ID-10088727 - business guy with thumbs up.jpgSocial tools allow a company to create a corporate memory of institutional knowledge from the day to day work of their employees.  By posting conversations, notes, ideas, and work products, it is available to be leveraged by current and future employees.

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For the company, this is an incredible asset that helps breaks down silos as knowledge and best practices seamlessly flow from one division to the next.   It also allows employees to discover expertise they were unaware of and make connections across the organization.  Despite the benefits, this can be a cultural challenge for many employees.

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For decades, more senior employees felt their value was sourced, in part, from the depth of their experience.  This intellectual property was closely guarded and shared only when absolutely necessary.   If they shared this knowledge openly, they felt they would be expendable to the company.  Additionally, departments often were pitted against one another and management encouraged this internal competition to drive groups to stretch themselves.  This creates an environment where collaboration is “helping the opponent” and is not encouraged.

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As mentioned above, there is incredible value to the company if employees do share information.  So what can a company’s management team do about this conundrum?

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  • First, recognize the strategic value of this legacy information and make sure that the management team for your sphere of influence (your company, division, group etc...) values it as well.
  • Next, you need to reward those that share and collaborate, and penalize (or at least discourage) those that do not.  In the past, a bright employee who delivered would be rewarded with additional responsibilities and promotions with little regard to their methods. Coach and counsel those individuals that the expectation is that they collaborate to help themselves and their peers.  Hold back the accolades and rewards until they do so.
  • Highlight those individuals and teams (e.g. via video or intranet news story) that do collaborate and share their knowledge to demonstrate the desired behavior.  This is much more powerful than any speech or communication indicating company values.
  • Make collaboration part of the promotion and financial reward criteria.
  • Create more formal opportunities such as mentoring (traditional and virtual) so that knowledge and wisdom can pass down to more junior team members.

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By implementing these steps, you will send strong signals to your workforce that the management team values collaboration and knowledge sharing.  Savvy employees will begin to make the transition.

Most people naturally want to help colleagues across their team, or company.  Many also enjoy talking about their expertise and knowledge.  Create the right culture to reward this and your corporate memory will be available to build upon in the future.

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Andrew Kratz

Social Edge Consulting, LLC

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image provided by FreeDigitalPhotos.net