Knowledge Management is a systematic process that involves handling, overseeing, and understanding all kinds of knowledge databases within an organization, including the intangible skills that their employees possess.
What is Knowledge Management?
The process of knowledge management is a multi-disciplinary approach that makes use of many departments in an organization. The primary objective is to understand, modify, improve, and maintain an organization’s efficiency in terms of knowledge. Retaining, growing, and bringing in new talent and new knowledge is also a part of knowledge management.
It also includes managing, understanding, scheduling, and executing training programs for the organization’s employees.
Importance of Knowledge Management
Knowledge is an essential aspect of an organization. The organization runs on the knowledge of the employees. The more knowledgeable they are, the better it is in terms of business.
Every organization has understood the importance of knowledge management and is implementing it accordingly. Knowledge management is one of the best ways to stay ahead in the market and have the edge over competitors. Building a hard-working workforce is essential, but having a knowledgeable and hard-working workforce is an asset.
Since knowledge management primarily focuses on the organization’s vision and mission, the employees are trained in sync with the organizational objectives. Most of the companies have seen a high increase in productivity with knowledge management.
It is vital for organizations that are on a growth phase and need access to a reliable database of knowledge.
If knowledge management is not present in your organization, then your employees will have to re-learn various information and processes. This will be not only inefficient but also expensive.
Areas of Knowledge Management
There are primarily two areas of knowledge management, which are crucial for an organization.
These two areas are:
1. Explicit knowledge
The skills that are understood and transferred from one to the other are called explicit knowledge. It is also known as codified or formal knowledge. It can also be written down in the manual or as instructions and passed on from one person to the other.
2. Tacit knowledge
Tacit knowledge is precisely the opposite of explicit knowledge. It is challenging to articulate and transfer it to others. Things such as aesthetic senses, body language, innovative thinking, which are difficult to teach someone, are part of Tacit knowledge.
Both types are further categorized into four different categories.
- Factual knowledge is verifiable, observable, and measurable.
- Conceptual knowledge, which is in regards to systems and perspectives
- Methodological knowledge which deals with problem-solving and decision-making skills
- And Exceptional knowledge which is related to judgments, hypothesis, and expectations.
Knowledge management helps lifelong learning in an organization in which companies are experts and invested. With the help of knowledge management, companies gather knowledge of the production processes involved in preparing a product or a service.
The objective of organizations to accumulate knowledge is not only to maintain it in the company but also to disperse it to their employees, existing, and new ones.
Strategies of Knowledge Management
There are three stages of accessing knowledge. They are before, during, or after knowledge management and its related activities. Knowledge management has become a part of performance improvement or performance measurement plans in organizations.
One such strategy of knowledge management involves Active management of knowledge. Individuals share their knowledge in the database in coded form, and decoding is required while retrieving the knowledge. This process is called codification.
Another strategy of knowledge management is requesting expert associates on a requirement basis. This is also known as a pull strategy.
The following are a few of the other strategies of knowledge management that are incorporated by different organizations.
1. Knowledge sharing
This concept encourages sharing the available information based on the fact that knowledge is not exclusive and should be updated and shared. It is one of the critical roles in the job description of the employee.
Different types of knowledge sharings are expected, like inter-project knowledge transfer, inter- and intra-organizational knowledge sharing.
2. Knowledge retention
Whenever an employee leaves the organization, there is a loss of knowledge along with the employee. This creates a challenge for other people in the organization because the knowledge of the person who has left will be unique, and not everybody will know about it.
Companies, in this case, try to retain the knowledge instead of losing it. This also involves mapping knowledge competences and predicting current as well as future gaps in the knowledge. Knowledge transfer is conducted in the organization before the departure of the employee.
This involves sharing the relevant documents, mentoring, shadowing, and implementing every appropriate step by which the employee’s existing knowledge is transferred to his replacement employee in the organization before he quits.
Storytelling is one of the best ways of transferring tacit knowledge. As we already discussed, tacit knowledge is not something that can be easily transferred. Still, with the help of storytelling, different analogies are used to transfer the knowledge from one person to the other.
Storytelling makes knowledge transfer more natural, more understandable, and less technical and complicated.
This is a knowledge management strategy that is used in almost every organization. In mentoring, a senior employee is allocated as a mentor to the new employee.
An attempt is made that the mentor is the one who has already worked in a similar role as that of the new employee. The mentor’s primary job is to train the new candidate in the practicalities of his new job and pass on his experience, knowledge, and database to the new employee.
The process of mentoring is very successful in knowledge management because the seasoned employee or the mentor who knows everything about the organization will selectively pass on the knowledge to his new colleague.
The new employee can ask any practical difficulties which he will face in his work. Even individual queries can be handled, which may not be possible in a group training session.
5. Document Management systems
These are the document systems like cloud drives, which help organizations store data about their company. New employees get access and permission to view and update their knowledge regarding the company. However, there is selective access for selective employees.
Other strategies of knowledge management are after-action reviews, communities of practice, knowledge mapping, best practice transfer, expert directions, expert systems, collaborative software, knowledge brokers, etc.
Many organizations have even developed different strategies of their own to manage their knowledge.
Working of knowledge management
All the employees in the organization should be educated with the best possible decisions of the business. Continuous learning and improvement is one way to do that.
