With increased opportunity for mobility comes the higher risk of losing knowledge. Knowledge which is detrimental to the success of an organization, mitigating the risk of losing it is vital.
Knowledge is broadly categorized as explicit and tacit. Explicit knowledge is something which can be recorded, for e.g. the process of multiplying numbers and multiplication tables. A person learns from explicit knowledge and assimilates it through reflective cognition. Then by repeatedly applying the knowledge they gain the expertise and it becomes part of their reflective cognition and in turn tacit.
Using the simple example of multiplication and multiplication tables, considerable amount of effort is put in to learn the concepts of multiplication from books along with multiplication tables. As we repeatedly use the concepts and tables it becomes part of our reflective cognition and the proof would be to check yourself how long it takes to express 12 * 2 i.e it becomes an reflexive action. Researchers report that it takes anywhere between 5000 to 10000 hours to gain such expertise.
Similarly gaining the expertise in an organization’s unique way of functioning, products, business process etc takes time. Even if we take an average of 20% of the time reported by researchers to gain expertise in an area, it takes around 1000 to 2000 hours. So if employees who have gained the knowledge leave the organization, the effort and cost involved to fill the knowledge gap is substantial let alone the risk of instability. Worse than leaving an organization, employees not being able to move within the organization primarily due to the knowledge they have acquired is not healthy for employee career growth and in turn to the organization. To overcome these issues it is important that organizations identify knowledge management as strategically important for its efficiency and growth.
With internet, electronic knowledge base, e-books and other electronic media like videos, audios, podcasts combined with search technology almost all the standard knowledge required for any industry is readily available for any one to learn. From an organizational perspective the key is to be able to manage the knowledge specific to each organization which can’t be done by any other way other than organizations taking conscious decisions to do the same.
This will involve management recognition and commitment for knowledge management primarily due to the fact that it will incur some cost. Also with out that recognition and commitment, knowledge management will be deemed as an over head.
Organizational processes should enable knowledge management integrate seamlessly
- Automating information capture like customer information, patterns, workflow productivity can help derive knowledge to make improvements
- Weaving in steps in organizational workflow to record relevant information will generate explicit knowledge for reference and learning
- Including incentives and making knowledge management as one of the performance criteria at all levels of an organization will help organizational growth and remove bottle- necks
- Having programs like job rotation, creating opportunities for employee collaboration like peer programming or reviewing work or shadowing peer work etc will increase tacit knowledge
To integrate knowledge management into organizational processes seamlessly with reduced over head, deploying proper tools will help. At minimum these tools should
- Have an efficient search facility so that relevant information can be retrieved with ease
- Should have features which enables collaboration
- Should help with maintaining continuity. This is important since most of the changes to existing processes, systems etc in an organization is undertaken as projects and with out being able to maintain continuity it is certain that knowledge will get lost
- Based on the information being captured tools deployed should support analytics and visualization so that knowledge can be derived easily