How to Create A Knowledge Sharing Culture for Deskless Workers

26 June 2020

Employee engagement | deskless workers

Knowledge is power. And for deskless workers in industries like manufacturing, logistics, retail and hospitality, knowledge is also connection, empowerment and community.

But unfortunately, the most valuable knowledge often stays hidden.

Deskless workers are sitting on a goldmine of knowledge that can benefit the entire organization. They have expertise on topics that business leaders lack. A few examples are:

  • Handling difficult customer situations
  • Using warehouse equipment more efficiently
  • Troubleshooting equipment or technology failures
  • Time management
  • Conflict management
  • Insight into what consumers are really thinking, how they're behaving and the feedback they provide

Without a knowledge sharing culture, this valuable insight isn't shared with the rest of the organization.

And since deskless workers are geographically dispersed and may never meet their colleagues in different sites, knowledge silos build up over time.

That makes employees less knowledgeable, and certainly doesn't help company growth or the employee experience. 

What is a knowledge sharing culture?

A knowledge sharing organizational culture both encourages and enables employees to share the expertise, information and best practices they've acquired on the job as well as through social interactions with customers and colleagues.

According to a study on the role of employees in knowledge creation: 

"Knowledge is created through social interactions in roles within organizations

 

What are the benefits of a knowledge sharing culture for deskless workers?

A knowledge sharing culture builds community and collaboration. Knowledge sharing connects geographically dispersed deskless employees with their peers, which fosters a feeling of community and teamwork.

A knowledge sharing culture boosts information retention and prevents knowledge loss. Sharing knowledge and asking questions is a hands-on activity, which has been proven to boost information retention. When employees turn over, all the expertise they've acquired is lost. In fact, an average-sized enterprise organization in the US loses $4.5 million a year in productivity from this kind of knowledge loss. 

A knowledge sharing culture is the most cost-effective way to onboard, train and develop deskless workers. What if new joiners had access to all the information your most senior employees have accumulated over the years? That would make costly offsite classroom sessions a thing of the past.

Here are 5 ways to create a knowledge sharing culture for the deskless workers in your organization.

 

1) Create an easily accessible knowledge base.

Before you ask everyone to start sharing, you need a home for all that information - one that all deskless workers can easily access. Accessibility is crucial because deskless workers don't have time to sit at a desk and look things up. They don't have time to ask a colleague a question if they're on a production line or helping a customer. A mobile-first knowledge base application is the best way to make knowledge accessible. A few features it should have are:

  • Easy-to-use filters, so employees can find what they need while they're on the go
  • An interactive Q&A forum, so employees can comment, ask questions, answer questions and share best practices
  • Customizable rights and permissions, so everything is always up to date

2) Showcase the benefits.

Employees will be reluctant to share their knowledge until it's clear that the benefits of doing so far outstrip the "easier" option of doing nothing.

To create a knowledge sharing culture, show employees what they'll get out of it. If sharing is caring, then management has to show employees why they should care. 

Spending less time searching for answers and better performance on the job are 2 of the most obvious benefits of sharing knowledge. 

Getting to know peers in different sites and career development through mentoring and coaching are also upsides that employees should be made aware of.

 

3) Encourage hesitant employees.

Every organization has its champions, who will be the first to jump on a new initiative to help out their peers.

However, not every employee will be as eager, so organizations will need a strategy that encourages reluctant employees too.

For example, a senior warehouse operator may perceive sharing the knowledge it's taken them years to acquire as a threat to their seniority and autonomy. This is just one of the reasons why employees might hide or hoard knowledge, both of which prevent the creation of a knowledge culture.

One way to get around this is to lead by example. Model the type and frequency of knowledge sharing you'd like your deskless employees to mimic, and they'll follow suit.

Another is to identify your champions - who already mentor and coach other employees - get them on board, and amplify their voices internally so even your most reluctant knowledge sharers will see no reason not to jump on the knowledge train.

 

4) Show that you're listening.

Sharing knowledge should be easy.

But when it comes down to it, by creating a knowledge sharing culture you're asking employees to share what they usually wouldn't, and connect with colleagues they typically wouldn't connect with. For that, they should be recognized and rewarded.

Giving shoutouts on your company newsfeed, if you have one (which you should!) is a great way to recognize employees who are going the extra mile. You can even work in a bit of friendly competition and come up with contests with prizes for top commenters and the most questions asked or answered.

 

5) Choose a knowledge base application that makes knowledge management easy.

Deskless employees, who don't have a company computer or even a company email address, aren't going to share knowledge if it's a hassle.

The right knowledge base solution empowers employees to find answers, ask questions and share expertise in a flash.

The right solution will fit into the workflow of a deskless employee's day, wherever that day is spent. That means it should be:

  • Mobile-first
  • Supportive of all information formats, not just documents - that means video, pictures, audio and even live video should be easy to view and upload
  • Easy and fun to use for Gen Z and millennial employees, while also being intuitive for less tech-savvy employees

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YOOBIC's mobile-first internal communications platform and centralized knowledge base can give your organization the tools you need to create a knowledge sharing culture.

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