How to improve knowledge sharing among teams

Written by 
David Young
August 1, 2023
An illustration of a knowledge sharing mural
How to improve knowledge sharing among teams
Written by 
David Young
August 1, 2023

A true marker of successful teamwork is how fluidly your team shares knowledge with one another. Unfortunately, this isn’t something you can simply hire for — it’s part of the culture of teamwork you have to create and cultivate on your own. 

In the age of hybrid and remote work, sharing knowledge is more important than ever. When teams are distributed, team leaders need to take extra care to make sure valuable knowledge gets recorded and shared openly.

So let’s take a closer look at why, exactly, knowledge sharing is so beneficial, and how you can make it an indelible part of your team.

What is knowledge sharing?

At its most basic level, knowledge sharing is when people, teams, or organizations exchange‌ information with each other. This can take many forms. It can be as formal as a company Wiki, mentoring program, or a presentation — or as informal as a conversation or email. It may even be knowledge shared through more abstract or diffuse methods, such as via direct experience or interactions with social networks.

Effective and fluid knowledge sharing is typically a sign of a healthy and high-functioning team. It not only increases expertise across an organization, but also helps create trust, leads to more creative solutions, and empowers employees to do their jobs.

What types of knowledge should be shared?

Depending on how it's shared and the form it takes, knowledge sharing in an organization can come in several different types. The following two are the most common:

  • Explicit knowledge: Any information that can be easily articulated through simple instruction, documents, or other types of procedures. This might include company strategy, processes, workflows, or statistics.
  • Tacit knowledge: Any information that must be learned through experience or inference because it can't be easily written down or communicated. This might include historical context, company culture, or learned skills.

Why is knowledge sharing in the workplace important?

Any company with a robust culture of knowledge sharing is set up for successful teamwork over the long-term. Here are a few reasons why.

Preserve important information

An organization can lose vital knowledge in many ways. A team may disband, leaving useful workflows behind. Or, even worse, an individual employee may retire or depart the company, taking years of invaluable knowledge and experience with them. 

But when knowledge sharing is firmly embedded within the organization, this same knowledge can be transferred to other teams and new employees, providing that essential policies, skills, and other information live on.

Break down silos

Silos happen when teams or individuals are working in isolation from one another. Whether because the structure of their organization makes sharing information difficult, or there's a lack of trust for some reason, this means employees may be missing out on valuable insights and expertise from other areas of the company. 

But by promoting and supporting knowledge sharing, companies can break down these silos, start building a culture of cooperation, and build collective knowledge among their teams.

Foster a culture of collaboration

Creating a collaborative culture — one in which individuals and teams regularly come together to solve problems, share ideas, and work toward common goals — first requires a few key ingredients. For instance, employees must be comfortable communicating with each other. 

They should also have a healthy amount of trust and respect for one another, as well as a simple willingness to work together. Fortunately, when knowledge sharing is a regular part of the culture, all of this should already be firmly in place.

Improve organizational alignment

Organizational alignment is when everyone understands your company’s mission and is working together to achieve its goals. This kind of cohesion is essential to success, yet it can be difficult to achieve. 

Different teams may have competing priorities; individuals may be unwilling to share certain information with others; or there may be geographic or technical barriers that make it challenging to align. 

However, when teams and employees are used to sharing knowledge with each other, these issues tend to resolve themselves. Everyone has the same information, which makes it much easier for them to stay on the same page.

Increase productivity and efficiency

No one likes roadblocks. But when employees have to spend their time searching around for information or waiting for the few internal SMEs who can help, they’re unavoidable. And that eats into their productivity. 

When knowledge is more widely available and accessible, though, the chances of this happening become much smaller. Employees can find information whenever they need it, as well as share the responsibility for common tasks, such as employee onboarding — helping raise efficiency and productivity across the board.

How to create a culture of knowledge sharing among teams

The benefits of knowledge sharing are clear, yet many organizations still struggle to make it a regular part of their culture. This is typically because they’re approaching it as if it’s another skill to learn. Instead, it’s better to think of knowledge sharing as a habit that builds with consistent practice. And as with any habit, it’s all about creating an environment that will set you up for success. 

Here are some tips for doing just that.

1. Set an example for your team

If you want to change how something's done in your organization, why not start by taking the lead yourself? This strategy can be especially effective if the current culture is skeptical about making knowledge sharing more pervasive. 

