Whatever the industry, knowledge is one of a company or organisation’s biggest assets. Successful knowledge management will fuel and drive the business, allowing greater efficiencies and more time for innovation. However, often projects and initiatives are finished, but what was learned and created is not adequately captured for reuse. Every year, Fortune 500 companies lose at least $31.5 billion a year because of failure to share knowledge. In addition, the average worker spends 20% of their time looking for internal information or seeking out other staff members with the knowledge they need.
Many knowledge management systems aren’t intuitive or easy to use. To be fully adopted and welcomed into the employee experience they need user-centred design and a good user experience. In addition, the culture of the business or organisation and the wider context of the employee must also be considered. And if sharing knowledge is not already an integral part of work culture, well-thought-out cultural and behavioural change is essential. Here are seven things to consider.
1. Understand your users
Successful knowledge management is built on careful research into the wants, needs and challenges of all the different types of users. To be worth the investment, a new platform or technology has got to be the right solution for the unique needs of the business and its staff. Otherwise people will see it as a hindrance and it’s doomed to become an expensive failure.
2. Make it easy to store, find, share and manage
Whether it’s documents, pdfs, images, video, audio, graphics, emails, meeting notes or website links people need to feel empowered. They need to be able to just click and send. And they’ve got to be able to find what they need without having to wade through irrelevant information. A search that isn’t up to standard will result in users giving up looking for information because they think there’s nothing there for them. It will also make people less likely to contribute themselves, as they will believe that others won’t use it and won’t be able to find the information they’ve uploaded anyway. Content that proves to be the most useful to users should be surfaced first. The ability to feed back (‘Did you find what you’re looking for?’ ‘How useful did you find this article?’) should be baked in. And over time it should be possible to build a community.
3. Make knowledge management part of the process, or have dedicated staff
By understanding employee workflow and context, it may be possible to create prompts for knowledge capture at key moments throughout the project. Another solution may be to have dedicated staff who can take the knowledge from practitioners and do the sanitising and curating for them. What knowledge management shouldn’t be is something that is seen as extra work, piled on top of people who don’t have time to do it.
4. Use automated systems where appropriate
With the advent of new technology, automated systems can take on the burden, with sophisticated new AI and Machine Learning software able to generate metadata to tag and classify content. It’s also worth considering for dealing with legacy data, given that manually curating it is a nigh-on impossible task for any longstanding business or organisation.
5. Provide good quality training on new systems and platforms
Knowledge management training should be part of onboarding for all new staff members. Any new technology needs to be properly bedded in to the company in the first few weeks and months. It may be useful to have star users whose responsibilities include assisting their colleagues. Some large knowledge management systems also feature a helpdesk so assistance is always available.
6. Demonstrate the benefits
Knowledge management is often seen as a chore in terms of the employee experience. So, it’s crucial that all staff have a concrete understanding of how they will benefit from better knowledge sharing in their day-to-day work. These include saving time, avoiding duplication of effort, faster, better decision-making and speeding up progress by freeing up time in order to focus on innovation and growth. So, take them on the journey. Show them how easy it is to use and communicate successes where knowledge has been re-used and made life easier.
7. Relate sharing knowledge to performance
Sharing knowledge means the whole company will benefit but ambitious people will want to know what’s in it for them. Employees need to be convinced that they will gain more personal career advantages from sharing knowledge than from keeping it for themselves. Positive knowledge sharing should become a performance goal and a core business value. It may not be appropriate to all industries but some knowledge management systems gamify the process.
8. Lead from the top
Knowledge management should be a strategic part of the business with senior management fully engaged and themselves setting an example. It should also be demonstrably an investment priority. Only then will the entire workforce see it as critical to the business.