Cast your mind back to the 1950s, when most of the current baby boomers in our workforce were born. People used to expect to keep a job for life. During the course of work, most essential information could be recorded on paper and filed away.
The success of a company often hinged more on its ability to produce and sell physical products, and relied on highly refined procedures and processes. They wanted to maximise the efficiency of manufacturing techniques.
Now, we live in an information age. Many organizations are now chiefly concerned with the productivity of the knowledge worker – a person whose primary role is to absorb and process knowledge. This is where Knowledge Management comes in.
Unfortunately, irretrievable loss of knowledge is still a big problem. On the one hand, the retiring baby boomer generation is removing a large amount of specialist knowledge from the workforce. Average length of employment is also shrinking to 3.2 years years for employees aged 25–34, and many of these people are taking your knowledge to competitors.
The key to preventing to knowledge loss lies in implementing an internal Knowledge Management solution as part of your Knowledge Management program. Some companies have already been saving tens of millions of dollars a year by sharing technical knowledge more effectively.
How a Knowledge Management Solution can help
Every business knows its employees are its most important asset. Part of the reason for this is that your employees possess vital expertise. This could be how to assemble a particular type of microprocessor, for example, or how to design mobile applications.
Unfortunately, this knowledge is normally stored only inside their heads, and is lost when your employee moves on from your company. “Often, we are too slow to recognize how much and in what ways we can assist each other through sharing expertise and knowledge,” says Barbadian politician Owen Arthur.
That’s why there are many internal use cases for having all your knowledge pooled in a single, accessible location. Then, instead of taking vital expertise with them when they leave, baby boomers and other employees can record what they know in your chosen Knowledge Management solution.
Here are some of the most important ways that a KM solution can help your business.
Upskilling and employee engagement
Employees spend one fifth of the working week searching for information. They also say that access to the proper technologies is one of the keys to workplace satisfaction.
KM solutions help you upskill your current employees and improve employee satisfaction. When you record and share important knowledge, employees feel that you are investing in their productivity. They also have the tools they need to do their jobs.
Onboarding and training
Implementing a successful Knowledge Management solution can improve onboarding for new hires. It reduces the need for a person to take time off the job to train everyone.
New employees can browse the relevant information at their leisure, and also refer back to the handbook if they forget anything.
Capturing your unique expertise plays a role in positioning your business as an expert in your industry. You have quick access to the ideas and processes that makes your culture special, and you’re preserving them for the future.
Benefits of a Knowledge Management solution
“Knowledge is like money: to be of value it must circulate, and in circulating it can increase in quantity and, hopefully, in value,” says Louis L’Amour, author of Education of a Wandering Man. Knowledge is no good if you keep it to yourself, and Knowledge Management has many benefits.
Here are just some of the ways that Knowledge Management solutions can offer value to your business.
Make it easier to find information
Knowledge Management solutions increase your bottom line by reducing the amount of time your employees spend searching for information. Employees have the ability to search within a single knowledge base for all relevant information using a powerful search function. Sharing knowledge improves productivity by 35%, according to Mckinsey.
Stop efforts being duplicated
These solutions also prevent efforts being duplicated by many different staff members. For example, staff at Intel realised they could improve productivity through internally communicating how they made their technologies to different teams.
This meant that new teams didn’t continually keep running into the same problems, and they could learn from the experience of others.
Identify knowledge gaps
You can iterate on the knowledge you already have and improve it. You can make Knowledge Management more effective since it’s easier to find and update information as necessary. A Knowledge Management solution helps you recognise knowledge gaps, providing a roadmap for future efforts in a virtuous circle.
Prevent costly mistakes
Knowledge Management solutions play an extremely important role in helping organizations manage risk. For example, you can reduce admin costs and the likelihood of mistakes resulting from a failure to share knowledge. The BP oil rig disaster could have been prevented by effectively recording the knowledge held by a key employee who was not replaced upon leaving the company.
Knowledge base software as a potential solution
Now you’re sold on the benefits of a Knowledge Management Solution, consider knowledge base software like Document360.
You may be used to grappling with confusing and costly traditional Help Authoring Tools. In contrast, knowledge base software provides a simple and cost-effective way to manage your knowledge. Sign up for your account, log in to the browser interface, and start using the intuitive back-end publishing system right away.
One thing to note is that knowledge base software is different from wiki software since it is centrally managed. Your employees can collaborate to share different types of knowledge, but dedicated knowledge champions record that knowledge for posterity.
Increase the chance of users adopting your solution by investing in these user-focused technologies. User Experience is crucially important for any software, and ease of access makes your employees more willing to find and use information. In your knowledge base, knowledge is properly categorised using an easily updated hierarchical system.
Overcoming potential obstacles
Choosing the right Knowledge Management solution can be difficult. Sometimes it’s not clear how to distinguish between the different types of solutions out there, and many of them provide similar functionality.
First, decide on what knowledge you intend to capture, and the processes you’re going to use. You want the fundamentals and essentials, rather than trivial procedures that won’t matter next year. Then, choose the software that fits your needs.
“In fact, know-why is often more important than know-how as it allows you to be creative—to fall back on principles—to re-invent your know-how,” says Knowledge Management expert David Gurteen.
Even though every employee can benefit from knowledge sharing, individuals can often have a reluctance to share knowledge. They fear that sharing their expertise makes them expendable, or they don’t think they have the time to invest in Knowledge Management efforts.
The key is to make sharing knowledge a core part of your organisational values, and encourage the right attitude from the top-down. Foster knowledge sharing communities and reward your employees for taking part. Reassure reluctant employees that they will be judged by their willingness to be a team player, rather than needing to distinguish themselves through their unique expertise.
People before tools and processes
Every organisation possesses its own unique expertise, but you can unlock its full potential using the right Knowledge Management solution. It’s about making the most of your people and their relationships, and supplying them with the tools they need to do their jobs properly. This is the way we can mitigate the effects of baby boomers retiring, and other employees moving on to new pastures.
“Knowledge is embodied in people gathered in communities and networks. The road to knowledge is via people, conversations, connections and relationships. Knowledge surfaces through dialog, all knowledge is socially mediated and access to knowledge is by connecting to people that know or know who to contact,” says Knowledge Management consultant Denham Grey.
We need to facilitate these conversations to happen, and then record the results in a Knowledge Management solution such as Document360.