In a world where knowledge equals power, many employees feel that holding on to their specific knowledge makes them more valuable and sought-after professionals. To combat this, organizations can foster a culture that helps people understand that sharing their knowledge makes them more relevant, not less.
In this blog post, we’ll take an overview of what’s behind the knowledge management concept, how organizations can benefit from it, and what are best practices to adopt knowledge management.
What is knowledge management?
In a nutshell, it’s a collection of assets, activities, and tools that, combined, allow to manage and share knowledge within an organization.
Knowledge management is typically seen as a process that entails three stages: capturing, sharing, and effectively using knowledge.
Capturing encapsulates generation if knowledge and the way it’s packaged and stored. It’s the most basic and foundational stage of the knowledge management process.
Sharing reflects how knowledge is circulated throughout the organization. Adjusted knowledge sharing processes helps companies make tacit knowledge accessible to everyone, repurpose accumulated knowledge and expertise, prevent organizations and teams from repeating mistakes and invest extra efforts in finding workable solutions. You can learn more ways to organize knowledge sharing in this recent blog.
Effectively using knowledge is the last and apparently the most critical stage of the knowledge management process, as the core benefit of knowledge management lies in applying the knowledge to make better business decisions.
Why knowledge management is so important
Knowledge is the heartbeat of every decision made within your organization. Product development, service improvement, customer engagement, and the entire company operation couldn’t function without the knowledge your team holds.
As the logical next step, you need to ensure that the knowledge available at your organization is distributed through it. Here’s where the knowledge management process comes in.
To organize this process in an accessible and effective way, you’ll need a knowledge management system, which, in turn, allows you to:
- Keep the knowledge documented, structured, and easy to find
- Standardize processes across the organization
- Make training materials accessible and well organized
- Save your employees’ time they would spend searching information and managers’ time explaining the same things over and over again
- Mitigate ‘bus factor’ risks when employees dealing with particular knowledge areas are having vacation or sick leave
The importance of knowledge management doesn’t stop there. Let’s drill down on tangible business benefits of knowledge management.
Knowledge management benefits
We’ve already mentioned how crucial knowledge management is for effective business decisions. Here are a few more areas of your organization you can improve.
Build a single source of truth
By taking care of knowledge management, you create a centralized location for information, which remains available and continuously updated as employees come and go. Thus you eliminate an information gap your employees may not be able to bridge alone and you get covered against the loss of information.
Lead successful innovation
When you prioritize knowledge management, this significantly increases the chances of achieving successful innovations. An integral part of knowledge management that fosters innovation is getting knowledge from external sources – the market, competitors, the industry leaders.
With the market insights at your fingertips, you can stay ahead of the change, spot on and embrace the trends early on, make wise talent decisions, and improve your organization’s business performance.
Encourage team collaboration
Employees at your organization might be very job-specific or wear many hats. In either case, a knowledge management system and the process will help your employees – and the company overall – get better transparency on what knowledge is available and reach better team productivity.
Well-organized knowledge management will also contribute to staying aligned on company values, outcome-based expectations, and collaboration tactics.
Streamline onboarding of new hires
With knowledge management done right, you accelerate the onboarding of new hires and make it more effective and smooth. Specifically, your new employees get access to organizational processes and policies, the most important aspects on products, services, and customer segments, and basically, all the information and knowledge new employees might need for an effective and productive start.
To make onboarding smooth and fast, you need a reliable knowledge management system and up-to-date collective knowledge accumulated from all employees and company founders.
Improve employees’ well-being
Knowledge management also helps with psychological safety for all.
With a single source of truth documented and shared across, it’s easier to keep expectations, team values, rules, and other documentation accessible and accepted by team members. This is essential, especially in today’s digital age when we all are drowning in information.
By making knowledge management a priority and curating it at your organization, you help your employees focus on what’s important, eliminate the excess informational load, reduce stress, and improve their well-being and the business’s health in return.
Best practices of knowledge management done right
Once you’re ready to start the knowledge management process at your organization, you might need to explore best practices. Here are at least three practices to start with:
1. Make sharing knowledge smooth and easy
One of the essential aspects of building knowledge management into your organization’s DNA is to make the knowledge – accessible. Explore tools and systems that enable knowledge sharing, think of the best ways to organize and structure the knowledge base, and most important – consider your employee experience.
Basically, when organizing knowledge sharing, make it employee-centric, ask them what might hold them back from sharing knowledge with their colleagues, and alternatively, what good examples they came across. If you’re choosing between concrete software for knowledge management and sharing, invite a few employees in your ‘test group’, and literally let them have their hands on this software.
Of course, it’s you who decides which solution to pick. Yet, employees’ feedback is essential in this aspect: you may get valuable insights on which features and opportunities would be crucial to add to your knowledge-sharing toolkit. Learn more about knowledge sharing tools in our recent blog post.
2. Establish a clear process
Design the process of how the whole knowledge management process is going to work at your organization. How are you going to organize and curate knowledge creation, distribution, and practical usage? What other participants – your HR peers, C-level executives, branch managers, employees – do you see as your partners in this initiative?
Knowledge management is a two-way street: it might be initiated by the company leadership, top-down, but its success depends on if the employees use it and if it addresses their needs in terms of getting knowledge.
So, what you need here is to work closely with C-suite so that they would act as an example for the whole organization. You also need to collaborate with department managers and encourage them to foster the culture of knowledge sharing in their teams.
Involve other HR leaders at your organization to connect the dots in terms of different HR areas. For instance, accessible knowledge sharing can contribute to increasing employee retention and loyalty rates, become a building block of L&D programs, and shape a foundation for further succession planning.
3. Use technology to boost it
It’s 2021, and you can hardly set up effective knowledge management without technology. Technology allows your employees to easily search and access the information and share the knowledge they get in various formats. Besides, technology will enable employees to communicate better.
In today’s landscape of technologies that enable knowledge management, you can find numerous options, from wiki-like systems solely allowing you to create and distribute information – to comprehensive platforms that let you build entire development paths for your employees. What to choose here depends much on your goals and needs.
Knowledge will continue to be a key competitive differentiator when it comes to driving organizational performance. We hope this blog post helped you get a picture of ‘whats‘ and ‘whys’ of knowledge management, its role, and best practices to bring it to your organization. If you’d like to learn more about technologies that enable knowledge management and help HR leaders like you build a life-learning culture in their organizations, contact us, and let’s start the dialogue!