16 August 2016

Empowering teams for successful knowledge sharing

At the start of the 21st century, Fortune 500 companies were losing at least $31.5 billion dollars a year by failing to share knowledge across their business.

While we now have numerous learning strategies for improving knowledge sharing, and while an encouraging 91% of Learning and Development leaders back learning technology as the means to improve responsiveness to changes in the marketplace, only two out of five companies report that they have the skills to make it happen.

What could managers do to help their teams gain the skills to thrive in an ever-changing business environment?

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The answer may lie in doing less for your people, and letting your people do more—through empowerment. I would like to share my insights from having started and grown companies where this was a key pillar of our success.

Why empower teams

A new organisational model comprising of empowered teams is on the rise. The essence of empowering teams lies in inspiring and mentoring employees to increase their sense of belonging and motivation to do their utmost best. Belonging starts with a note of trust from leaders to their brand ambassadors, aka employees. So, it is good to pay attention to the learning and development of your people.

First, let your team take ownership of the ‘hows’ of carrying out your ‘what’ directives promotes a culture of trust and respect that influence employee satisfaction and retention.

Second, empowerment opens up the possibilities for each individual to go beyond just doing what they are told, to contribute to creative problem solving and innovation, and enrich your organisation’s knowledge library.

Third, regard knowledge sharing as a two-way information highway, not just a narrow one-way street of work-specific top-down information. Embrace diversity and be open to the richness of multicultural knowledge. Valuing each individual’s input acknowledges them as a self-determining whole person, not just a cog paid to complete work tasks. People who feel valued are likely to provide more value. 

With these ‘whys’ in mind, how do you empower your team?

How to empower

I have found the following helpful in building empowered teams.

#1 Walk your talk. Share knowledge by example and mentoring, provide the resources to do so, encourage and welcome your team members to interact through formal and informal means, and build rapport with each other along the way.

#2 Always a time to shine. Provide the time, space and resources for your team members to share knowledge regularly, and you will find that useful information is less likely to be siloed, problem solving and decision making will improve, support becomes more responsive, projects progress more efficiently, goals are met more effectively, and people feel more valued and enjoy their work more.

#3 Little actions, big results. Don’t underestimate how the little things you and your team say and do could build your corporate culture. Let each move reflect your core values aligning heart and mind with profits and purpose, and soon sharing knowledge doesn't feel like a chore, but becomes a natural part of your work day.

In conclusion, taking care of your team communicates that you like and appreciate them, and encourages them to not just work together because they have to, but because they like to. Giving your people regular opportunities to build social ties in relaxed and fun ways could make a huge difference in how well and pleasantly work gets done, especially in a fast-paced work environment where everyone is under time pressure to deliver.

‘Looking forward to going to work’ may seem like a frivolous KPI but it truly can serve as a powerful business driver. How would you empower your workforce to work hard and play hard, and enjoy the fruits of both equally well?  

P