There are few intangible things that are as sought after in the corporate world as good company culture. Leaders know that their organizations’ ultimate success and growth is dependent upon culture, not solely, but majorly. F. John Reh wrote, “Company culture is important because it can make or break your company. Companies with an adaptive culture that is aligned to their business goals routinely outperform their competitors. Some studies report the difference at 200% or more.” Companies having exemplary culture are ones that not only survive indefinitely, but profit when other organizations are going under.
The definition of “corporate culture” varies from person to person. Some individuals believe culture refers only to shared practices and values. Others interpret company culture as an organization’s “personality.” Realistically, company culture encompasses both the literal (shared practices and values) and the figurative (the personality or overall feel of a corporation). The Harvard Business Review described culture as “the glue that binds an organization together…it’s the hardest thing for competitors to copy. As a result, it can be a lasting source of competitive advantage.”
What type of culture does your company have? If it’s not providing the competitive advantage mentioned above, perhaps it’s time to create a whole new culture.
Key Components of Good Company Culture
Good company culture hasn’t always been as important as it is today. A few decades ago, job candidates didn’t have as many options concerning where to work and what field to work in. Today, college students are overwhelmed at the sheer volume of subjects they can earn a degree in. And, while the job market may not be what it used to be, job seekers, specifically Millennials, are more choosy than ever before. As a result of this, company leaders feel a lot of pressure to make sure their organizations are as competitive as possible. They understand that having knock-your-socks-off corporate culture is a non-negotiable if they want to draw exemplary employees.
There is no definite recipe for incredible company culture. However, each successful company’s culture shares a few common traits with the unique culture of other corporations. A few of these traits include:
- Encouragement of work-life balance – Any organization that has low value for work-life balance has little value for its employees, whether or not its leaders would admit to this. Companies like Nokia, AOL, and Yahoo are known to encourage work-life balance. Not surprisingly, these companies receive rave reviews from their employees.
- Creativity – Can a company’s culture be considered good or competitive when it has no emphasis on creativity? It’s hard to imagine that it could. Creativity is what breathes life into a business and gives it a unique flavor. It is what makes it attractive and unique. Jenna Goudreau, contributor to Business Insider, mentioned that Apple, FedEx, and Sanofi are “among the world’s most creative companies.” Partially because of their emphasis on creativity, these corporations have devoted workers and low rates of turnover.
- Promotion of knowledge sharing in the workplace – Last but certainly not least, the promotion of knowledge sharing is a vital component to good company culture. Knowledge sharing happens when information is voluntarily passed from one person to another, whether it is done so formally or informally. When a company’s culture is built on knowledge sharing, there is often a high level of trust among peers.
Knowledge Sharing in the Workplace Creates Unrivaled Company Culture
Knowledge sharing is not just necessary for good company culture to be realized; it is also necessary for company survival. David Gurteen, author of the article Creating a Knowledge Sharing Culture, wrote, “An isolated knowledge management program looked after by a privileged few is a paradox in itself and will not survive for long. Only effective collaboration and communication which spans across the whole company structure will give knowledge management the boost it really needs. In order to enrich a company’s current culture…change must start at the individual. Every employee has a sphere of influence along with their own individual knowledge, and this is where… (a) knowledge sharing culture can begin.” Gurteen later went more in-depth about why knowledge sharing is so crucial for a corporation. He explained that companies must promote knowledge sharing if they want to…
- Keep their workforce competitive. After all, most companies have high turnover rates, and when their employees leave, they take their knowledge with them. When knowledge is freely shared, this is not nearly as much of an issue.
- Accelerate change. Gurteen wrote, “As things change, so does our knowledge base erode – in some businesses, as much of 50% of what you knew 5 years ago is probably obsolete today.” Consistently shared knowledge is often up-to-date knowledge, so it’s reasonable to assume that knowledge sharing prevents obsolete information from sticking around organizations for long.
- Unify large corporations. Knowledge sharing isn’t so difficult to promote in a small business. However, it is a different story with large businesses. The bigger the organization, the easier it is for employees to be out of touch with one another. Employees being on different pages, so to speak, hurts a company two ways. First, it prevents a sense of unity and collaboration from ever being realized. Also, it keeps companies from, in Gurteen’s words, “Knowing what they know.” He wrote, “Expertise learnt and applied in one part of the organisation is not leveraged in another.” This can increase a company’s need for expensive formal training.
Although knowledge sharing is followed by a vast array of benefits, it is the rare company that hosts a knowledge sharing culture. In most companies, knowledge hoarding happens a lot more often than knowledge sharing does.
What Is Knowledge Hoarding?
The opposite of knowledge sharing is knowledge hoarding. Knowledge hoarding takes place when employees withhold relevant information and skills from others in order to make themselves indispensable to a company. This is sometimes done consciously, but often done unconsciously, and is the rule, not the exception, in today’s average company. Knowledge hoarding is primarily driven by employees’ fears and exampled by managers who are just as worried about losing their jobs as their supervisees are.
