In the current global economy, knowledge has become a company’s primary competitive advantage and its greatest tool for supreme organisational performance. Disruptions in the workplace in the past decades, especially in the last three years, have driven the demand for an organisational system to get the correct information to the right people at the exact time. There is a need for an approach that allows people to share information that can be acted on to improve overall efficiency.

Organisations that value and utilise knowledge as an important resource generate favourable productivity and lower operational cost. An integral part of knowledge management is knowledge sharing. Knowledge sharing allows knowledge to be accessible and usable within and across organisations. 

As knowledge is not something tangible, transferring it from a source to a receiver is not that easy. There is no simple template available to capture and share the different types of knowledge available. However, researchers have studied and indexed social, organisational, and technological factors that foster knowledge sharing. One study found that task characteristics, organisational culture, social relations, learning orientations and social networking tools played huge roles in promoting knowledge sharing in the workplace.

Free guide: Company-wide knowledge sharing

How to foster workplace knowledge sharing

In the context of an organisation and the workplace, knowledge resources are what enable employees to accomplish tasks and reach goals. An employee has to have specific knowledge to carry out a job according to an organisation’s specifications. For every employee needing to acquire distinct knowledge, there is one employee willing to impart what they know. Knowledge sharing is a complex phenomenon of knowledge seeking and knowledge sharing playing off each other. Understanding what and how to enable factors that set off knowledge-seeking and sharing is crucial in growing workplace knowledge sharing.

1. Develop a continuous learning habit

Foster learning orientation attitudes in the office. By doing so, you develop continuous learning habits and curiosity among employees. Remember, it’s the proactive learners who become highly motivated knowledge sharers in your organisation.

Learning orientation is a person’s potential geared towards acquiring new skills and knowledge so they may upgrade their competency. This ability to proactively learn drives competitive advantage for both the individual employee and the entire organisation. Each organisation acquires unique knowledge through experience over time. As employees perform organisation-specific tasks, the more they learn and acquire organisational knowledge. This knowledge resource is crucial for an organisation to achieve its objectives. 

A continuous learning habit feeds the loop of knowledge seeking and knowledge sharing, unveiling opportunities and innovations for more knowledge seeking and knowledge sharing.  

2. Make knowledge sharing casual and fun

How do you get your knowledge experts to share their most boring tacit knowledge while keeping your newest recruit curious and unintimidated? The answer is, you design the workplace to allow everyone to randomly mingle in common areas out of management’s earshot. 

Studies show that people share more and reciprocate better when they are relaxed and there’s a level of familiarity. Good knowledge sharing is determined by the quality of the relationship between knowledge seekers and knowledge owners. Employees will only share valuable knowledge to their colleagues when they are comfortable with them determined by a level of trust, reciprocity, openness and shared norms. Frequent interaction is the foundation of social relations and interpersonal trust. 

Design social-friendly spaces to encourage informal interactions and build trust among colleagues for enjoyable impromptu knowledge sharing, and to establish familiarity for more formal meetings:

  • Water cooler station: This one’s a classic—the well-known stop for gossip and catch-ups in the history of office work. It gave birth to the term ‘water cooler conversation’ and a phenomenon called ‘the water cooler effect’ that accounts for a 10-15% increase in productivity thanks to employees’ feelings of connectedness with each other. Make sure to place your water cooler in a strategic location to maximise accidental, happy interactions and possible collaborations.
  • Coffee and snack areas: Position multiple coffee stations around the office to further expand social space. Include healthy and interesting snacks for additional engagement. Not only does everyone love coffee but a cosy coffee area is great for casual encounters that encourage people to share knowledge and stories of work-related experiences, and talk about the problems they are handling.
  • Other liminal spaces: Researchers have studied and identified liminal spaces as providing a ‘transitory space for conversations without organisational conventions’. Take for example the term ‘corridor conversations’ in the healthcare sector. It’s in corridors or walkways that random colleagues find each other and end up discussing openly how they’re dealing with crises and complexity. Create more comfortable in-between spaces for your employees—turn your toilet, doorways, supply rooms, printing area, basement, parking lot, steps, stairs, fire exit, corners and other undefined spaces into ‘positive pockets’ and ‘spaces for inspiration’. The sense of informality and freedom in these spaces provide meaningful spatial resources for creative conversation and knowledge exchange. 
  • Virtual water cooler: Having informal digital chats among teams and projects is one way of incorporating casual conversations into everyday work life. These virtual water coolers are another avenue, especially for hybrid or remote work setups. 

