When an employee has a question, do you make that answer easy to find, or are they left scratching their heads? Is knowledge properly managed in your organization or do you rely on employees sharing tacit knowledge with each other or potentially reproducing redundant work?
Most organizations these days are filled with knowledge workers. That is to say, they are reliant on the availability and accuracy of knowledge to perform their job roles. And when employees are removed from tangible products, it is the quality of the collective hive mind that determines the success or failure of the organization.
Fortune 500 companies lose at least $31.5 billion a year by failing to share knowledge.
That means you require a Knowledge Management system to help you organize and share this knowledge throughout your company. Without a centralized knowledge repository, employees will be reduced to searching different sources for vital answers, wasting time and resources.
What is Knowledge Management?
Knowledge Management is the storage, organization, management, and sharing of knowledge within any organization. Knowledge Management relies on people, processes, and technology to succeed and is often the factor governing whether a business thrives or fails.
Knowledge Management systems are used to give employees access to important information through search or discovery. These systems are launched and maintained by centralized teams who are responsible for the quality of this knowledge.
Knowledge Management may start with storing knowledge in a set of Google Drive folders but must soon grow to utilize a professional Knowledge Management system. A KMS offers all the features employees need to quickly search and retrieve knowledge without turning to colleagues.
Importance of Knowledge Management in your Organization
Knowledge workers are reliant on up-to-date and accurate knowledge to perform their jobs properly. The trouble is, knowledge is an asset that is continuously shifting so it becomes hard for companies to identify what they do and don’t know.
As knowledge expert Peter Drucker once said, “Knowledge is different from all other resources. It makes itself constantly obsolete so that today’s advanced knowledge is tomorrow’s ignorance. And the knowledge that matters is subject to rapid and abrupt shifts.”
Knowledge Management is the process of perpetually managing this knowledge to make it a useful resource for your employees. A Knowledge Management system can regularly adapt to changes and offer employees knowledge in a format that best suits them.
With the right Knowledge Management resource, employees will be more productive and collaborate more effectively with other members of your team. They will save time searching for information and also be empowered to share their own knowledge, helping with professional development.
The main benefits of Knowledge Management are:
- Wasting fewer resources and less time as employees are empowered to achieve their goals
- Losing less vital knowledge as key employees leave the organization and take it with them
- Employees make better decisions as they have access to the knowledge needed to do their jobs
- Businesses operate at a significant competitive advantage over rivals who lag behind in knowledge transfer and preservation
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7 Key Challenges in Implementing Knowledge Management
Despite the benefits, organizations confront barriers in implementing knowledge management in their organization. Knowledge management presents a number of challenges. We’ll look at some of the most frequent in this section.
It’s likely that your employees have their own systems and methods for finding knowledge within your organization. Unfortunately, these solutions can be wildly outdated and inappropriate for a modern Knowledge Management system. You may be using clunky search features or struggling with knowledge distributed over many repositories.
When employees are wrestling with legacy systems, this makes successful knowledge-sharing near-enough impossible. The technology just isn’t suited to an agile, modern organization that needs to access knowledge at lightning speed in order to remain competitive.
Sometimes an organization suffers from a lack of employee contribution to their knowledge-sharing efforts. If employees don’t take the time to document their knowledge then any Knowledge Management initiative will fail. When employees are engaged in other tasks they won’t see the importance of investing in knowledge for the future.
Many teams are coping with employees who don’t prioritize knowledge-sharing because it hasn’t been embedded in their culture or incentivized by rewards. There isn’t a system in place to formalize the creation and distribution of knowledge, so employees keep it all in their heads and panic when it comes time to ask a question.
Lack of time
Closely related to your employees’ incompatible priorities comes a perception that there is a lack of time to create knowledge. Naturally, populating a Knowledge Management system requires time out of your employees’ busy jobs to store that knowledge in the first place for later use.
When a project deadline is looming, no employee is going to stop and document their knowledge because they simply don’t have enough time. Other tasks are ranked as more important and the KMS languishes as a result because no one is using it.
Failure of management commitment
Before a Knowledge Management initiative can take hold, it must be supported by senior management. Unfortunately, all-too-often management is slow to adopt new technologies and when employees don’t see the correct behaviors modeled, they follow suit after the example that has been set.
When managers aren’t sharing knowledge then employees also hoard their knowledge, believing this is the correct way to be. Senior leadership is responsible for embedding a knowledge-sharing culture but they may believe that knowledge is not relevant to their role or department.
Resistance to organizational change
As we’ve mentioned before, employees may already engage in their own knowledge-sharing techniques and systems, however unsuitable they may be for true Knowledge Management. It can be hard to persuade employees to adopt new methods as there is resistance to organizational change, and they may have seen similar initiatives fail before.
It often feels like more effort to change to a new way of doing things rather than stick with existing patterns of behavior, no matter how unwieldy. If employees perceive that their way is already working, they will be skeptical about the value of your new Knowledge Management system.
Untrustworthy source of information
You may already have a Knowledge Management system in place but employees view it as an untrustworthy source of information. Perhaps the knowledge is inaccurate or out-of-date, which can often do more harm than good when employees are making mission-critical business decisions.
