Is employee knowledge sharing and management software to be a priority? Some companies might be inclined to put knowledge management software in the “nice to have” basket, but think about the impact of employee knowledge sharing or lack of it, especially in connection with high staff turnover.
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Even if you’re not familiar with the topic of knowledge management, you understand that every business has knowledge driving it.
In the last few years we've witnessed longstanding business models that have thrived for generations being flipped on their head and felt newfound levels of segregation and isolation. We’ve gone from working in the office to working from home and now hybrid working. Technology is the spoke keeping the wheels of most businesses turning, which has led to large investments in the digital workplace. ‘Digital’ is now an integral part of most people’s day-to-day working lives.
Market conditions are set to be dynamic for the foreseeable future with uncertainty being the only known. The knowledge and ‘know how’ of employees will be at the forefront of innovation, problem solving and competitive advantage during these uncertain times. Businesses need to develop strong knowledge management capabilities to create and disseminate knowledge so that they can stay ahead of the game.
A software solution that harvests and distributes knowledge throughout the layers of a business makes sense in this increasingly digital era; no longer a nice-to-have, a knowledge management software solution is an integral component of a modern digital workplace.
Knowledge management is simply the control and organization of knowledge. The practice of knowledge management is applicable within any business. Think about it: all employees within a company must share knowledge of how to action certain activities and practices. The context to which the knowledge is applied is specific to an organization's needs and differs from business to business. Academics, practitioners, government and for-profit/non-profit organizations all have their own application of knowledge and therefore their own method for managing knowledge.
To understand the underlying principles of knowledge management, we must recognize the types of knowledge created within a business. There are two main types of knowledge created within an organization: explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge.
"Explicit knowledge can be articulated and easily communicated between individuals and organizations." Cambridge dictionary
This type of knowledge is concrete and can be easily codified. It can therefore be captured and put into a database. Think process notes, manuals, how-to videos. This type of knowledge is easy to share with others. Explicit knowledge can also be collated to form analysis and is usually used within business reports.
Tacit knowledge is that knowledge you get from personal experience, not from being taught or reading manuals or books. Tacit knowledge is personal and specific to the organization.
Employees of an organization develop different forms of tacit knowledge. In fact, tacit knowledge is also referred to as tribal knowledge or know-how. It’s the knowledge we get through carrying out an activity and our experiences of doing it. This kind of knowledge is difficult to articulate to others because it’s hard to communicate when we try to write it down or verbalize it.
With the definitions of explicit and tacit knowledge in mind, think about how these knowledge types would be used to create an intellectual asset. Within this context firstly think about the ‘know-how’ (tacit knowledge) that is used to create an intellectual asset. It’s created using a large proportion of a person and/or group of people’s knowledge, skills, expertise. They then must document it to develop it (explicit knowledge).
Think about all the different combinations of explicit and tacit knowledge it takes to create an intellectual asset. As an example, we will use the trade secret of the Dr. Pepper recipe, rumored to be made from 23 different flavors. This recipe was first created by the young pharmacist Charles Alderton in 1885. It was crafted using his experience (tacit knowledge). As the drink grew in popularity it needed to be manufactured, bottled and distributed. To be a success at producing this drink at scale there are a number (hundreds) of different combinations of tacit and explicit knowledge that needed to be developed and shared throughout the organization.
A company’s source of competitive advantage cannot be static. External and internal conditions, consumer preferences and competitor offerings are constantly evolving. Therefore, the knowledge and abilities with which an organization creates value must keep pace to remain in demand and competitive.
Knowledge management capabilities enable an organization to react to changing market conditions, achieve growth and sustain competitive advantage. These KM capabilities need to be integrated in the organization's working practices and routines. This is especially true for organizations competing in fast, dynamic markets. The flow and efficiency of how knowledge is fostered and transferred throughout the organization is critical.
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It’s important to foster a culture that promotes organizational learning and knowledge sharing. This means reducing the barriers to knowledge sharing and adopting tools and practices that actively promote it.
Openness and trust are key characteristics that need to be instilled in a culture of knowledge management. Individuals need to be encouraged to share their experiences and expertise.
Tacit knowledge is often highly subjective and made up of an employee’s insights, intuitions, and hunches. Therefore, an employee needs to feel safe in sharing their tacit knowledge. This can be done through mediums such as brainstorming sessions, group problem solving, mentoring and collaboration initiatives. Tacit knowledge can then be developed into company explicit knowledge via identifying and documenting lessons learnt, best practices and bench-marking of these initiatives. This harvested knowledge can then be fed both horizontally and vertically across the organization.
Proper management of this knowledge means it is available to all levels of the business. It can be used in decision-making, to solve problems and to innovate, which is how good knowledge management contributes to the constantly evolving source of competitive advantage.
Knowledge is disseminated throughout an organization through knowledge management capabilities that are integrated into existing working practices, routines and initiatives.
To achieve this there needs to be an infrastructure in place that allows people to share knowledge within the context in which it is required. Employees need to be provided with the tools to be able to create, store, disseminate, and utilize knowledge and expertise within the organization.
The relationship between technology and knowledge management is similar to the relationship between tools and the mind. For example, the mind uses tools to transfer and explain an idea. Knowledge management uses technology for the transfer and exchange of knowledge. Technology therefore, plays a pivotal role in developing knowledge management capabilities. IT infrastructure enable’s employees to create new and maintain knowledge from existing working practices, routines and initiatives within a range of formats from best practices to how-to videos. Employees can then store, access and reuse knowledge.
If an organization doesn’t allocate investment, time and resource into a suitable knowledge management software solution, employees will still create and reuse the knowledge they acquire. If the knowledge management software doesn’t support employee needs and isn’t properly maintained, then employees will struggle to use it. This results in people putting knowledge in places others can’t find it, recreating other people's efforts and reusing knowledge that’s out of date or incorrect.
Employee knowledge sharing software should make the dissemination of knowledge easier and faster. Microsoft 365 is one of the most versatile knowledge management software collaboration technologies. If implemented and utilized properly, Microsoft Office 365 can empower employees with real knowledge management capabilities.
Here are Microsoft 365 software tools that can foster a knowledge-enriched environment:
Effective knowledge management software should provide:
Atlas makes finding and sharing knowledge in Microsoft Office 365 intuitive, with tools that allow users to capture knowledge easily, including an AI-powered knowledge capture experience, centralized knowledge base and a powerful way to find knowledge. It’s a digital platform that enables successful digital working by providing an anchored hub that caters to specific user needs. This structure provides the user with everything that they need to complete the tasks to do their job. It provides them with a highly organized and easy to use structure to store, access and reuse knowledge.
Atlas significantly enhances knowledge management in SharePoint because it integrates with the knowledge stored in SharePoint and other Microsoft applications with its data classification tool. This extends the out-of-the-box capabilities of SharePoint with a more robust search, a true information architecture, taxonomy and term management. Atlas collates information that is normally sits in separate silos in Microsoft Office 365 such as documents, external insights, Yammer conversations, Teams chat and more.
Companies can empower and unify their workforce when they encourage knowledge sharing, and knowledge management software is an effective tool for making this happen.