Written by: Lorrie Coffey, Horizon Point Consulting
“Knowledge is power. Knowledge shared is power multiplied.” – Robert Boyce
Organizations contain a wealth of knowledge. Some organizations spread that wealth, and some hoard it. Those that share the wealth of knowledge maximize their potential success.
I’m currently reading The Starbucks Experience by Joseph Michelli and even though my brother and sister-in-law are both former partners (that’s what Starbucks calls their employees), I had no idea just how strong of an emphasis Starbucks places on knowledge at all levels of the organization. From formal training and incentives for completion, requiring partners to sample all core products twice per year, providing every partner with one bag of coffee each week so that they stay familiar with products, and encouraging partners to share their knowledge with customers to help educate them on products, Starbucks understands the value knowledge adds to their business, the partner experience, and the customer experience.
Starbucks has over 11,000 locations worldwide, and a level of financial resources for training that most organizations don’t have. So how can smaller organizations help employees share the wealth of knowledge?
- Encourage a learning and teaching environment. Studies show that up to 90% of what we learn is through informal training. But most organizations focus their attention on formal training such as classes or certifications, with limited funds to support these efforts. When I chose a career in HR I knew very little about it. I was fortunate to work for a company that encouraged a learning and teaching environment. While I was encouraged to get certified, most of what I learned about HR I learned through those that I worked with. When client issues arose that I didn’t know how to handle, I was encouraged to seek the help of senior team members. As I advanced in the organization, I became that senior team member that others sought out for help. Ask yourself “what is one thing I taught someone this week?” and “what is one thing I learned from someone this week?”
- Cross-train and up-train staff. Giving employees insight into other areas of the business has many benefits. One way to do this is through cross-training, giving employees the opportunity to walk in other’s shoes so to speak. It helps create an understanding of the various departments and positions within the organization, encourages communication and collaboration, and increases employee engagement. In addition to cross-training, organizations need to plan for their future and up-training is a great way to prepare employees for advancement. As the saying goes, a leader’s job is to help develop their staff to one day take their place. Too often organizations create a succession plan but fail to prepare employees for advancement.
- Utilize internal resources. Training doesn’t have to be costly. A great way to reduce training costs is to use the resources you have within your organization. By providing internal training, an organization ensures that the training is relevant to the organization’s business and employees are better able to relate to the training. A great way to provide internal training is to have employees lead lunch and learn sessions. Employees are given the opportunity to share a glimpse of what they really do and share their expertise with their peers. It’s also a great way to help employees understand how the work of an individual or a department contributes to the overall goals of the organization.
While the return on investment may not be measurable using metrics, the sharing of knowledge has many benefits for employees, organizations, and their customers. The sharing of knowledge creates a culture of collaboration, improves employee morale, increases productivity, and contributes to organizational growth. Organizations see an improvement in problem-solving, decision-making abilities, customer delivery, and reduction in the loss of know-how due to turnover.
Does your organization share its wealth of knowledge or hoard it?