Knowledge hoarding is extremely detrimental to any company. It is also tough to prevent. Leaders across all industries should strive to shift company culture from one of knowledge hoarding to knowledge sharing. The article Why Your Company Should Support a Knowledge Sharing Culture states, “One thing (that) is clear when we start to examine this kind of cultural shift (from knowledge hoarding to knowledge sharing) is we are working with real people who have deeply held beliefs and deeply entrenched behaviors. Motivating positive change can be extremely difficult, but it is impossible if the organization doesn’t make a significant change in terms of its management policies and choices. In order to adopt a policy of knowledge sharing and maintain that level of innovation, companies will have to create atmospheres in which sharing knowledge is ‘safe’. In other words, you can’t just mine the knowledge of the top performers and then fire them all and replace them with earners. Such behavior will be detected by employees immediately, and you’ll end up with a culture far worse than you had to begin with. However, if your desire to innovate is authentic, and your belief in knowledge sharing as a road to that goal is genuine, you can approach the problem transparently…it is possible to implement this sort of approach. After all, there is something in it for everyone.”
Knowledge hoarding is a vicious cycle that only stops when leaders decide it is time to try doing things a different way in hopes of seeing different results. It stops when knowledge sharing becomes so important to a company that leaders begin to create a culture that facilitates it. Most practically, knowledge hoarding stops when the correct technology is implemented in an organization.
How eLearning and LMS Technology Promote Knowledge Sharing in the Workplace
How does a company leader create an atmosphere in which knowledge sharing is safe, convenient, and expected? The answer is surprisingly simple: with the help of certain technologies.
Technology has a lot to do with whether or not a company’s workforce shares knowledge or hoards it. In fact, it is unfair for corporate higher-ups to become frustrated with employees who don’t share what they know if they don’t have the tools to do so. The research article Knowledge Sharing in the Workplace: Motivators and Demotivators states, “…research predicts that the creation and dissemination of knowledge, especially in large organizations, requires both a cultural-social and a technological dimension. Firms must provide workers with IT infrastructures and ensure they use these infrastructures to create, store, and distribute their knowledge. The knowledge tools should be perceived as easy to use and as adding value to the workers’ performance, or else the workers may be deterred from putting their knowledge into the systems.” One such system that can be used to create, store, and distribute knowledge is an eLearning system. By its very design and nature, an eLearning platform, also known as an LMS (learning management system) allows knowledge sharing to happen naturally.
eLearning, or online learning, used to be referred to as the learning style of the future. eLearning expert Christopher Pappas reported that the global eLearning industry market was expected to hit the over-$100 billion mark in 2015. He also wrote that the learning management system market was worth about $2.5 billion in 2013. These significant statistics show us that eLearning is the learning style of the future and the present.
Online learning can take place through a variety of mediums. However, the best and most effective channel through which eLearning flows is a social learning management system, or eLearning system. eLearning platforms are designed primarily to foster training, but they are also perfect for giving company leaders the tools they need to break the nasty habit of knowledge hoarding, once and for all.
There are several specific LMS features that promote knowledge sharing; here are just a few:
- Social learning features – At its core, a learning management system is social. It facilitates company growth through social interactions online. Social learning features like calendaring, video conferencing, realtime chat, blogs, and polls provide ideal opportunities for peer-to-peer knowledge sharing.
- Collaborative learning features – Almost all leaders understand the importance of companies having a collaborative culture. Collaboration, which undergirds knowledge sharing, is the precursor to innovation. Features like bios, online communities, customized schedules and alerts, and personal profiles (much like those seen on social media sites) are all helpful in creating company cultures that are collaborative and knowledge-wealthy.
- Mobile learning features – Mobile learning is an essential component of any full-featured learning management system. It is also the key that unlocks the door to knowledge. In today’s fast-paced world, employees and managers simply don’t have a lot of time to devote to training. When they do find a window of time, it is often random and not always during work hours. This is where mobile learning comes in. With mobile learning, LMS users have round-the-clock access to work-related information stored online. Best of all, they can access this information through any device that has a connection to the Internet.
- Language localization features – Nothing slams the door to knowledge sharing faster than language barriers. A multi-language LMS that can be launched in nearly any employee’s native language level these barriers, making it possible for workers to clearly receive and give instruction.
A number of technologies promote knowledge sharing, but none so much as learning management system technologies. Company leaders are finding that eLearning platforms are good for so much more than just training. Every day, corporate decision makers are implementing LMSs for the purpose of creating knowledge sharing cultures that are highly collaborative and dynamic.
A company’s success or lack thereof is directly related to its value for knowledge sharing. A business whose employees hoard knowledge, whether consciously or unconsciously, will have a diminished culture. In many cases, bad company culture can be corrected when knowledge sharing is facilitated through technologies like eLearning systems, and when knowledge sharing initiatives are launched.