Think for a moment about the knowledge your experienced employees have that helps them be successful in their jobs. They don’t just have a deep knowledge of your products or services (although that’s certainly important). They’ve also built up tacit knowledge, or knowledge gained from personal experience that is often difficult to put into words. For example, a marketing manager may have learned what language resonates with their audience based on years of interviewing customers and prospects, or a sales rep may have mastered the art of giving a great demo through years of practice.
This tacit knowledge is a valuable asset for your company, but if it isn’t properly documented, it will leave when your employees do. That means your greener employees won’t have the opportunity to apply the knowledge of those more seasoned employees to their own work, which can translate to reduced productivity and a longer ramp up time.
But how do you document something that is, by definition, hard to articulate?
One good place to start: video.
Tacit knowledge can be defined as the knowledge you don’t know you know— until someone asks you a specific question. But most subject matter experts aren’t in the habit of documenting the questions they get asked and publishing the answers somewhere that everyone in the company can see.
Video makes it easier for subject matter experts to quickly record themselves answering a question and upload the video somewhere that everyone can access. Thanks to built-in webcams and screen recorders like CloudApp, experts can record video responses without having to leave their desk— often in less time than it would take them to write out a response.
Experienced employees can also use screen recordings to demonstrate how to work through specific processes. For many people, it’s easier to explain a process they’re familiar with while they’re actively working through the steps than to talk about it hypothetically.
Once a subject matter expert has recorded a video response or walkthrough, they can post it to a knowledge sharing platform like Bloomfire that automatically transcribes the videos so that the content becomes searchable. All employees who have access to the platform will be able to search for specific keywords in videos, saving subject matter experts from having to answer the same question or demonstrate the same process over and over again.
Not only is video a convenient format for seasoned employees who want to share their knowledge, but it’s also the format in which many people prefer to receive information. And we’ve got the stats to back that up:
Video is a highly engaging format. We process visuals significantly faster than we process text, and we tend to be better at remembering things we’ve seen than things we’ve read or heard. As a result, employees are more likely to remember information shared in your experts’ videos than, say, information shared in a process document or slide deck.
Another reason video is so effective for capturing and sharing tacit knowledge is because it allows us to provide context that viewers wouldn’t get in other formats. For example, let’s say a sales rep records a demo that they do for a prospect. Other sales reps could watch this video and pay attention to not just what their co-worker is saying, but the tone they’re using, the pauses they leave for the prospect to ask questions, and so on.
The sales rep who recorded the video likely would have had a hard time explaining their tone and delivery because it’s not something they actively think about: it’s something they’ve learned from personal experience.
Research backs up the value of the additional context that video provides. In one study that looked at using storytelling as a method of tacit knowledge transfer, junior executives benefited more from videos than written stories because they could view facial expressions, gestures, and other visual cues that allowed them to infer information they couldn’t get from text alone.
The benefits of video are hard to ignore, but how do you get employees to start sharing knowledge through videos, especially if they’ve never done that before? Start by using these strategies.
Schedule short interviews with subject matter experts where you ask them to speak on a specific topic. Encourage your experts to share lessons they’ve learned from their work experience through stories. Storytelling triggers a neurologic response and promotes empathy, which helps the information conveyed in the story stick with the viewer. According to Johns Hopkins researcher Keith Quesenberry, “People are attracted to stories because we’re social creatures and we relate to other people.”
The next time one of your experienced employees is showing a team member how to use software or walk through a process online, ask them to record their screen. Chances are high that other employees will also need help with this tool or process, and by recording a video, experienced employees can share visual instructions once rather than having to schedule lots of one-on-one training sessions.
Want employees to get used to sharing their knowledge through videos? Have a champion on your leadership team set an example by creating a weekly or monthly video where they share best practices they’ve learned. This will help shape a culture of knowledge sharing in your organization and encourage employees to record what they know for the benefit of others.
Ultimately, the video content your employees create is only valuable if other employees know where to find it. Make sure all your videos are in a central knowledge sharing platform so that anyone can view the videos whenever they need to. If you’re using Bloomfire, employees can find exactly what they’re looking for by searching for words spoken in videos or browsing custom categories that you’ve set up. That means they’ll be spending less time searching and more time learning from their peers.
By including a video creation tool like CloudApp and a knowledge sharing platform like Bloomfire in your tech stack, you’ll make it easy for employees to record their hard-to-articulate knowledge and tap into the tacit knowledge of their co-workers. And that means valuable knowledge stays with your organization.
Mark Hammer is the CEO of Bloomfire, a knowledge sharing software company based in Austin, Texas. He has over two decades of product, management, and strategy experience at software, education, and energy companies. He held senior management roles at SmartBear Software, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, CompassLearning, Green Mountain Energy Company, and Sagebrush Corporation, among others.