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Legal Practice Management

Practice Innovations: Have we hit the limits of organizational knowledge-sharing in a highly remote environment?

Elaine M. Egan, PhD  Information Professional

Elaine M. Egan, PhD  Information Professional

Navigating hybrid and remote work environments has changed how teams, leaders, and individuals work and collaborate within their organizational knowledge-sharing capabilities

For more than two years, industries that relied on knowledge and organizational sharing outside of capturing knowledge through technology have had to reframe how teams, leaders, and individuals unify to collaborate and even grow organizational sharing. Hybrid and remote work environments have redefined employee competencies such as multitasking, functional team engagement, video etiquette, and presentation skills — all in an effort to ensure business objectives are met and realized.

Even though remote work models are reported to improve employee well-being and job satisfaction, expand talent pools, and reduce long-held costs associated with infrastructure, there is further evidence these success drivers have also exposed employee isolation, deteriorating workplace culture and limiting organizational knowledge-sharing.

One of the frequent issues raised in remote and hybrid environments is the very real feeling of missing out. The loss of such in-person interaction as coffee meet ups and impromptu knowledge exchanges has diminished the sense of belonging and organizational purpose. This type of informal organizational knowledge-sharing is predicated upon relationship proximity that is defined by trust. In other words, the people with whom we typically interact, are those whom we are more willing to share with and learn from.

Rather than hitting the limit on organizational knowledge-sharing… the time is now ripe for knowledge-sharing behavior to be seen as central to innovation.

So what are the practical considerations for an organization whose historical and continued success is gleaned from knowledge-sharing behavior beyond knowledge capture?

Rather than hitting the limit on organizational knowledge-sharing (and despite organizations having largely focused on improving knowledge-sharing through information technology systems), the time is now ripe for knowledge-sharing behavior to be seen as central to innovation.

Understanding that most aspects of organizational sharing are based on experience and are largely rooted in undocumented (tacit) rather than documented (explicit) knowledge, it is knowledge-sharing behaviors that are embedded in organizational routines, processes, and structures that improve the weakened relational ties unearthed by remote work. Organizations that invest in and strengthen the development of knowledge-sharing behavior through relational networks contained within teams to create a more matrixed and cross-functional team approach influence cooperative communication that broadens the various dimensions of internal knowledge expansion.

This approach will form interpersonal networks of common sharing as a personal goal and characteristic. This also opens up an organization to social knowledge-sharing systems that are not solely defined by proximity.

Improving knowledge-sharing

Effective models for improving knowledge-sharing behavior and outcomes are commonly studied across academic and corporate circles. These studies are consistently focused on fostering a knowledge-sharing mindset, creating space or ways for sharing to happen, adapting to different forms of knowledge-sharing leadership values, and formalizing the sharing process.

There are a number of ways to improve knowledge-sharing behavior within an organization, and most recognize that people are central to the success of any knowledge-sharing effort. Through their social connections, employees view themselves as knowledge contributors and as such, an organization should make the most of this view. Indeed, some ways to better foster this view include:

    1. Acknowledging self-belief and that everyone has valuable knowledge to share — Do this through team debriefs and learning opportunities, and by developing informal social networks. Employees believe in social leaning as a key driver in their success.

    2. Designing ways to create mentoring as a knowledge-sharing scenario — Whether through project teams or organizational participation, this strengthens and leads to cross-functional learning.

    3. Enabling people to regularly share knowledge — This forms consistent habits and feelings of purpose and contribution.

    4. Considering that your peers are a collective network of knowledge — Reach out regularly to identify and solve problems that innovate and improve process.

Organizational knowledge-sharing is now positioned to evolved beyond the limits of technology structures. How an organization perceives and values what people know can offer further insight into the discipline of knowledge-sharing as a core institutional value — and one in which there are no limitations.