Sharing information across a global enterprise should be encouraged, but it’s often stymied by old habits and information silos. Some of the causes are:
- Employees don’t know the rules for sharing information across functions and cultures, so they don’t communicate at all.
- Departments don’t know what their colleagues are working on, so they don’t know with whom they should share. In these cases, similar projects might be duplicated in different regions and groups, duplicating the effort and spending.
- People “information hoard” with the goal—whether conscious or unconscious—of protecting their jobs. They believe that if they share information, they’re giving up what makes them valuable. This is most prevalent in organizations that are increasing their outsourcing and offshoring.
As information professionals, we have greater insight into what departments are working on than other employees because they come to us with questions and research requests. We can break down silos and educate the organization about sharing information responsibly, for internal as well as externally published documents.
It’s best to reframe thinking about sharing from “Who needs to know?” – which is hard to define — to “Who’s not permitted to know this information?” This way, people eligible to know certain information can access it, even if we didn’t know they need it. There are three ways to start this transition.
Employees across the enterprise must be educated about what they can and cannot share. For information created in-house, determine if there a business, legal, or regulatory reason to limit access to certain people or departments. If the information was published externally, determine if you have the rights to share it. Always work with your legal and IT departments to help users understand compliance and security requirements.
Related Reading: Top 10 Copyright Misconceptions
Create rewards for global collaboration. In our organization, we traditionally put together end-user information services training and resources in the United States. This content would be shared with other regions, which each would adapt for their local users.
It worked, but it worked even better when we brought together a cross-functional global team to create a master set of global assets. Teammates from around the world participated on equal ground with U.S. teammates who had previously owned the process. The modular assets we created were the most comprehensive, effective, and ready-to-use we ever had. Being part of that leadership group rewarded our global teammates who hadn’t been recognized before, just by raising their visibility.
We’re still reaping the benefits. Our global teammates now are advocates for information services, take leadership in advancing our knowledge management objectives, and continue to generate innovations — even though the original team’s task is complete.
Remember that everyone is working for the same organization. Companies operating in certain regions prone to high employee turnover and IP protection issues can be reticent to share globally, even within their own organization.
Information professionals can address issues of trust by educating people about compliance and best practices, connecting the right people, and doing their part to engage employees across the globe. Employees all sign the same confidentiality agreements, and we should trust our employees to honor them. If we didn’t do this, we shouldn’t hire them or operate there. Engaging and valuing each employee so that they feel personally invested in the business can reduce the chance that they will walk away with our knowledge and share it where they shouldn’t.
Ready to learn more? Check out:
- Creating an Information Center Strategy Driven By Data [5 Questions with Britt Mueller]
- Does Artificial Intelligence Signal the End for Corporate Librarians? [Q&A]
- What’s in a Name? The Library vs. Knowledge Management Center
CCC’s Annual Copyright License is a single source of global rights that empowers your entire company to efficiently use and share published content, accelerate business results, and simplify copyright compliance. Explore more here.