How to Manage Knowledge Management in Virtual Teams

By Hilee Avrahami   |   October 13, 2021
hybrid team
Virtual team management is the capacity to coordinate and manage employees who are not in the same location or time zone. It requires a deep understanding of people, processes, and technologies and recognizing that it is inherently more challenging than face-to-face interactions.

Knowledge management in virtual teams involves everything from coaching people on the shift to virtual work to bolstering a sense of community and supporting rapid innovation and business continuity. Even before the pandemic forced most businesses to restructure their work model, unique teams were emerging. Employees were working and checking in from their homes, far-flung offices, and digital workspaces, often never meeting face-to-face with fellow team members.

Enterprise knowledge management software can make meeting the demands of virtual knowledge management much easier for your organization.

Knowledge Management in Virtual Organizations

Effective teams are typified by:

  • Clarity of purpose
  • Trust
  • Open communication
  • Clear roles
  • The right mix of talent and skills

They require full participation from each team member and thrive on being encouraged to take risks, innovate, and balance work-life.

No matter where or how it’s used, a good knowledge management system facilitates collaboration and information sharing in real-time, allowing employees to advance projects, promote sales, and supply technical support to customers. Knowledge management for remote employees achieves similar goals while keeping employees feeling connected.

If there’s one specific challenge to employee knowledge management for virtual settings, it’s the sharing of tacit knowledge. That’s because tacit knowledge is often gathered through observation, experiences, and internal information. In other words, it’s acquired primarily through relationships with other people. How do you capture and make available this type of knowledge to team members who are so widely disbursed?

Factors Affecting Knowledge Sharing in Virtual Teams

The lack of proper knowledge sharing between team members can cause an organization to fail in its implementation of successful strategies. The most common factors affecting knowledge sharing in virtual teams are:

  1. Lack of trust among team members. Asking for and sharing information with team members can be risky in any circumstances. Virtual team members may worry their requests might be seen as incompetence.
  2. Time constraints and competing deadline pressures. If a virtual team member is overwhelmed with local circumstances, they may skip sharing vital information.
  3. Technology constraints on knowledge sharing. Rather than put a central source of knowledge in place, some organizations still rely on email chains or weekly meetings to share knowledge.
  4. Lack of management support for effective collaboration. Leaders must ensure all team members, in-house and remote, are on the same page regarding knowledge sharing.
  5. Failing to identify sources of knowledge. If team members don’t know each other’s strengths or special knowledge, they don’t know who to turn to when a need for information arises.
  6. Cultural restraints on knowledge sharing. A diverse workforce means people have different frames of reference and expectations for how and when knowledge should be shared. Some may be hesitant to share information until asked. If there are language barriers, some team members may find them cumbersome to overcome.

While any one of these factors on its own may not be a major obstacle in team performance, when multiple barriers to information sharing are encountered, the road to success can be a long and bumpy one.

Effective Knowledge Management in Virtual Teams

Remote work information management in virtual teams requires advanced communication technologies and human coordination. Depending on your organization’s specific needs and goals, effective techniques for virtual team knowledge management can include:

  • Encouraging virtual team members to document key experiences and learning. To ensure compliance, it’s recommended to make this a part of an employee’s job description, not designate it as a task.
  • Establishing a central knowledge portal that is easily accessible to all.
  • Using advanced tech tools to regularly exchange information about how, what, when, and by whom knowledge is being shared. These tools might include project management tools, video-conferencing, and meeting productivity tools. For instance, online survey software can be used to capture opinions on decisions and strategies.
  • Promoting a knowledge-centric culture that empowers team members, encourages open discussion, avoids red tape, and supports employee learning and application of new skills and ideas.
  • Fostering trust and integrity so team members feel more motivated to share knowledge amongst themselves.

In essence, knowledge management in virtual teams is about providing infrastructure in terms of both technology and social capital. It mitigates common problems associated with remote or hybrid work environments and guides virtual teams toward successful collaboration.

The right tools and technologies, including enterprise knowledge management, ensure knowledge is organically accessible within traditional, virtual, and hybrid workflows. They can be a virtual team’s best friend, allowing people to access, capture, and share knowledge while eliminating the feelings of isolation so many remote workers say they feel. KMS Lighthouse’s cloud-based knowledge management system is designed to help your virtual teams adapt, evolve, and improve as they enjoy the same critical tools as face-to-face teams.