You can begin by regularly sharing status updates, company news, and other helpful information. Encourage other team members to send their own updates for you to disseminate, helping establish a rhythm of knowledge sharing. You could even schedule a weekly meeting dedicated to sharing updates and communicating core pieces of knowledge for everyone’s benefit. 

By making it a normal event, you can demystify knowledge sharing and start establishing it within your culture.

2. Make knowledge sharing a team or organization value

Along with demonstrating knowledge sharing itself, you can help further lend it legitimacy by cementing it as part of the organization itself. In other words, make it clear that this isn’t simply a best practice or ideal, but an essential quality you expect from all your employees.

One effective way to do this is by incorporating knowledge sharing into your team charter. While the exact way you’ll want to do this will depend on your organization’s particular needs, try to make it clear what you expect from both teams and individuals when it comes to sharing and communicating information. 

Pro-tip: Team charters can also help new hires understand team norms to make the knowledge transfer easier. Get started with the team charter template from Mural.

Even better, solicit input from your own employees on how they’d like to share and receive knowledge from each other. This will help increase accountability. By defining and codifying knowledge sharing, you’ll help clarify and legitimize it across your organization.

3. Create rituals and opportunities that encourage knowledge sharing

Sometimes, your team may be willing or even enthusiastic about sharing knowledge with each other, but they just don’t know where to start. After all, old habits can be hard to break. If this is the case, then you can ease this shift by actively creating opportunities and rituals for sharing knowledge and information with each other. 

There are many ways of doing this. For instance, you could require team members to take part in retrospectives after each project is complete, or even on a weekly recurring basis. 

You could also set up a Slack channel where employees could share useful insights or answer questions other employees post. 

Or, to use a more visual approach, you could use the What’s on Your Radar template asynchronously or in team meetings to share, plot, and prioritize regular updates with each other.

You can even try simple exercises or introduce habits to foster team building, which helps teams feel more comfortable and open with each other.

Regardless of your approach, your goal should be to make the shift to knowledge sharing as easy and seamless as possible. Your team should know where and how to access information easily.

4. Create a knowledge sharing system for your teams

If your organization is large or your company’s knowledge base is complex, sharing information may sound great in theory, but in practice, it‌ can turn out to be chaotic. 

Employees may not know where to go to find the information they need or to document their own learnings. Instead, they need a centralized system in place that helps organize and streamline the flow of knowledge for everyone.

The first step should be to agree on a platform where employees will share issues, information, and documentation. The best tools will integrate into your existing workflows and provide your employees with an intuitive interface. You should also try to document and formalize any processes for sharing knowledge, whenever possible, hard coding and automating them to further streamline workflows. This way, sharing and receiving knowledge will be as effortless as possible.

The end goal here should be to have a system of knowledge management in place that makes sure every person and team across your organization (even remote teams) has access to the knowledge they need to do their job successfully.

5. Incentivize and reward individuals and teams that share knowledge

If you’ve set an example, created numerous opportunities for effective knowledge sharing, and even gone ahead and systemized the knowledge management process, but still aren’t seeing results, then it may be time to consider incentives. Knowledge hoarding can sometimes be a hard habit to break, so don’t be afraid to reward employees who make the effort.

Start by simply encouraging individuals and teams who are doing a good job of sharing information with each other. Single them out at meetings and call out how their efforts have helped. 

If this sort of soft motivation still isn’t leading to the transparency you want, try offering tangible rewards. These could be anything from a shout-out and extra time off, to full-fledged bonuses — just as long as they get the attention of everyone else and start turning knowledge sharing into a company-wide habit.

Improve knowledge sharing and break down silos with Mural

A culture of sharing know-how can effectively transform all your employees into experts, improving your team’s problem-solving and decision-making ability. Information will flow freely and everyone will have easy access to the answers they need. But implementing this culture may mean contending with numerous roadblocks that exist in the status quo, such as information silos, embedded competition, and a lack of trust. 

Fortunately, there’s no reason you have to overcome this all on your own. Mural can help make information sharing easier by giving you the knowledge-sharing tools and templates you need for better real-time and asynchronous collaboration. Whether you need to hold a quick brainstorming session or want to build a long-term system for exploring problems and exchanging information, we have something for you and your teams.

Get started with the free, forever plan with Mural to create a workspace and start collaborating with your team.

About the authors

About the authors

David Young

David Young

Contributing Writer
David is a contributing writer at Mural, focused on covering collaboration, meetings, and teamwork. He's been working in the hybrid tech space for over 10 years and has been writing about it nearly as long. When he's not doing that, he's probably cooking up a meal.