions stops, things break and the company goes bust. This is where knowledge management becomes important.

Employee Of The Year

Employee Of The Year

Combine this with the all too common issue that certain key employees have unique knowledge, making them irreplaceable for the company. Ask yourself, does your company have an employee (maybe it is you?) who has mission critical knowledge that would severely harm the business if that employee would suddenly leave the organization.

“But Patrik, the employees at my company are loyal and would never leave” I hear you say. What happens if that key employee suddenly gets hit by a car and becomes hospitalized for a long period of time? Could your business survive such events without major repercussions for the bottom line?

Employee empowerment is, generally speaking, great for employee motivation and should therefore be cherished and encouraged but there has to be a plan in case the key employee suddenly leaves the company. This is one aspect of Knowledge Management.
There are significant organizational disadvantages when  specific employees has a monopoly on knowledge.  However, an employee may feel that they are losing their empowered status by sharing their knowledge.  This is an unfortunate attitude as an organization is little more than a collection of people and knowledge sharing is an important characteristic of an innovative company.

Knowledge is something that should be shared within an organization. Sharing knowledge increases innovation and can reduce costs. It increases innovation by increasing the knowledge of the employees, and thus enabling them to push the boundary of the combined knowledge.

Knowledge sharing also reduces costs by decreasing the time spent on implementing new solutions to problems already solved. If your organization has a good solution for a problem, then don’t bother reinventing the same solution. It is a wasted effort to have different employees spend time figuring out the same (or very similar) solutions to the same problem within different parts of an organization. Stroking the ego of an employee, while beneficial sometimes, is terribly inefficient use of time.

Knowledge sharing is hard, there is no question about it, especially in highly individualized companies. A focus on personal achievements, for example selling the most to get a bonus or a salary based entirely on sales, makes the employees reluctant to share knowledge. Of course the employees are reluctant to share their competitive advantage if they do not feel that they gain anything from the exchange, or even the opposite, they might lose out by sharing knowledge if their relative performance drops.

Reducing risk is an important concern for all businesses and employees leaving the organization is a fact of life.  If mission critical knowledge only kept within the head of one employee, then that is an organizational risk that should be mitigated. Knowledge sharing enables risk reduction for companies, especially those that depends heavily on knowledge workers.

Increasing knowledge sharing in organizations is a story for another time but a great place to start is to figure out if your company is at risk due to not sharing mission critical knowledge between employees.

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-P

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