You might also like: 4 practical steps to an effective knowledge transfer plan 

3. But also create structured knowledge-sharing spaces and protocols

In addition to the ‘positive pockets’ that in-between spaces provide, the ideal knowledge-sharing setting also provides ‘pockets of peace’:

  • Dedicated rooms for formal collaboration and private discussions: This includes different types of conference rooms, meeting rooms and brainstorming rooms to satisfy the following knowledge-sharing activities.
    • Structured company-wide or departmental meetings that require a more formal approach and set objectives.
    • Employee onboarding and training programs are designed to deliver specific knowledge to specific employees.
    • Performance reviews and other similar discussions involving sensitive and private topics.  
  • Enclosed spaces for distraction-free information digestion and individual quiet work:
    • A worker may break away with another person while mentoring or job shadowing, sharing tacit knowledge intimately without distractions.
    • People go to an enclosed area when they need to take a video or phone call, sharing and receiving information away from the noise.
    • An employee hides away to focus deeply while preparing for a meeting.
  • Behaviour and area protocols that lay down rules about acceptable behaviours in specific times or places:
    • An organisation can schedule job rotations at regular intervals so they have no other choice but to seek and share knowledge to deal with their new roles.
    • More frequent, shorter breaks may be introduced to allow more relationship-building among workers.
    • Company-designated times for quiet work so workers can focus intently on individual tasks that would eventually motivate them to seek new knowledge from colleagues regarding components that are dependent on other people’s knowledge.

4. Cultivate a knowledge-sharing culture

First, let us take a look at what the term  ‘organisational culture’ actually entails. Simply put, there are three notable dimensions when referring to it: 

  • Basic assumptions, which are invisible core values unconsciously executed by company members.
  • Norms are the social standards and expectations that employees match their actions with.
  • Practices, those that visibly express organisational culture through office layout, interaction patterns, dressing styles, knowledge databases, and similar things stemming from the organisation’s basic assumptions. 

Including knowledge sharing as a core value in an organisation’s culture would lead to employees embracing knowledge-sharing activities that eventually become a norm. And as knowledge sharing becomes associated with corporate culture, any knowledge sharing related activity will be regarded with a sense of professionalism, and expectations of management and colleagues.

More to read: The knowledge advantage: Why effective knowledge management is essential for large corporations

5. Reward knowledge-sharing initiatives

It’s a given that helping others has its own intrinsic rewards. However, when it comes to helping others by sharing their self-generated knowledge, individuals are a lot less willing to help without rewards. The theory presumes that employees believe the knowledge they have collected through their experiences is part of their identity. Any help involving sharing their knowledge, they deem more costly to provide. 

Funny enough, it is this identity-linked, costly value that fosters trust. By sharing a part of their identity, employees believe they are forging a strong psychological bond with the recipients of their knowledge. This perceived bond, in turn, fosters trust and facilitates reciprocity from its recipients, inclining these employees to be more open to knowledge sharing especially when a reward is presented.

So how should organisations reward knowledge sharing? Experts reckon subjective incentives (a bonus program based on subjective evaluations of colleagues) are the most effective. When recipients help decide on the rewards, it builds trust and softens individuals to share their knowledge.

6. Nurture a collaborative and innovative environment

A successful knowledge-sharing environment is one that provides a range of spaces that grant employees the freedom of where and how to get their jobs done. Studies are making it more apparent that workers need an amount of privacy, and organisations need to understand that this privacy does not necessarily interfere with collaboration. According to research, improving privacy, in fact, strengthens collaboration. 

Whether physical or virtual, allocating ‘shielded’ spaces for your teams allows them to move easily between group time and individual time, creating a healthy knowledge-sharing rhythm. Meeting together to think about a problem and then separating to let the ideas ferment, engages employees to think critically and reflect on new information. The next time they interact together, they will only carry on into an enriched cycle of knowledge sharing and creation.

7. Use the most suitable knowledge-sharing tool

You need to find a knowledge management platform that allows all the above-mentioned knowledge-sharing best practices in one simple tool. The most suitable knowledge management software will:

  • Allow your organisation and employees to develop a continuous learning habit. What you need is knowledge management software that will let you find the right information at the right time. Create intelligent content organised around pre-defined tropics that everyone in your organisation can also search for. 
  • Engage interactions centred on casual sharing and light-hearted learning. You need a knowledge management platform that encourages everyone in your organisation to contribute ideas and bounce insights.
  • Structure centralised knowledge in spaces and groups that automatically organise large volumes of information according to context. Anyone in the organisation can locate expert information, access training and onboarding procedures, and store high-dense information.
  • Make all learning activities revolve around knowledge sharing. This may manifest in different ways but a suitable platform streamlines your content creation through pre-defined templates that allow faster and smarter capture of knowledge. Additionally, it also enables collaborative functions such as sharing, commenting, and co-editing.
  • Drive collaboration and innovation through a unified sharing platform through insights, trends and collective intelligence. The right platform facilitates innovation and collaboration by aggregating actionable insights, exchanges, and feedback.


Building a knowledge sharing culture in an organisation follows the seven-step approach above. However, remember that it mainly depends on two things:

  1. Highly motivated employees engaged in continuous learning.
  2. A knowledge library that is properly organised and stored in such a way that facilitates easy knowledge retrieval, integration and sharing. 

For a more comprehensive read on implementing knowledge sharing across your entire organisation, download our company-wide guide today. You can also request a demo to see how a knowledge sharing platform can be successfully deployed. Sign up for a free trial to see how knowledge sharing looks like within an intelligent platform.

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