When many people think of hoarding, the first thing that comes to mind is the TV show where houses are packed full of stuff. People can’t easily find things that are important to them – and most of the time they don’t even know what is really under the piles that have built up over the years.
While most companies don’t have issues with piles of trash and clothes, many do have a hoarding problem – but instead of things, employees are hoarding information.
Why Does Information Hoarding Occur?
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.
So how can you tell if your company is developing an information hoarding problem? Here are some of the telltale signs to watch out for.
Signs of Information Hoarding
The same people are constantly answering the same questions.
While it is nice to have your go-to experts, if a handful of folks are constantly answering the same questions, it’s probably time for a shift. Documenting answers to frequently asked questions in a knowledge sharing solution gives everyone easy, searchable access to the information. It also provides a platform for input and collaboration around the best answers in specific cases. This means more consistency for your employees, and more time for your top performers to focus on new initiatives.
You are forced to reinvent the wheel when you’re putting together presentations.
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.
Every company has a couple of these folks. They often take on a mayoral role within your organization and are well versed on everything from company history to how and why decisions were made in the past, to customer examples and anecdotes. The problem is that this information is undocumented and lives in the minds of a handful of people. And without a system in place to retain the knowledge of these employees as they leave or retire, you risk losing some of your most valuable institutional knowledge.
It’s important to not only encourage these employees to share what they know – which many will in a heartbeat – but also encourage documentation in an open forum so everyone present and future can access and learn from it.
Answers and files live on individual laptops and in emails.
“I’ve got it right here. I’ll email it to you.” How often do you hear this? Do your company’s most frequently used files sit in folders on desktops? Not only is this inefficient, but it is hard to keep up-to-date when individual files are spread throughout the organization.
If documents are instead store in a knowledge sharing platform, where all can readily access it, your company can eliminate the silos that occur when information sits on individual hard drives and in email inboxes.
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 keep everything hush-hush and under wraps until the last minute to avoid input and conflict?
The truth is that while it may make you feel exposed to share your shortcomings along with your wins, the goal of transparency isn’t to focus on individual performance. The goal is to learn from the experience of others and use this knowledge to build future plans. And leaders in the transparency movement 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.