Regardless of the purpose for exiting an organisation – retirement, resignation for better jobs or abrupt termination – the possibility of employees leaving their organisations with a valuable amount of knowledge and information they have garnered over the years of experience in their jobs cannot be underestimated. While it is understandable that “employee exit” is a daily or weekly occurrence across many organisations, a critical concern is how the existing employees’ knowledge, skills and information are being transferred to the current employees and even accessible to future ones.
From our analysis of the multi-generation employees in today’s workplace referenced in a recent article, the baby boomers (ages 55 – 64) are the least populated and the most experienced in years of professional experience and skill (amongst the other active generations) – are already exiting the workforce. This means the possibility of a huge loss of knowledge if they leave without the right processes to transfer the relevant knowledge and skills they have acquired over the years.
Knowledge Management is the process of sharing, retaining and making accessible to employees across an organisation the relevant knowledge, skills, data, information and processes peculiar to an organisation’s ease of business operations. The concerns and focus on knowledge management programs in organisations may accelerate for notable reasons like the newly adopted hybrid/remote working and the great resignation of talents across organisations.
Why Organisations Should Have a Knowledge Management System
There are several reasons why a Knowledge Management System should be established in organisations. Some of the following reasons are listed below;
- Knowledge transfer is made easier from employees and other knowledge sources to the current employees and interested customers or visitors because of the availability of a central information system that allows users access to relevant information peculiar to the business.
- It increases employees’ engagement, productivity, and the overall operational efficiency of the business by reducing the cost of time and duplication of efforts in searching for information that has been readily made available on a central-based information system.
- It improves customers’ experience and satisfaction level because of their ability to access the business information that directly meets their needs.
- It encourages the generation of new knowledge and team collaboration by standardising the knowledge gathering and dissemination process.
- It helps clarify employees’ job expectations because of the availability of support templates, processes and other knowledge resources that are clearly stored and easily accessible. This reduces the risk of employee redundancy and turnover.
- A reservoir of an organisation’s credible knowledge products limits the possibility of intellectual property loss.
- It streamlines all organisational information, data, templates and processes, thereby fostering operational efficiency.
- It fosters a knowledge-centric culture where employees are discouraged from hoarding institutional knowledge, skills, tools or data.
Success Factors to Building a Knowledge Management System
Since the global disruption of the pandemic to date, the concerns of business leaders have shifted from business continuity and restoration to talent and knowledge retention within their organisations. A common problem faced by organisations that have embraced hybrid/remote work is the difficulty in retaining and connecting employees to the relevant information and tools they require to support their productivity and successful engagement in their jobs. The first step in resolving this is by defining a S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) knowledge management initiative. This will be the foundation for building the processes and the enabling platform for streamlining the flow and accessibility of information. Below are the key steps organisations will require to build a solid Knowledge Management System.
- Create a Team: The team will be responsible for executing all activities geared towards establishing the knowledge management system. The creation of the initiatives, appointment of subject matter experts and other knowledge contributors would be appointed by the team. Amongst other relative activities, the team will ensure the credibility of all knowledge products stored and published for efficient use.
- Knowledge Management Goals and initiatives: To improve the existing knowledge management or resolve the rising issues pertaining to team collaboration, broken workflows or knowledge gaps; it is important to assess and analyse how efficiently the organisation is using its current knowledge before defining the initiatives and purpose for modifying the knowledge management system. The goal of these initiatives may include the need to make knowledge management a more effective practice in the organisation, connect the knowledge seekers to the providers, establish or enhance the knowledge-centric culture of the organisation or improve its effectiveness on the overall business efficiency. Setting clear goals and initiatives sets the blueprints for building and implementing the knowledge management system.
- Acknowledge the Essential Knowledge Sources: Skills, information and data relevant to the goals, effective building and sustainability of the business operations should be identified, selected, classified, categorised and made formally accessible for employees’ use. Some of this information can be sought and exploited from sources like; subject matter expertise, individual/departmental experiential knowledge, highly experienced employees, customer feedback, project reports, company policies and processes, knowledge sharing sessions, skills training workshops and coaching exercises. Business operations and outcomes will be more effective if the amount of knowledge and data gathered from these sources are protected from possible loss and utilised for business efficiency.
- Quality Assurance of Knowledge Products: While identifying and capturing knowledge contents to be retained, processes should be put in place to ensure the quality assurance, accuracy and relevance of the knowledge products that make up the organisation’s intellectual property. There should be a standard workflow for reviewing and sharing only the valuable knowledge peculiar to the organisation, such as; document templates, strategy documents, policies and processes, thought leaders’ articles and surveys, research papers, presentations, and clients’/customers’ data.
- Design or Update Knowledge Management Processes and Procedures: Critical to establishing a knowledge-centric culture is the existence of a seamless process and procedures that enable the flow of information preservation and accessibility. These processes and procedures may be peculiar to the organisation’s needs; however, they must be supported with the right tools and techniques. The activities relative to the procedures should be spread across this process, Knowledge acquisition, creation, storage, and utilisation.
- Provision of a Knowledge-Based Platform: The knowledge-based platform is an Information Technology (I.T.) or Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) software or tool that streamlines all processes and information inputted for efficient use. The purpose of this is for the ease and accessibility of relevant organisational knowledge storage by both the internal (employees) and external (customers/visitors) users. The features of this platform must enable the centralisation and security of data and information as well as information sharing and collaboration among teams. It is essential that this tool has strong functionality, easy to navigate and is cloud-based to prevent any loss.
- Leadership Buy-In: A challenge in deploying a knowledge management system is the hesitation of the employees to adopt it; therefore, creating a strategy to encourage the adoption of the knowledge management system becomes critical. By gaining the buy-in of the Management/Executive team in the S.M.A.R.T goals, initiatives and value proposition of the knowledge management system, the deployment becomes a responsibility of the leadership team. Establishing a culture that discourages the hoarding of essential business knowledge should be cascaded from top to bottom. It might be worth it to appoint some leadership team members to champion fostering the knowledge-centric culture for the organisation.
Today, organisations are defined by the wealth of their human and knowledge capital; hence, the crucial need to invest in establishing and practising an effective knowledge management system. However, it is more important for organisations to assess and deeply understand their current knowledge needs. This will aid the development of a clear, documented knowledge initiative relevant to the business.
Drawing from our experiences in partnering with our clients (in the private and public sectors) to improve the efficiency of their human capacity, at pcl. – we will support your organisation with the right knowledge management programs, design and implementation that will position it to meet its current and future knowledge needs.