Learning and Knowledge-sharing: The “Must-Haves” of Every Organization

September 28, 2021 by Jana Repanšek, Ivana Nedižavec Korada, Robert Bauchmüller, Irena Lukač

Organizations need to organize themselves for knowledge sharing and look into ways of incentivizing the staff to share and exchange knowledge, ideas and experiences.

Knowledge sharing is a crucial source of value creation at any organization. However, successfully managing this process is something that needs gradual and constant planning and development. We took this path at the CEF and the same can be expected to happen in other institutions.

Knowledge sharing can be achieved by developing systems and processes that support effective learning and knowledge management. Good examples of built-in institutional knowledge sharing are internal and external knowledge sharing sessions that we hold at the CEF. These are 60-90-minute facilitated sessions where internal or external speakers share knowledge on a particular topic. Also, we have designated staff members responsible for the promotion of learning and knowledge sharing. They have direct access to the senior leadership.

However, having systems and processes in place is not enough. Organizational knowledge sharing needs to be supported and encouraged from the top-down. What is also very important is creating an environment of trust. This way employees feel safe to engage and contribute to the process, without fearing any unwanted side effects.

Organizational knowledge sharing is essential for at least two reasons. First, it brings higher efficiency to an organization. By sharing information, skills and competencies from different areas, organizations achieve better results faster. And second, it speeds up their development. When we cultivate a knowledge-sharing culture, we nurture a basic human need for constant learning and development and thus enable individual and institutional growth.

In practical terms, organizations can support it by creating physical or virtual environments for employees to connect and learn from each other. For years now, the CEF has been at the forefront of developing a physical space that supports learning and knowledge sharing among staff members and participants at learning events. We have been also investing in upgrading the online tools and applications to facilitate better virtual learning (e.g., Online Learning Campus, MS Teams, Jamboard). Additionally, we’re also taking steps towards enhancing a coaching and mentoring culture at the CEF. This way we can grow internally as well as provide greater support to our beneficiary institutions. ET_collage

We need to be mindful of the expectations for the new normal learning set-up in the CEF constituency: Is online learning a new normality? How is the CEF embracing this switch to a stronger online presence?

Research shows that our learning curve is steeper when we face bigger challenges. The pandemic was both a curse and a catalysator in the learning processes of public institutions. Due to restrictions brought by the pandemic, practically all communication and collaboration had to be transferred to new channels. In a very short time, we all had to learn how to be efficient in working, communicating and building networks in the online space.

To support this, the CEF moved its entire learning program fully online. We were excited to see the level of interest expressed in learning online and the readiness to try out new communication tools and platforms. But as the supply of available online courses and learning opportunities started to exceed the demand, new approaches had to be taken.

What can be done? Better digital infrastructures, new ways of engagement, skills and routines. When promoting the capturing, packaging and sharing of knowledge, we take advantage of the newly acquired digital links and skills. For example, we’re now able to reach more experts from the region and beyond, and gather more insights and feedback when co-designing our learning activities. It’s also easier to work together on shared documents. Building on our experiences from organizing blended online and face-to-face courses, we are encouraged to be bolder and quicker in delivering hybrid learning events. This, of course, takes investing in new tools and approaches (e.g., providing simultaneous translation both online and in-class). We see all this as an opportunity to expand the reach of our work.

While online learning certainly increases access to a wider range of learning providers, it can never fully replace or gratify our common need for personal connection. Physical presence is the force that brings more genuine opportunities to reflect, get new perspectives, re-learn, and receive reassurance and encouragement for our future learning.

Moving learning online was necessary and appreciated during the pandemic. It helped the constituency to stay connected to knowledge, among themselves and to us. We're still discovering new ways of successfully combining the best of both worlds, online and face-to-face. This goes for both, our internal work as well as implementing our program and the CEF strategy, set for 2022-2026.

Communication has become an embedded element of learning and knowledge sharing for the CEF. We practice spreading knowledge beyond the classroom and illustrate the results of our work in various communication channels. In addition to the knowledge gained and shared at our courses, we make an effort to capture and share learning moments through our communication channels, such as our website, social media profiles, numerous publications and videos.

We have the skills to tell stories about learning and changes in the region that lead to taking action and often to reforms. We leverage both social and digital media to share these stories and integrate them into our future learning initiatives. Our Blog on Learning has significantly helped us enhance our internal communication flows and capacities. It is a »to-go« place to learn and get inspired about learning for external audiences, too.

The typical challenge with learning and knowledge sharing is that it is not easily measurable and does not usually happen linearly. That’s why we had to find approaches for monitoring the success of our work and use the gathered data for building strong and trusted partnerships.

Typical quantitative indicators of the scope of our work are the numbers of learning events and knowledge products that we generate, and the participants and lecturing experts whom we engage. To provide a more detailed picture of the learning offers, one needs to dig a bit deeper, for example, by learning formats or certain groups of people. However, those figures do not capture sufficiently the results that evolve from our learning experiences, as such results are often not easily tangible or cannot be attributed to one specific experience only. To showcase how we experience learning and apply new knowledge, we often capture key impressions through interviews and social media and visualize learning and knowledge-sharing experiences. Another such example is our value creation stories. We capture them through interviews and accompany them with photo or video impressions from our activities, putting faces behind the ‘hard’ figures. As a strategic direction, we move even closer towards focusing on the individual learner, teams and institutions, and especially on their capacities to learn and share knowledge. We build new skills to capture how learning and knowledge sharing is happening, and we invest in packaging this information into new learning activities, knowledge products and visibility actions. Consequently, we get much closer to capturing how new knowledge is applied in practice and how learning leads to results.

The South East Europe of tomorrow will…

South East Europe (SEE) will bring forward new regional initiatives and momentum to jointly address the global challenges of our time. One such pressing topic is the severe consequences of climate changes already impacting the region, as well as the speed of digitalization, bringing implications to the region’s role in international value chains and labor markets. The CEF will continue to be a driving force for inspiring public officials to shape their institutional responses, contributing to making SEE economies more successful and societies fairer.

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