Five Best Practices for Knowledge Sharing in Startups

Major tech companies have the money to invest in expensive L&D solutions. However, for startups it’s often a different story. Many of the training and development practices found in larger tech firms are simply off limits to them.

That makes knowledge sharing the ideal L&D solution. Startups can now introduce learning solutions that harness cost-effective and time-efficient knowledge-sharing models.

Let’s explore five out-of-the-box learning practices that your startup can put into practice right away. These practices benefit your organization with continual workforce development—without breaking the bank. Ultimately, they build a rich pool of job-relevant knowledge.

1. Tap into a modern mindset 

Today’s startups are thriving with employees who prefer autonomous learning experiences. This is perfectly compatible with our definition of learning. This model is often referred to as self-regulated learning, in which the learner is responsible for his or her own learning and career growth, and the learning process may not have a formal structure. We recommend tapping into your employees’ self-motivated interest in learning. Curate a variety of resources for employees to refer to, so they can learn at their own pace.

How to make it happen:

Technology: Provide an organized, searchable body of knowledge that employees can easily access in a variety of ways (intranet, web links, PDFs, etc.).

Didactics: Curate and publish job-relevant resources and courses online. Ask employees for their feedback and gather analytics to continually improve what you offer. User feedback can come from a variety of sources, including comments on an internal social network, ratings on the quality of a course, emails, and in-person conversations.

2. Promote in-house mentorship

You are an expert in your field and are hired for your knowledge and expertise. Why should you let your colleagues reinvent the wheel when you’ve already gained the necessary knowledge first hand? Save time and resources by mentoring your colleagues on best practices, so gaining knowledge becomes less of a hurdle for newbies to overcome.

Mentoring goes deeper than training, because mentors provide their protégés with a repertoire of common values and goals, building a foundation for mutual trust and respect.

Don’t forget that startup employees often fulfill multiple specialized roles. That means they must learn the ropes on a variety of subjects outside the scope of their main job. Formal classroom training cannot cater to all these diverse needs at once, and multiple training sessions are too costly and time-consuming. The solution is to identify multiple experts (go-to people) who can mentor their colleagues on the job.

How to make it happen:

Technology: Equip mentors with simple authoring and knowledge-management tools to capture their knowledge in short, tangible content pieces.

Didactics: As experts, mentors know better than anyone which concepts or best practices are most useful to their colleagues. However, they may not always know the best didactic form or format for presenting that content. Help them with key resources, including industry best practices, on how to start creating training content. Provide them with examples, brand and graphics guidelines, templates, and direction on how to share their finalized content.

3. Facilitate peer-to-peer learning

Like mentoring, peer-to-peer social learning doesn’t happen in the classroom but on the job. From everyday job-related queries to in-depth analyses, most workplace challenges can be solved by enabling employees to learn from each other and carve out a path together.

If you want to be seen as an expert in your field, you have to be vocal about your professional expertise. You must demonstrate it in a way that benefits your colleagues and enhances their expertise too. If your skills and knowledge can aid your colleagues and team, your presence is surely valued. This establishes your reputation as an authority.

How to make it happen:

Technology: Provide easy-to-use, collaborative knowledge-sharing tools that allow employees to co-author, curate, and share knowledge. Choose tools with built-in feedback channels, so authors can continually improve the quality of their content.

Didactics: Develop a central hub where users can find and share knowledge on how to create and share content. Make it as appealing and easy to use as possible, whether it’s a wiki, an intranet page, or a WordPress site.

4. Make curation and knowledge sharing a habit

Any insight or resource that has helped you on the job will likely help others too. Nothing deepens your own knowledge more effectively than sharing it. The key is to “curate” or carefully select and arrange the knowledge you share. This is crucial for efficient training as it saves you from having to create all-new content from scratch.

Content curation involves finding, grouping, organizing, and sharing the best content on a specific subject or domain. By curating and sharing the most relevant, thought-provoking content, you establish yourself as an authority or thought leader in your area of expertise.

Learners (your colleagues) crave handpicked, curated content, because they know that curators are experts in their fields and they value the content these experts share

How to make it happen:

Technology: Give employees the tools to curate knowledge on their own.

Didactics: “Teach them how to fish,” as the old saying goes. When it comes to knowledge-sharing, that means teach them how to curate meaningfully. For example, selecting links and resources based on clear criteria and putting their own spin on the chosen links enriches the quality of the content. By putting links into context, they share essential, real-life knowledge that benefits their colleagues.

5. Walk your talk

Show employees that you mean this and create some early successes. Start creating and publishing content yourself and try to involve some of your company’s leadership in your first initiatives.

How to make it happen:

Technology: Use a software-as-a-service-based authoring tool, so you can collaborate with your company’s busy leaders to create the first pieces of content or courses. Take the lead to drive these leadership initiatives and create practical examples that have an impact. This will inspire your workforce to follow the same route.
Didactics: Ask your senior leadership to create a content base to get new employees up to speed. Then, curate the best content to create a simple course, if you like. In our experience, senior leadership is always short on time, so create courses on topics you know are close to their hearts and ask them to review and edit.

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