Weed Out Knowledge Hoarding and Make Information Accessible at Your Business

Knowledge HoardingDo you have employees in your business who keep all the answers to themselves? Coveting information is never good for business. All too often, I see employees who prefer to hoard knowledge so they can be known as the go-to-people.

When it comes to business survival, you need employees who are willing to work together and share information related to work. And, you must ensure information is accessible to everyone in your workforce.

To institute change in your company, first, learn why employees hoard knowledge. Then, use the tips below to encourage the distribution of knowledge at your business.

Why do Employees Hoard Knowledge?

Before I became an entrepreneur, I worked in a very large company. I saw many employees who hoarded knowledge without even knowing they were doing it, even myself included.

Thankfully, I’ve learned a lot since then. And, I know why some people do it. Here are some reasons employees hoard knowledge.

1. Job Security

Nineteen percent of employees worry about being laid off, 30% worry about their benefits being reduced, and 20% worry about having their pay cut. With so many employees being worried about job security, it’s no wonder why they would want to become the go-to person.  

Back when I was an employee, I was “THE man” with “THE knowledge.” I didn’t document things or help others understand what projects were about. Because of that, I was in charge of maintaining the projects on my own.

When an employee has all the knowledge, no one else can support projects without them. That makes them feel like their job is safe from termination. However, the opposite is true, as you’ll learn later in this article.

2. Recognition

Some employees believe that knowledge hoarding can help them become recognized by management.

Having co-workers come to them with questions makes some employees feel like they will be rewarded for how much they know with raises, bonuses, or verbal praise.  But in reality, a wise supervisor will recognize that their subordinates hoarding knowledge are usually very “insecure” people. That is, they’re hoarding knowledge because they’re seeking attention.

Some employers don’t immediately pick up on employees who are hoarding knowledge. Instead, they might use them as examples for the rest of the workforce. And in some cases, knowledge hoarders are highly compensated employees or even managers.

3. Not Team Players   

Some people don’t like working with teams. You’ve probably seen it in team-oriented projects. Some individuals work faster than others. As a result, you might see some key employees prefer to work on their own instead of in a team. In their minds, what’s the point of sharing knowledge when they can get it done so much faster on their own?

When I was an employee, I excelled at smaller projects I could do myself. But when I had to work with others, I either steamrolled or ignored them. I didn’t want to spend my time trying to build up my teammates because I thought I could get the job done quicker on my own.

Maybe you have some employees who are like the old me. The type of person who is great when it comes to individual projects but terrible when it comes to team projects. For the sake of your business, you need employees who can handle both.

How to Encourage Knowledge Distribution

Knowledge DistributionKnowledge hoarding can lead to gaps in your business. The knowledge-hoarding employee is the only one who knows what’s going on. But what happens if that employee goes on vacation or takes a new job? To make the matter worse, some of these employees even start blackmailing the management.

Withholding information and knowledge jeopardize your company’s bottom line, reduces employee morale, and can lead to high turnover rates.

To reduce the harmful effects of answer hoarding, you need to encourage knowledge distribution at your company. Here are a few ways you can do that.

1. Circulate Information

If you want employees to collaborate and have access to the same information, you need to create an easily accessible knowledge base.

With a common knowledge base system, employees can share and manage documents, project information, and other important knowledge. This eliminates the excuse that sharing knowledge takes too long.

Information shouldn’t be privatized in your business. A universal knowledge base system gives every employee the ability to access information, not just key employees.

To simplify the process of circulating information, you can use knowledge base software. Through knowledge base software, all employees have access to finding and sharing information. This central pool of knowledge brings all your employees up to speed and prevents knowledge hoarding.  

2. Reward Employees Who Share Knowledge

Don’t recognize knowledge hoarders. Instead, reward the employees who share knowledge with other employees.

Pay attention to who is withholding information and who freely helps their co-workers. You might offer bonus pay, raises, or other rewards to employees who work towards the betterment of your business by helping others.

Don’t let valuable employees become a Scrooge when it comes to knowledge. Encourage them to share the information they know. And if you see someone hoarding knowledge, talk with them. If they continue to do so, you might need to move them to a different position or even let them go. Make it known that you reward knowledge sharers and don’t tolerate knowledge hoarders.

Let’s say an employee missed work during a training day, so another employee took notes for that one. You could publicly recognize the employee who took notes.

3. Get Current Employees to Help With Training

What better way to make sure employees share knowledge than by putting them in charge of sharing knowledge with new hires?

Not only will this help circulate information, but it will also save you time from training employees by yourself. And, incorporating current employees with training can help develop camaraderie among new and current employees.

Because many knowledge-hoarding employees like to be looked up to, getting them involved in training can accomplish that. Your current employees may be happy to be in leadership roles. And as a result, they can fulfill their desire of being a go-to person while also helping circulate information among new hires.

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About the author

Mike Kappel

Mike Kappel is the founder and CEO of Patriot Software Company and its subsidiaries. With over 30 years of entrepreneurial experience, he knows what small business owners and entrepreneurs are up against. Patriot Software, LLC is a developer of online accounting and payroll software for U.S. small business owners.

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