Five Signs Your Company Has an Information Hoarding Problem

Lori Mankin
3 mins
locked box information hoarding concept

Decades worth of newspapers piled to the ceiling, enough canned goods to sustain you through 10 apocalypses, and, dare we say it, far too many cats. These are the images typically associated with hoarding, and there’s no doubt about it; the effects are detrimental. Who could ever find what they’re looking for in a home bursting at the seams with junk? Who even knows what they’re looking for in a home overrun with useless clutter?

Although your home may be a “safe space” to indulge your hoarding tendencies, you might not be able to say the same for your workplace (no, we don’t mean finding cats you didn’t know you had behind the office refrigerator). We’re talking about information hoarding.

Employees hoard information in the workplace for a variety of reasons. After years of hard work, employees often become territorial of their knowledge. They fear that sharing information they worked to gain will undermine their expertise, or worse, give credit to others where credit is not due. Some employees hoard information because they feel a sense of job security when others consistently come to them for advice. And in some cases, information sharing and collaboration is simply not encouraged. But whatever the case may be, the results remain the same; productivity suffers. Big time.

Here are five signs your workplace is suffering from information hoarding:

The Same People Constantly Answer the Same Questions

Of course, your office has experts, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you find a handful of folks are consistently answering the same questions over and over again, you’ve got a problem. Documenting answers to frequently asked questions in a knowledge sharing solution gives everyone fast, searchable access to high-demand information and provides a platform for input and collaboration surrounding that information. This means more consistency for your employees, and more time for your top performers to focus on new initiatives.

Putting Together Presentations Feels like Reinventing the Wheel

Does it feel like Groundhog Day every time you pull together information for a presentation? Now exactly where did I find that image last time? Where is that intro paragraph I used last week? Imagine a world where everything is cataloged into one central location. A world where the most commonly used and approved information is searchable. When knowledge is accessible to all, you won’t waste any time reinventing the wheel (or reinventing the presentation you put together last week).

You Lose Institutional Knowledge When Employees Leave  

Without a system in place to retain the knowledge of employees as they leave or retire, you risk losing some of your most valuable institutional knowledge. Invest in a knowledge sharing solution to pull information out of the brains of top performers and into an accessible location for all to learn from (long after the source of that information has retired).

Information Is Regularly Shared Through Email

Imagine this scenario. Marketing creates a new training document for your product. Every single employee in every department in the company benefits from the knowledge contained in this document: best practices, standardized language, new features, you name it. Marketing sends a company-wide email containing said document. Months later, they still receive requests to resend it because employees can’t locate it in their cluttered inboxes (*cough, hoarders, *cough). Each time a new hire joins the company, marketing has to send them the document. See where we’re going with this?

If that document was originally stored in a knowledge sharing solution, where all could readily access it, not a single email would have been sent, and marketing would regain that time to produce new material.

Transparency Is Not Valued as Part of Your Company Culture

Do you work in an environment that rewards collaboration and information sharing? Do people discuss their failures along with their successes? Or, do you suffer from information hoarding, with employees keeping everything under wraps until the last minute to avoid unwarranted input and conflict? The truth is that while it may make you feel exposed to share your shortcomings along with your victories, the goal of transparency isn’t to focus on individual performance but to learn from the experience and use this knowledge to build out new ideas and plans. Companies embracing transparency and knowledge sharing don’t just encourage employees to share, they create communities where it is expected and rewarded.

If you recognize any or all of these symptoms, it’s time to banish information hoarding from your organization. Creating a culture of collaboration and knowledge sharing won’t happen overnight. But it will happen with an attitude of sharing and technology that empowers collaboration. Invest in a knowledge sharing solution and continue to build your wealth of accessible, searchable information, and your company will be on its way to holding hands, singing kumbaya around the campfire, and sharing valuable institutional knowledge.

February 6, 2018

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