Tacit Knowledge – How to Capture and Codify It for Your Employees
, Alexandre Caulier
Knowledge is the biggest asset of any organization—an asset whose value increases the more it’s shared. And that’s why organizations need to have systems in place to encourage and foster knowledge sharing among their teams.
Unfortunately, not all knowledge is easy to share: Yes, we’re talking about tacit knowledge. As hard to communicate as tacit knowledge is, however, it’s essential that you find ways to capture it and make it usable by your team members. If you don’t, you’ll end up with knowledge loss due to employee turnover.
What is tacit knowledge?
Tacit knowledge refers to a person’s knowledge, skills, and abilities that can’t be expressed through written or oral communication. Usually, this is because that knowledge is gained through experience. Examples of this include:
- Good leadership
- Body language
While these can be taught to a certain degree, proficiency is hard to pass on.
Tacit knowledge, implicit knowledge, and explicit knowledge: What’s the difference?
There are many different types of knowledge, and having an understanding of what they are and how they differ can help you create a cohesive team that works like a well-oiled machine. Here’s a brief look at the three most common types of knowledge:
- Tacit knowledge: Hard to express and communicate
- Implicit knowledge: Can be easily communicated but is not documented
- Explicit knowledge: Documented knowledge that can be easily passed on to others
Implicit and explicit knowledge are rarely a challenge in organizations—it’s their cousin, tacit knowledge, that poses the biggest challenge. But ultimately, if you can harness tacit knowledge for employees, your organization will also benefit through:
- Increased productivity
- A competitive advantage
- Increased knowledge capital
- Improved internal communication
While difficult to quantify, tacit knowledge is a valuable resource that can’t be overlooked—you need to invest in capturing and codifying it.
5 ways to capture and codify tacit knowledge for your employees
One of the biggest challenges involved in codifying tacit knowledge—or turning it into explicit knowledge—is capturing it. Here are a few ways to help you capture tacit knowledge for your employees:
1. Create a knowledge-sharing culture
Your first order of business in capturing and codifying tacit knowledge is to make sure your company culture encourages employees to share their knowledge. On the flip side, you should also promote intentional learning. Employees must be encouraged to identify and capture learning opportunities.
2. Encourage social interaction
One of the easiest ways tacit knowledge is shared is through social interaction—especially by observing others perform a task. Encourage your employees to interact and collaborate on work and non-work related projects. Whether it’s through daily scrums or monthly roundtables, create an environment and opportunities for your employees to interact and share their knowledge, skills, and experiences.
3. Show your process
Human beings are predominantly visual learners. This is why it’s crucial for you to showcase your processes to your employees. This can happen either by inviting employees to watch the knowledge sharer perform a specific task in person, or by creating video recordings of various tasks that are important to your organization’s operations. You can also design a program where new employees shadow a veteran employee for a period of time.
4. Use an internal knowledge-sharing system
Idea management is another great way to help you capture valuable tacit knowledge from your employees. And thanks to advancements in technology, internal communications has become so easy—even for remote teams. Invest in a knowledge sharing platform, create a system that lets employees share valuable information that the organization can benefit from and access it whenever you need.
5. Capture employee stories
No, we’re not talking about The Three Little Pigs (although they could probably teach us a thing or two). We’re talking about using employee stories to capture tacit knowledge. Because stories provide the context for information being shared, they help improve knowledge reach. Another reason stories are great is that tacit knowledge is best learned through experiences—and it’s undeniable that storytelling is one of the best ways to share experiences.
To effectively use storytelling to capture tacit knowledge from your employees, record Q&A-type interviews with employees. This will help you get insight into their thoughts and how they achieve certain results on the job. Save these interviews using a good knowledge management system and use them as part of your organization’s knowledge bank.
Capture knowledge to build productive teams
Building effective and highly productive teams takes a lot of work. It also requires extensive knowledge sharing. Capturing and codifying tacit knowledge doesn’t have to be difficult or frustrating. All you need is an easy-to-use knowledge sharing platform like Elium to help simplify the process.
Make sure to check out our 14-day free trial today and see how we can transform your knowledge management and sharing.