Implementation of knowledge management will help and make it possible for continuous improvement. This way, the employees can not only practice the existing skills, but future employees will also be able to grasp the same knowledge and catch up with current employees.
Following are three common ways by which knowledge management can be approached:
This learning is based entirely on people, relations, and now people from different learning communities share knowledge.
2. Technology centric
This primarily facilitates knowledge transfer with the help of technology, and it achieves a system that encourages the sharing of knowledge in the organization and amongst different employees.
3. Process centric
It is interested in how the process of organization accommodates knowledge sharing. He tries to understand the process of knowledge sharing in the existing organizational structure.
Type of information to be captured in knowledge management
Different types of information are captured as a part of the knowledge management process. This includes but is not limited to:
Frequently asked questions of product, product templates, brochures, company handbooks, press release notes.
3. Organizational data
4. Organizational news
Information regarding future strategies, important dates, important updates, and promotions.
Advantages of knowledge management
Knowledge management is an essential process that every organization has to include. Apart from benefiting the organization, it saves future costs and can be a useful resource for new employees.
Following are a few of the advantages of knowledge management:
1. Pass the baton
Consider that an employee has joined the organization in its initial phase and has learned many things. After a few years, the employee decides to quit the organization, and for the next six months, the organization does not find a suitable candidate.
After six months, the new candidate who joins will have two options: either start from where his predecessor started or start from where his predecessor stopped. The latter way will only be possible if the organization has a knowledge management system.
This saves time for the organization and the employee, and it also speeds up the business. This way, the company can focus on other important matters.
2. Easier access to information
Knowledge management is a systematic arrangement of available knowledge in the database of the organization. Since the arrangement is orderly, it is effortless to access required pieces of knowledge or information instantly.
Any new person who is not aware of the database can access it easily.
3. Avoid mistakes
With the help of knowledge management, mistakes can be avoided. All the information related to the past is stored in the database. History should not repeat itself at least when it comes to pass mistakes.
Alternatively, good things and best practices which are stored can be repeated with the help of knowledge management.
Newbies can access the old database and understand how they did things. Past lessons can be learned without living through the lesson and wasting time on it.
Different employees have different experiences. While making important decisions, one can access the earlier database in the knowledge system to check past decisions and their repercussions.
One can review the information present in multiple pieces of data, which will help him make an informed decision. Sometimes similar decisions work across generations.
A CEO who presided over in the 1920s will not be available in 2020, and this is why the knowledge database collected in the 1920s will be useful in 2020.
5. Better service
When you have an adequate knowledge management system in your organization, it helps the employees and customer support team solve customers’ problems efficiently and quickly.
You can even form a frequently asked questions database to help your customer service team answer the queries faster. This way, the customer service team, and other employees will be able to stay satisfied and happy along with your customers themselves.
When a process is documented, or a piece of information is stored in your database, it will help you to standardize things more efficiently. Everyone will follow a single way of understanding, and following the procedures will be easy.
Challenges of Knowledge Management
Now that we have seen the benefits let us understand the challenges of knowledge management.
While maintaining knowledge management, a database is essential, and securing it is an entirely different and challenging task. External threats are always prying on the organization’s knowledge management database, and the organization must secure its database.
If it is in the wrong hands, sensitive and private information and knowledge can destroy the entire company.
2. Collaboration and flexibility
With the help of knowledge management, it isn’t easy to implement new policies because people develop a comfort zone around the existing policies. The fact that everyone is learning from the old database gets mixed in every level of organization.
Employees find it very difficult to implement new policies and procedures. Learning new skills that are not there in the old database can be difficult for the employees.
3. Knowledge measurement
Tacit knowledge is something that cannot be quantified or passed on easily, like explicit knowledge.
Measuring tacit knowledge in your employees will be difficult. Because tacit knowledge cannot be quantified easily, its measurement will be challenging. And an employee has to have both tacit as well as explicit knowledge.
4. Knowledge storage
The process is usually established in your organization, where different team members can access the knowledge database. While this is very convenient to pass on your knowledge to other employees, it will not be easy theoretically to store so much knowledge.
Also, it will equally be difficult to access and go through the massive database.
5. Knowledge manager
Managing the entire database of knowledge requires a specific person who will be an expert in keeping every type of knowledge. The person himself has to have certain knowledge in the processes and a basic level of knowledge management along with the methods of the organization.
Getting such a person is difficult and expensive, and resting the entire data with one person is wasting too much power.
6. Management of documents and storage
Documentation is complicated when it comes to storage and management. Every day, an organization generates thousands of documents from a single transaction, and it is essential to store all of them in one single place.
Thousands of GB of storage is required to store and maintain such a vast database.
7. Continuous improvement and upgrading
Having a knowledge management database is one thing, and maintaining that database is a different thing. Security, which secures the database should be updated every six months to one year. Periodic reviews of the relevant database, discarding the unnecessary one, and keeping the necessary one is a humongous task, especially if the data is too large.
Continuously updating and improving the database is a big challenge for large organizations. For smaller organizations, it could still be manageable, but eventually, it gets tedious.
Knowledge management is an essential process in every organization. While the process of itself varies in every organization, the basic elements remain the same.
Passing, maintaining, and updating the knowledge remains the primary objective of knowledge management.