As your company grows and information needs to be shared across a team instead of staying in one person’s head (or a few people’s heads), it’s important to be intentional about sharing team knowledge.
According to Clear Company, 97% of employees and executives believe that a lack of alignment within a team impacts the outcome of a task or project. Basically, as much as you might want to assume that everyone thinks like you or that your team can read your mind, they can’t.
Understanding and effectively using team knowledge gets everyone working together, educates everyone on your team with minimal handholding, and allows them to move forward efficiently on the projects that matter.
Plus, remote work has grown by 44% in the last 5 years. When you factor in remote employees and primarily digital communications, it becomes especially important to document shared knowledge.
In this post, we’ll look at:
- What “team knowledge” means
- Why it’s important to share knowledge
- 4 simple steps to share team knowledge
What does “team knowledge” mean?
Most of us already have a sort of vague understanding of what team knowledge might be, but it’s best to start on the same page.
For our purposes, team knowledge refers to the collected knowledge among a group of employees, and their common understanding of situations and ideal solutions.
Let’s break that down. For example, let’s begin by thinking of one group—it could be the collaborative leadership team, the marketing team, or the whole company. Then, consider that group’s collective knowledge. What information do they share and what knowledge may currently be siloed or isolated to one person within that group?
Next, consider how that group collectively considers certain situations and solutions to problems. Does everyone in that group know how to deal with common problems? Is there a shared knowledge of processes?
TL; DR: Team knowledge is the information that’s shared between a group of colleagues.
Why is it important to share knowledge with colleagues?
You might be thinking that it isn’t such a big deal if your teams have slightly different processes or understandings of a given situation. You might even think that too much shared knowledge leads to groupthink and a mentality of “the way it’s always been done” that inhibits growth and innovation.
Of course, teams are great precisely because everyone has different strengths and knowledge areas. But if you’re not creating opportunities for shared knowledge, you could be missing out on the kind of effective collaboration that leads to creative ideas, and newer and better ways of doing things.
Plus, it’s important to ask yourself: if one team member leaves the company for another position, would their colleagues be scrambling to fill in the knowledge gaps left behind?
When you prioritize team knowledge, you’re not only educating everyone on your team, but also empowering them to take ownership of their projects and future-proofing your team against any unexpected events like people quitting or losing your data because you got hacked.
How can you share knowledge in a team?
Sure, promoting and documenting team knowledge is important, but let’s get to the practical stuff: how can you actually share knowledge in a team?
Whether you’re concentrating on knowledge sharing within a certain team or across your organization, the foundation is going to be the same: communication. By fostering a collaborative culture—and using the right communication tools—you’ll make space for knowledge sharing.
Next, effective documentation is crucial for knowledge sharing across time and space. To ensure that your library of team knowledge is consistent for remote employees and despite employee turnover over time, create consistent training and a functional knowledge base for your team.
Let’s look at 4 steps to building that team knowledge culture.
Step 1. Create a culture of communication
The foundation of team knowledge sharing is right in the name: sharing. If you don’t have the kind of company culture that encourages communication or a good collaboration hub, you’re going to struggle with this.
So, to create a company culture that encourages knowledge sharing, start with communication.
To build communication into your company culture, you have to open up knowledge sharing and make sure cross-functional collaboration spans different roles and teams at the company. Especially as your company grows, it’s crucial to keep the lines of communication open so different teams can share critical information.
For example, customer service teamwork shouldn’t just be the job of managers or department heads. Encourage all staff to connect across departments by creating inter-departmental groups, encouraging employees to occasionally sit in on relevant meetings in other departments, or even having inter-departmental education.
For instance, you could schedule lunch and learns with Marketing and Sales so your marketing team can learn more about the sales process and be able to create content that supports it.
Or, create a meeting between your Customer Service team and developers to get feedback on the product roadmap and share what features your customers want the most.
If you start to make these connections intentionally, you’ll start to create spaces (whether digitally or in real life) for your team to increase informal communication with each other as well.
