In a previous post, we discussed how monetary and non-monetary awards could facilitate knowledge sharing in employees. Organizations can offer these incentives to encourage employees to engage in knowledge sharing, especially those employees who are hesitant to share their knowledge when they view this knowledge value as a personal gain within the organization. These incentives are not always the best approach or applicable for all environments. Another strategy that organizations can implement is in the form of formal and informal interactions or described herein as simply interactions. Interactions can include weekly or monthly team meetings, meeting outside of work, having lunch together, “water-cooler talk” or just casual work-related conversations in the hallway. Not only have studies shown that people work better in teams but the lack of these interactions has shown to serve as a barrier for employees from engaging in knowledge sharing. The lack of these activities is a prominent reason why employees are not facilitating knowledge transfer.
ENCOURAGING EMPLOYEE INTERACTIONS
As employees interact with each other, these interactions lead to an exchange of thoughts and opinions, not only enriching the employees’ professional position in the organization but also leads to greater creativity on how to address organizational problems. Additionally, during these interactions (e.g., team meetings), the company values, organizational culture, vision, and strategy should be discussed or highlighted, which encourages employees to engage in knowledge sharing for the betterment of the organization. Here are some other suggestions for encouraging employee interactions:
- Organized scheduled meetings: Weekly or monthly scheduled meetings is a great way to bring all employees together to discuss organizational problems and to brainstorm. By having regularly scheduled meeting, employees will come prepared with their creative ideas. As a result, during these meetings, employees will learn the “tricks of the trade” from their co-workers, allowing them to apply the new knowledge and then share their findings in future team interactions.
- Open door policy: Although more and more organizations are moving towards an “open layout” environment, many organizations still have private offices for their employees. As a result, employees often sit in their offices, with the door closed, isolated from the rest of the team. Organizations should encourage employees to maintain an open-door policy to break down the barriers of employee seclusion, encourage discussion, and develop an environment of openness and transparency. Organizations should consider developing a standard schedule when all office doors should be left open. For example, the schedule could be that all doors must be open between 10AM – 11 AM and then 3 PM – 4 PM. Managers should always have an open-door policy; they never know when one of their employees has a great idea to share but are discouraged to share because the door is closed.
- Office kitchen: Most organizations offer a kitchen area for employees to store and heat their food. Consider adding chairs and tables to give employees a place to eat during lunch. Not only can having an office kitchen boost employee productivity, but it is a great place for employees to exchange ideas and information in a casual, relaxed environment.
- Encourage and promote breaks: Encourage employees to take a break from their work and walk around the office and interact with other employees. According to one study, research suggests that during an eight-hour day, the average worker is only productive for two hours and 35 minutes. Therefore, having them get up and interact with other employees is a more productive way than having them sit at their desk and excessively check social media, texting with friends, or simply browsing the Internet. Not to mention that breaks help with their physical and emotional health, reduces decision fatigue, and increases productivity and creativity!
- Communication: Great organizations have great employees. These employees are loyal to the organization and want to see it succeed. However, they can only help if they know there is a problem. Management must communicate openly with employees on organizational challenges. This will encourage employees to come forward (perhaps during team meetings) with ideas and information on how to solve organizational problems and improve the competitive advantage.
“Research indicates that workers have three prime needs: Interesting work, recognition for doing a good job, and being let in on things that are going on in the company.” – Zig Ziglar
Not only will these strategies help employees engage in knowledge sharing, but helps employees interact with each other to help build trust and support, which can lead increasing engagement. Thus, encouraging employees to come together provides a significant opportunity for them to exchange knowledge, exchange ideas, improve creativity and the advancement of the organization, resulting a higher competitive advantage.