If information is not useful, then that will result in a total failure to adopt the KMS. Employees will frequent the easiest and most reliable route to knowledge, and in this case this is the minds of their fellow colleagues. An unreliable KMS is worse than having none at all.
Your information might all be there but employees have trouble accessing it. This might be because it’s laid out in a non-intuitive structure, or the search function is not powerful enough. It goes without saying that when employees can’t access information they stop using your Knowledge Management system and turn to their colleagues instead.
This can be a particular problem when you are using tools like Google Drive, because the more documents you have the more unwieldy the search becomes and it’s harder to filter through the results. When you lack a system with intelligent search, your knowledge becomes impenetrable.
Effective Ways to Overcome the Challenges
Organizations can follow concrete steps to help them overcome the common knowledge challenges inherent to their Knowledge Management strategy. In this section, we’ll explore seven ways that organizations can work around these problems and achieve success in KM.
Set clear objectives
When you know exactly what you want to achieve, Knowledge Management becomes more realistic. Perhaps your goals are to increase productivity within the organization or reduce redundant work. Implementing a Knowledge Management strategy must be worth the effort it takes to get your initiative off the ground, or it is destined to fail.
Your goals must also be achievable and motivate your employees to adopt your new system, showing them the gains they will make if they follow your plan. On some level, employees should know that the existing system is not working which will make them willing to adopt new objectives.
Prepare your team
Knowledge Management is always a team effort. There is no single individual who will be responsible for the success of your KMS, since you must form a team who will be contributing, updating, and distributing knowledge. That requires team members who have defined roles and responsibilities – for example, you may have a group of content reviewers.
Building a team who will launch and maintain your Knowledge Management strategy is important for accountability. Not only will they be responsible for the creation of knowledge, but they will also model the culture change that is required for the success of your initiative.
Choose your procedure
Knowledge Management requires a procedure for storing and sharing knowledge. You need to let your employees know how they can submit their contributions as well as flag an article for review. You need to manage the end-to-end process of all knowledge-related activities in order to embed Knowledge Management in your organization.
Documenting your procedure may be helpful in ensuring that all of your team adheres to the various steps. Knowledge Management will look different in every company and everyone employed by you needs to be educated in how it works.
Make things simple for your team
Your team will not adopt change if it is more complex than what they are already used to. If existing knowledge flows are easier to work with, your team will become stuck in their ways and resistant to change. A powerful yet simple Knowledge Management system is the solution to encourage your team to adopt new ways of knowledge-sharing.
Simplicity does not mean basic. Your system should be easy to get started with while being flexible enough to adapt to different ways of working. Technology should mold itself to the needs of your team rather than the other way around.
Promote knowledge-sharing culture
Senior leaders and knowledge champions in your organization can promote a knowledge-sharing culture. When employees see the right behaviors embodied by influential leaders they are more likely to follow suit. Even more critically, when employees see the benefits of knowledge-sharing they will be motivated to get involved.
When knowledge-sharing is culturally sanctioned, employees become more engaged and inclined to contribute. Knowledge-sharing should become so embedded in your culture that it becomes second nature to use your systems and tools to find and share knowledge.
Configure the right Knowledge Management Software
Knowledge Management can’t happen without the right tools in place to store and share knowledge. Forward-thinking companies invest in solutions like knowledge base software to help them with knowledge storage and retrieval, which have the right set of features in place to empower you to achieve your goals.
A solution like Document360 offers the ability of an intuitive Content Management System to enable employees to write and publish articles. Articles can be structured in a clearly-laid out categorical system as well as accessed through a powerful, typo-tolerant search. It’s easy to both create and find content with Document360, making it essential for your Knowledge Management efforts.
Motivate employee contribution
It should be built into your employees’ job roles that they should contribute to your Knowledge Management system. Offer incentives for the most prolific contributors in the form of a financial bonus or extra time off. When employees see the reason to contribute they are more likely to add their knowledge.
A robust Knowledge Management system comprises contributions from across the entire organization. Everyone on your team can offer something valuable and their help can enable you to develop a much more helpful resource. Only when employees are highly engaged and ready to share their knowledge can your Knowledge Management strategy be effective.
Knowledge Management is a powerful way to supercharge productivity in your organization. When employees are wasting less time searching for knowledge, this is more time they can spend on value creation and mission-critical activities. Businesses are much more successful when they can utilize the knowledge that is latent in their workforce.
When employees are empowered, they create superior products and services and deliver a better standard of support to your most important stakeholders – customers. Knowledge shouldn’t be a burden that drains morale, but rather a vital resource that your organization protects and shares, now and in the future.
Tools like Document360 can help you take your Knowledge Management efforts to the next level. By taking advantage of Document360’s content creation process, you can make your knowledge readily available to everyone in the company. When everyone is empowered to do their jobs properly, this results in increased profits and overall business growth.
An intuitive knowledge management software to easily add your content and integrate it with any application. Give Document360 a try!GET STARTED