There’s no doubt that any professional services firm should have a knowledge sharing platform. Knowledge is the key resource for professionals. Without a platform to capture and share that knowledge, it’s putting your most valuable asset into the hands of luck. Knowledge might get shared. Knowledge might be retained when experienced staff leave. Knowledge might be used as a differentiator. The right knowledge might be used. These are all huge assumptions which can be solved when you implement a knowledge sharing platform.
In this article, let’s review the five key steps for any professional services firm to implement a knowledge sharing platform, like Tribal Habits, in their business.
Step 1 – Establish objectives
In order set the correct objectives for your knowledge sharing platform, you first need to identify the business problems that need resolution. It’s those outcomes that will justify your reasons to implement a knowledge sharing platform in the first place. Once you’ve identified those problems, you’ll be able to not only set objectives but clearly categorise them into short and long-term objectives aimed at solving common issues and driving business.
- Let’s use the example of an accounting firm through this article. Their objectives may include…
- Capture knowledge from experienced staff approaching retirement
- Share knowledge among distributed teams in different locations
- Ensure consistency in client processes and standards
- Capture best practices in tax planning, business advice or audit processes
- Accelerate induction for new staff while eliminating training workload on existing staff
Step 2 – Prepare for change
Often managers and business owners believe that incorporating a knowledge sharing platform is just an application of technology. However, to ensure success when you implement a knowledge sharing platform, it will require a cultural change in the way employees look at sharing and storing knowledge for personal development.
Professionals can sometimes be possessive about their knowledge. They may even withhold knowledge to use it as power. This is of course, a terrible business culture. Successful businesses encourage collaboration, teamwork and innovation, all of which require the sharing of internal knowledge. It is possible your business may need to examine its existing culture and be ready to enact cultural change as part of the process to implement a knowledge sharing platform. And that’s a good thing! In fact, one of the top benefits of a knowledge sharing platform is that it helps facilitate positive cultural change.
- An example of knowledge sharing cultural change for an accounting firm might be knowledge sharing KPIs for staff. Accounting staff will likely have professional development KPIs, but they are usually focused on acquiring knowledge. You may need to consider if KPIs for sharing knowledge is equally useful. For example, senior accountants might need to demonstrate 20 hours of time spent on capturing and sharing their knowledge each year (through your knowledge sharing platform, as well as other initiatives including mentoring).
Step 3 – Define your high-level process
With objectives established and some steps taken to prepare for any required cultural change, you can now map out your high-level process for capturing and sharing knowledge. This step tends to focus on selecting a framework to curate knowledge and assigning oversight of that framework.
- Determine your knowledge sharing framework. How will you focus knowledge sharing between job roles, job lifecycle and knowledge categories? For an example accounting firm, this would include accountants vs support staff, new accountants vs partners and client processes vs internal processes.
- Identify your knowledge sharing champions. Knowledge sharing requires some oversight and management. This includes prioritising topics, eliminating duplication of work, identifying internal experts to share knowledge and managing related technology and platforms. At our example accounting firm, this may be driven by a training manager in medium to large firms, or by a steering committee on senior staff from human resources, operations and client management. Alternatively, the business owners or partners may take responsibility to ensure knowledge sharing is focused on key strategic objectives.
Step 4 – Implement a knowledge sharing platform
Knowledge sharing has three major phases. As you implement a knowledge sharing platform, you need to account for all three phases – not just the initial phase of capturing knowledge.
Knowledge must be captured and transformed into content which can be consumed by others. This phase has the broadest range of tools, starting with simple tools like Word or PowerPoint. It can also include YouTube videos, internal intranet sites, or forms of corporate social media. Alternatively, you can use dedicated knowledge sharing platforms which are built-for-purpose. In all these cases, your internal expert staff can directly integrate with the platform and capture their knowledge themselves. A final alternative would then be to outsource content creation to training staff or external contractors, who would interview your internal experts and create content on their behalf. External content creation can be extremely expensive, however, and often does not save your internal experts any time after all the required revisions.
Once knowledge is captured, it needs to be shared with others. This is the phase where knowledge sharing often fails. The problem typically lies in the tools used to capture knowledge. Tools like PowerPoint slides or YouTube videos are passive. Other staff can read or observe the captured knowledge, but there is little knowledge transfer or retention as the process is too unstructured and too passive. While ‘free’ tools like PowerPoint are cheap, their return on investment remains low as the benefits of sharing knowledge are not realised. This is where dedicated knowledge sharing platforms come into their own. These platforms can adapt captured knowledge and present it in ways which engage staff and boost understanding and retention.
As knowledge is shared, tracking and reporting of those process is the final piece. In this phase, the ‘free’ options listed above fail completely. There is no record of which staff read a PDF document and certainly no capturing of their thoughts on the knowledge it contained or the actions they took with that knowledge. Without tracking, reporting, metrics and measurement, the benefits of knowledge sharing are inconsistent and intangible. Yet again, dedicated knowledge sharing platforms will provide built-in tracking and engagement tools, allowing management to boost accountability with staff, track the distribution of knowledge and measure its impact on the business.
Step 5 – Measure and improve your knowledge sharing
Which leads to the last step in the process – on-going improvement. Knowledge sharing is not an ‘event’. It differs from traditional training which often occurs once and staff then move on. Knowledge sharing is very much a journey.
- Consider our example accounting firm. Let’s say they create a topic about their internal client reporting system. That topic is not a static asset. Knowledge about that topic will envolve. The system itself may change, the way the business uses that system or the processes around may change, and new tips and tricks in getting the most out of that system are likely to be developed. As a result, that topic would probably benefit from incremental updates AND from having staff revisit the topic on a periodic basis.
This creates a fourth phase for your chosen knowledge sharing platform – it needs to allow for on-going and easy updates. A dedicated knowledge sharing platform will typically allow for this through easy editing, peer sharing and community learning.
Tribal Habits – the all-in-one knowledge sharing solution for professional services
So let’s summarise the steps to implement a knowledge sharing platform and how Tribal Habits can assist in the process.
- Establish objectives. When you set-up a new Tribal Habits platform, we provide a free initial virtual workshop with your key stakeholders to help identify your key objectives.
- Prepare for change. In that same workshop, we can provide you with ideas to create or support business cultures which encourage values of sharing, collaboration and innovation.
- Define your high-level processes. Our initial workshop also helps you map out your topic curriculum and provides training to your platform champions.
- Implement a knowledge sharing platform. Tribal Habits is an all-in-one solution. It provides a guided knowledge capture process which can be used by any of your staff, transforms that content into engaging and effective online knowledge sharing, and then tracks and measures outcomes across a range of key metrics.
- Measure and improve. Tribal Habits includes built-in analytics around topic improvements, new topic developments and best practice benchmarks for topic creation. Topic updates are easy and instant.
Tribal Habits is like having an entire ‘knowledge sharing department in a box’. So what are you waiting for? Sign up for your free Tribal Habits portal now and start a pilot knowledge sharing experience with your staff in just minutes. With flexible, low-cost plans and a range of initial content to further accelerate your implementation, Tribal Habits is the perfect partner for professional services firms.