The all-in-one guide to knowledge management for organizations
Knowledge management involves the creation, distribution, management, and use of available knowledge to improve team member outcomes in the workplace. Learn more.
By Darcy Hogendorn in
Your employees are a massive repository of company knowledge: its products, services, practices, and business processes. This intellectual capital is a tremendous asset. But it's also a vulnerable one. After all, talent sometimes leaves. (Look no further than today's sky-high turnover rates for proof.) When it does — does all that knowledge go with it?
While the internet is an excellent tool that your internal teams can use to collect and share information, it’s not the greatest vessel for complex (and often confidential) organizational knowledge.
That’s where knowledge management comes in. With knowledge management, organizations can maximize the knowledge and information available to team members.
Here’s a closer look at the discipline of knowledge management and tips for putting knowledge management to work for your organization.
Information technology expert Tom Davenport provided one of the earliest and most frequently referenced definitions of knowledge management in 1994: “Knowledge management is the process of capturing, distributing, and effectively using knowledge.”
Since then, there have been many different iterations of knowledge management, although the general principle remains unchanged. It's an organized approach to creating, storing, and accessing a company's information assets.
Why are more and more organizations prioritizing knowledge management? Because your team members are constantly growing in their roles, learning more, and refining company processes — so new organizational knowledge is developing at all times. But at the same time, employee turnover and other factors (like reporting structure changes) can result in that knowledge disappearing at any second.
Picture your organization’s knowledge as a constantly growing collection of documents, databases, policies and procedures, and employee expertise and experience. Now imagine that you have a room where you store all these materials. Without a system for managing, accessing, and distributing this growing pile of information, you’ll quickly lose sight of what you’ve got. Even if you could keep up, this doesn’t mean you’ll be able to quickly and easily find what you’re looking for.
Knowledge management optimization is the antidote to this problem, comprising much more than FAQs. Establishing a system for capturing, recording, and passing on organizational knowledge prevents you from losing these valuable assets — while simultaneously making them easy to access.
There’s a clear case for knowledge management. But before getting started, it’s important to clarify your goals.
Remember — knowledge management is about much more than collecting knowledge. It’s also about having a system that lets team members and stakeholders access it quickly and reliably.
Here are some potential knowledge management goals for organizations:
- Leverage captured knowledge to improve efficiency and efficacy.
- Create new knowledge and improve existing knowledge.
- Promote clear and consistent understanding among all employees.
- Provide comprehensive and accurate information whenever the need arises.
- Increase the organization’s overall intellectual capital.
- Facilitate employee and customer satisfaction.
- Reduce repetition of knowledge creation and training needs.
Let's look at three components of knowledge management: people, processes, and technology. More specifically, we’ll examine how to use these components to create an effective knowledge management system.
Knowledge management has tremendous benefits for organizations and their employees. From reducing repetitive tasks to offering rapid access to information, knowledge management frees employees up to focus on higher-value and more meaningful work. This can directly influence employee engagement.
However, the degree to which knowledge management positively impacts employees hinges on one thing above all else: buy-in. This is generated by a strong knowledge management culture in which learning, improving, adapting, and sharing knowledge are emphasized, encouraged, and enabled. Team members should understand that knowledge is an asset, why knowledge management matters, and the critical role they play in helping to achieve it.
Let’s drill a bit deeper into several specific aspects of knowledge management:
- Knowledge creation: Forming new ideas
- Knowledge sharing: Exchanging information between team members, teams, and organizations as a whole
- Knowledge organization: Organizing and arranging all information and knowledge gathered by a company or a firm
In many cases, knowledge management requires breaking old patterns and establishing new ones. Using slow, measured steps to introduce and enforce knowledge management initiatives can boost adoption.
Getting employees on board with the role(s) they play in knowledge management is only one piece of the puzzle. It's also crucial to support them as they act on their understanding of the process. This is where formalized processes come in.
Clear knowledge exchange policies, processes, and practices provide a strong foundation for knowledge management.
For example, consider knowledge transfer when an employee leaves. Without a formal knowledge exchange policy, departing staff may fail to pass on important knowledge to remaining team members.
Technology is critical to supporting the knowledge management process — from maintaining your knowledge base to improving access to it.
Here are some examples of tools for knowledge management:
- Knowledge base software
- Enterprise video platforms (like Rewatch)
- Content management systems (CMS)
- Metrics and analytics
Given the vastness and depth of organizational knowledge, knowledge management doesn’t happen on its own. Enter knowledge management systems, which provide the infrastructure necessary for collecting, storing, and sharing information. In this section, we’ll look at the three main systems for knowledge management.
But before we get to that, let’s dive into the three main types of knowledge:
- Explicit knowledge: This is any type of knowledge that's easy to articulate, capture, and access. Examples include videos and documents like standard operating procedures, HR policies, and employee handbooks.
- Implicit knowledge: This happens when you apply explicit knowledge in a specific situation. You're calling on implicit knowledge when you use a skill you learned from a video or document. Examples of implicit knowledge are transferable skills that you can carry with you to any job: problem solving, critical thinking, attention to detail, etc.
- Tacit knowledge: This refers to less tangible, more intuitive knowledge that’s gained from personal experience. An example of tacit knowledge is knowing the right moment to “make the ask” to a customer. (Tacit knowledge is also known as experiential knowledge, “know-how” knowledge, and tribal knowledge, which specifically refers to tacit knowledge that spreads within an organization.)
