Knowledge management involves systematically collecting, documenting and sharing knowledge so that it can be applied in the most effective way possible. Knowledge management creates a knowledge network, allowing those who don’t know something to know where to get that information in a timely fashion. It makes knowledge workers far more productive. Let’s review the best reasons why knowledge management is a key factor in the office.
Whether they are searching a knowledge base or referring to a database of company subject matter experts to identify who to bring in to solve a problem, employees don’t waste time researching something when others can answer it in minutes through a knowledge management system.
According to Artur from Castille Resources, knowledge management systems have the direct benefit of making scarce human resources more readily available. The war for the best talent has gone global, and talent shortages are forcing businesses to seek help from wherever they can find it.
Another benefit of formal knowledge management is that you document your business’s best practices or demonstrated solutions so that they can be repeated consistently across the organisation. You don’t waste time and resources reinventing the wheel. This is especially true in large organisations, since those in another department or work site won’t know that Mr. X has the best way to assemble that type of product or faster way to test it.
Routine reuse of documents certainly saves time, such as when people re-use presentations or process documents. They spend a fraction of the time it takes to create a completely new document updating what already exists. In the case of complex documents, the time savings is significant.
Knowledge management is designed to capture information, preserving it for future use. Taking the time to capture the expertise of key employees should be a key process for several reasons. One benefit of this approach is ensuring that essential how-to information isn’t lost if someone leaves the company, though you may recreate it through costly trial and error or by paying an outsider to teach you.
Another benefit is the time savings it provides. It is better to spend time with a subject matter expert documenting how they do critical tasks now when they’re in the office so someone else can do it when they aren’t available than have the task wait until they return from vacation or medical leave to complete it. You certainly avoid disaster because the only person who knew how to perform a certain task can’t be found. And when you have a knowledge management system in place to capture what the consultant did, you’re less likely to need to call them back later.
Many organisations already have helpful, productive people. The challenge arises when those who need help don’t know how to get it. Knowledge management gives people formal channels for seeking assistance. And equally important for the organisation, they get the information from those who truly know. Instead of asking ten people and hoping they have the right answer, they go to a designated subject matter expert or internal trainer to learn the right answer then and there.
Knowledge management systems take this one step further by systematically recording, storing and disseminating information. Someone doesn’t have to ask co-workers who the subject matter expert is or search for a potentially out-dated process document. Learning how to use the knowledge management system should be part of their standard training, and then they can find the company approved answers immediately. The only questions left are how to properly update the document for their current project or apply that solution to their particular situation.
Knowledge management improves the quality of your operations. Formal knowledge preservation and transmission reduces mistakes as well, because you’re capturing the proven, effective process and teaching that to others.
By documenting the root causes and solutions of unusual problems, your employees have the information to identify troubling trends and correct them before there is a large lot of ruined products. A direct benefit of knowledge management is the delivery of the correct information to decision makers, reducing the odds of making mistakes.
When someone uses an existing checklist or audit form to review new products and services, you’re guaranteeing that existing levels of quality are applied to the new product or service. Quality is always improved by having standardised, repeatable processes.
Knowledge management leads to the systematic exchange of information that can lead to innovation. It often leads to employees improving the product or operations, while knowledge management ensures that this information is captured so it can be replicated systematically through the organisation. You get systematic improvement across all areas, and this can arise from the application of best practices in new areas. Conversely, you’ll see greater efficiency simply from employees working in a culture of knowledge sharing and cooperation.
Preventing the duplication of work and wasted effort certainly improves morale. Since knowledge management creates a culture of cooperation and trust, everyone benefits even when they don’t need information right now.
Knowledge management should include formal knowledge transfer to new hires and those who change roles within the organisation. Having a plan to bring people up to speed and training them how to find information and seek assistance when they need it makes them feel like the company cares and they’re part of the team. Standardised training checklists for new hires to ensure that they learn everything they need to know in a timely manner speeds up their learning curve and allows them to become fully productive team members sooner. This has the side benefit of preventing new team members from feeling like a drag to their co-workers, something that can alienate them and lead them to leave.
Adopting formal knowledge management systems requires an investment of time and resources up front. However, the business case for doing so is clear due to the sheer number of benefits reaped by businesses that bring knowledge management to the office.
Elena is part of the team at Castilleresources, a recruitment team based in Malta, Mauritius and Poland. She has a lot of experience of working in office environments and enjoys sharing her experience with others.