29 December 2016

The business benefits of increasing lateral knowledge sharing

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When it comes to your learning management system, most of us think that lessons only come from one direction, and that’s from the top down. But why should that be the case?

Shouldn’t we always be learning and doing, regardless of our position or seniority? And shouldn’t we also be learning from our peers rather than just taking orders from the guys on top?

The short answer is yes, which is why many companies today have restructured the way they work to cater to the idea that learning should also be done horizontally across the same level of seniority, and even diagonally, not just vertically from the top down.

Horizontal, or lateral, communication is used among people of a similar position, rank or status, and even between people of different departments. The main purpose is to coordinate activities or tasks, so is often considered informal, collaborative and hands-on learning.

Vertical, or top-down, communication on the other hand, is typically used to provide orders, feedback or suggestions from superiors to subordinates. 

In truth, in today’s business environment, traditional hierarchy that favours vertical communication is quickly becoming outdated.

  • In many companies, we no longer have the great divide between 'thinkers' at the top and 'doers' at the bottom—Forbes suggests that anyone can be both a 'thinker' and a 'doer'.
  • Teams pool together their wealth of relevant experiences and skill sets, and they divide and conquer with the aim of a common goal.
  • Rather than separating work into rigid functional silos that don’t communicate with each other until the very end (if at all), today’s teams often work across departments and seniority levels. 

There are huge benefits to this kind of cross-pollination and lateral knowledge sharing.

  • When everyone’s knowledge is valued, there is lower employee turnover and stronger organisational culture.
  • Employees can feel more motivated when they realise they are part of a whole and they understand how their work all ties together.
  • Staff that is continuously learning and upskilling will become more valuable assets to their company because of their diversified skill set and ability to thrive in a team setting.
  • Perhaps the most compelling reason is that lateral knowledge sharing can make your company more profitable.
  • Knowledge sharing is critical for business continuity.

The more accurately and swiftly your company can make decisions, implement changes, and adapt to new circumstances, the better you can perform against your competitors who are playing catch up because they’re dragging their feet against the confines of long, outdated processes and red tape.

It’s no surprise that agile organisations will win out in the end.

So, if we’re already seeing collaborative horizontal restructuring in the workplace, why would it be any different when it comes to your workplace learning management system (LMS)? It’s not.

Your workplace LMS can and should be used to share knowledge horizontally and diagonally.

With easy-to-use tools like Velpic, anyone can create and share knowledge with their colleague, or even with their supervisor. Typically, lateral knowledge sharing is done orally, but putting that knowledge into a tangible and engaging lesson format like multimedia or video can bring many business benefits.

  • Reduce brain drain. When someone leaves an organisation for any reason, what they know typical disappears with them. Not if you capture and share it in a central repository of knowledge to build your organisation’s intellectual capital.
  • Improve learning. A tangible training asset allows for self-paced learning that is easy to access, and less likely to be forgotten or misinterpreted. The option to learn in bite-size chunks through a mobile platform reaps all the benefits of microlearning too.
  • Strengthen accountability. Training records including quiz and test scores demonstrates each individual’s skills matrix, and builds both the employer’s and employee’s accountability and skills for achieving business objectives.
  • Increase profitability. Businesses lose an extraordinary amount of money every year from failing to share knowledge that could drive innovation, reduce costs, increase productivity, enhance teamwork and influence other forms of business success.

Maybe people wouldn’t dread using the company’s LMS so much if they knew it wasn’t only to be used for ‘boring’ things like onboarding or compliance.

They might actually love logging onto the platform every day if they knew it also gave them the power to share what they know. After all, everyone has something of value to teach, and everyone benefits from learning.

Get a dynamic knowledge sharing tool like Velpic that enables you to do both. If you'd like to get instant access to watch our 30-minute recorded webinar on the importance of knowledge sharing, please click on the button below.

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