Successful knowledge management systems can capture all types of knowledge. This is easier for some types of knowledge than for others. This brings us back to the three primary types of knowledge management:
These knowledge management systems aim to meet general knowledge management requirements toward improving organizational productivity. Their primary objectives may include reducing costs, simplifying access, and supporting better decision-making. There are two subtypes of enterprise-wide systems: structured and semi-structured.
- Existing explicit knowledge in formal videos or documents
- Formal rules, like your code of conduct and other policies
- Information in memos, messages, emails, folders, graphics, slide presentations, and videos
- Created and stored in many formats and locations
Knowledge work systems enable the creation of new knowledge and its organizational integration. They comprise specialized systems and workstations that facilitate the creation and discovery of new knowledge by scientists, engineers, and other knowledge workers.
Examples of knowledge work systems include 3D visualization, CAD, virtual reality, Bloomberg terminals, and other investment workstations. For example, a sales training and education program may incorporate virtual reality simulations that allow students to get “hands on” experience with customer communication techniques.
While AI can’t replicate human intelligence, it can play a vital role in capturing, codifying, and extending organizational knowledge. These include sophisticated tools: data mining, genetic algorithms, and neural networks.
You can use these tools to preserve tacit knowledge, but also for knowledge discovery, searching and filtering, and generating solutions for problems that are too large or complex for humans to do on their own. For example, an organization can employ intelligent techniques by using natural language processing and machine learning to create a highly accurate and relevant search experience.
There are many uses for, and benefits of knowledge management, including (but not limited to):
Countless hours are wasted every year by employees looking for information. Not only is there the question of whether it’s in a video, document, email, or chat, but there’s also the issue of whether it’s been documented at all.
If and when you find what you’re looking for, how do you know it’s up to date? A well-implemented knowledge management program creates an up-to-date “single course of truth” for internal stakeholders.
The best decisions are the most informed decisions. Unfortunately, information is often siloed within organizations. As a result, team members (and managers) make decisions without access to all available information. Knowledge management also means knowledge transparency: It takes information out of silos to ensure that everyone works toward the same goals with the same information.
Collaboration and innovation are crucial to keeping up in our fast-moving society. Bringing together all knowledge in one centralized location facilitates best practices for collaboration. It also allows for the easy exchange of specialty expertise.
Knowledge management benefits employees in a multitude of ways. For starters, the knowledge management culture helps people succeed in their jobs while cultivating engagement.
It also has powerful applications for onboarding new employees. As more companies incorporate video into their hiring and training processes for everything from welcome messages to product tutorials, an organized approach to sharing videos can help reduce costs while lowering time to competency for new employees.
With a private video hosting platform like Rewatch, teams can create organized video collections with company meetings, training materials, and important internal communications. In Rewatch, you can automatically transcribe these videos into one of 31 languages to provide an inclusive, accessible experience for all team members, helping them quickly find the information they need.
Organizational consistency improves efficiency and builds trust. On the other hand, inconsistency detracts from these goals. Knowledge management means every team member operates out of the same playbook in real time.
Knowledge management isn’t easy. It takes time, planning, and strategy. The good news is that understanding the pitfalls can help you avoid them. Get your knowledge management initiatives off to the best start by avoiding these common mistakes.
Knowledge management systems have tremendous potential. However, no KMS is a guaranteed fit or “fix” for your organization. The more you know your needs and goals, the better you can identify and deploy a KMS to help you meet them. Technology is a tool, not the solution.
Similarly, while knowledge managers offer powerful partnerships in implementing knowledge management, they can’t do it alone. As discussed earlier, knowledge management is about organizational culture; it’s naive to think one person can make it happen. While knowledge managers can be key players in getting things done, they should be part of your broader knowledge culture and strategy.
The best knowledge management processes and systems are meaningless if you can't use them in the real world. This is why it’s critical to consider the employee experience when developing your knowledge strategy.
Before developing a process or system, think about your employees’ needs and functions: How will they use it, and how will it fit into their existing workflow? Thinking about these things (and addressing any potential issues) ahead of time will make your team members more willing to adopt the new systems.
One type of content leads the pack for users when consuming knowledge: video. Widely-cited neuroscientific research shows that 65% of people are visual learners, meaning that they absorb and retain information more effectively when it’s accompanied by visual aids — including video.
In the business world, the possibilities for video are endless — particularly when used for training. In addition to proven improvements across engagement and retention, video is also versatile, flexible, accessible, and affordable. And unlike presentations, tutorials, seminars, and other conventional training methods, videos make it easy to track consumption and engagement.
Not only is data vast, but it grows by the day. Developing a taxonomy for sorting and grouping helps manage, report, and curate data to help users quickly find what they’re looking for. This shouldn’t be an afterthought. Rather, a pre-planned structure and approach can help you avoid a massive pile of data and no sensible way to navigate it.
Many people think of knowledge management as volume-driven. While an excess of information may be a driving factor toward knowledge management, it’s not the only one. More isn't necessarily better: Curation is an integral part of the process, and it's the key to ensuring that knowledge, along with the associated taxonomy and metadata, is relentlessly relevant.
With more and more companies recognizing the value of investing in video, it’s important to prioritize video when designing your knowledge management strategy to make knowledge a competitive advantage for your company.
Enter Rewatch. Our collaborative video hub and knowledge management solution lets you securely share, organize, and search meeting recordings and company videos to make the most of these knowledge assets.
Unlike YouTube (which lacks an enterprise knowledge component), Rewatch’s design and ease of use make it an excellent choice for maximizing adoption. In addition to integrating with your video conferencing provider, Rewatch’s tagging function is ideal for quickly and effectively organizing, searching, and sharing videos.
Schedule your free demo today to learn more about Rewatch's powerful potential for your knowledge management program.
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