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Step 2: Invest in knowledge sharing tools
The most important knowledge sharing tool is your communication platform—especially when you work with a remote team. We all need email for professional communications, but sometimes, it’s better or faster to send a message or have a video meeting to keep everyone on your team connected.
One example is RingCentral, which not only is a remote working tool, but also lets you go from talking to truly sharing team knowledge.
The app lets you not only communicate via instant message and calls with your team, but also lets you share files, assign tasks, and keep a record of all that important information shared through messaging:
Once you’ve chosen a communication tool, integrate it with other apps you’re using like a CRM, email marketing templates, or project management tool. This way, data gets automatically synced between your tools so that you don’t have to keep copying and pasting information from one app to the other.
Plus, customer support specialists can even use RingCentral to field customer questions in the same app they’re using to message their colleagues—meaning it’s easy to loop in experts or ask a teammate a question.
Have an in-depth answer to a question? Hop into your video conferencing software and share your screen with a teammate or customer to help them overcome a pain point quickly.
By investing in the right tools to share team knowledge and encourage open communication, you can create a culture of knowledge sharing.
Step 3: Create consistent training
Team knowledge starts with a shared foundation where everyone is in sync, which means creating consistent training to get new, and potentially seasoned, employees up to speed with the rest of your team.
It takes a little planning, but you can create an onboarding process that encourages team knowledge sharing.
Think through the different tasks that you or your team take on, the foundational knowledge that would have helped you when you started, and the basics of how your product or service works.
The most important part? Once you’ve designed a solid training, deliver it consistently.
By starting everyone on the same page, you’ll eliminate some of the anxiety that new hires have when they don’t know enough about their roles or your business. Hey, we’ve all faced that familar fear of asking a dumb question or revealing that you don’t know something that you feel like you should.
Just imagine how powerful it would be to have a sales team that asked for clarification on how the product works, instead of trying to fake it until they make it.
It’s not just about eliminating ignorance, though—by starting with everyone on the same page, you’re also reducing assumptions.
Assumptions—like that someone must know how a given process works or that everyone has encountered the same problem—are a sneaky handicap that causes gaps in communication.
By training everyone the same way, you’ll help to cut back on these assumptions so that team members are more likely to share any issues they’re encountering—and the solutions they’re finding.
Step 4: Build a searchable knowledge base
And now that your team members are sharing the issues and workarounds they’re encountering, it’s the perfect time to assemble all of that team knowledge into a knowledge base.
A company knowledge base is frequently directed at support personnel. In other organizations it might be created, thrown on an intranet, and forgotten about forever.
It takes some intention, but building a great company knowledge base and making it easy to use is a great way to share team knowledge and get questions answered quickly.
Plus, your knowledge base can appeal to employees that are more independent, don’t work the same hours as the rest of the team, or just prefer to learn by reading.
The key to success for your knowledge base is making it easy to navigate. If it takes more than a simple search to find the answer, assume your team isn’t going to find it.
You could even create different sections or entirely different knowledge bases for teams, like:
- A marketing guide that walks through the process and common questions associated with your search engine optimization (SEO) practices, design guidelines, and email newsletter
- A customer service knowledge base with all of your most common questions from customers
- A sales document library that addresses the most common sales questions and objections and contains a list of case studies and other resources for customers
All of this team knowledge will only expand as you hire more and more team members, so keep updating the knowledge base over time. You can encourage submissions or just ask your managers to keep an eye on their team messaging chats to watch out for clever solutions or recurring questions.
Finally, ingrain your knowledge base in your business operations by making it easy to find, make sure that new employees are trained on where it is and how to use it, and let the team know when it’s updated.
Encouraging and documenting team knowledge
One of the most difficult transitions as a business grows is the necessity of sharing knowledge across multiple team members. Every person on your team had different knowledge areas—that’s what makes teams great—but it’s also a call to share that knowledge as a team.
By fostering a culture of communication, investing in the right tools, training employees consistently, and documenting team knowledge, you can ensure that everyone on the team has the knowledge they need to succeed.
Originally published Mar 01, 2020, updated Aug 13, 2020