Knowledge Management is an important area of growth for businesses. Learn about knowledge management for your team – what is it, how can it help you meet core business goals, and, most importantly, make your employees happier?
Imagine that we had no libraries, archives or databases – no way to store information. Every time we wanted to learn something, we had to conduct the relevant research all over again. We never kept track of Marie Curie’s research into radioactivity, Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, or Chuck Berry’s founding contribution to rock n’ roll.
It would be pure madness. But this is the approach that many businesses currently take in their daily operations. They are not investing in knowledge management.
What is Knowledge Management?
Knowledge management is concerned with the retention, curation, learning, sharing and creation of your internal company knowledge.
“Knowledge is what we know. Think of this as the map of the world we build inside our brains,” according to Infogineering. A knowledge base is an attempt to retain this knowledge for future learning and sharing.
Knowledge is the main product of advanced economies. The value you provide as a business is defined by your knowledge and your skilled workers, rather than manufacturing products.
With its roots in management consulting, knowledge management is crucial when it comes to engaging your employees and overall morale. Just as importantly, it shows enlightened leadership and ethical management practices, because you are proactively investing in your workforce.
This is important, when you consider that an employee spends 20% of their time on the job searching for information, which equals one day of the working week. Knowledge is also lost every time an employee leaves the company.
This is a huge amount of time wasted, and money down the drain. By employing internal knowledge base software, for example, you can make serious efforts to manage your knowledge as information.
There is no real limit to the type of knowledge you can capture in your internal knowledge base. It can be anything from:
- Training materials;
- Onboarding materials;
- Product information;
- Team information;
- Customer support information;
- Legal policies;
- HR policies;
- Style guides;
- Best practices.
You can include anything you like that’s relevant to your team. Internal knowledge bases can also be made private, accessible only by login or particular IP address. This minimises the risk of outsiders stealing your company secrets.
They are superior to wikis, since you can control the information that you put on there. Knowledge management has many other benefits, which we’ll go into now.
Improve productivity and profits
Knowledge management improves staff productivity. Better productivity doesn’t mean adding more processes, but empowering your staff to make the most of the resources they already possess.
Unfortunately, a lack of productivity is costing us dearly. Enterprise businesses lose $10 billion a year due to employees spending too much time searching for information.
“Until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else,” says author Peter Drucker, who coined the term “knowledge workers” more than 40 years ago. You can save time by eliminating the need for repetitive, tedious tasks. Knowledge base software alone can reduce research time up to 35% for employees trying to find information on the job.
It’s not just eliminating unnecessary research that makes knowledge base such a great productivity tool. You can significantly improve staff morale by giving people the resources they need to do their job well. People are happier when you free up their time to focus on more engaging, strategic tasks.
Achieve competitive business edge
Productivity aside, the knowledge itself is a valuable asset for your company. Allowing this knowledge to seep out carelessly is like throwing money away. Your unique store of knowledge is what gives you a competitive business edge, and no other company knows what you know.
Importantly, “Competitive advantage in the knowledge economy lies in the generation, diffusion, and appropriate application of knowledge,” says the World Bank.
The Googles and Amazons of the world are distinguished not so much by their tangible products, but by their ability to generate and utilise their unique forms of knowledge. Google (parent company Alphabet) has become one of the most valuable companies in the world by collecting masses of personal data – all without selling a single product until releasing its first smartphone in 2007.
Businesses in the knowledge economy are defined by their ability to use this knowledge to their advantage. An internal knowledge base is crucial for fostering and spreading knowledge inside your organisation.
Better knowledge management also helps you learn from experience, build on what you know, and avoid costly accidents.
Foster staff collaboration
One of the main reasons you need to retain and curate your knowledge is to support better staff collaboration. It makes good business sense, and it’s also what your employees need to feel good at their jobs.
75% of employers rate collaboration and teamwork as “very important” – and sharing knowledge can play a big part in building a collaborative culture. “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships,” says sports legend Michael Jordan.
Unfortunately, as organisations reach a certain size, it becomes difficult for teams to collaborate one-to-one. These problems are increased exponentially if your teams are distributed or remote.
Knowledge management can increase collaboration opportunities by actively recording the relevant stores of knowledge, and making it available where employees can easily access it. Not only this, but your knowledge bases can contain team information so that employees know who to approach to work with on which tasks.
Invest in employee engagement
The benefits of knowledge management can be felt from top to bottom. Your business will be more productive, and your employees will be more engaged.
“The most valuable assets of the 20th-century company were its production equipment. The most valuable asset of a 21st-century institution, whether business or non-business, will be its knowledge workers and their productivity,” says Peter Drucker. In other words, your people are the most valuable business asset you have.
And yet, shockingly, only 30% of US employees are engaged in their work. This figure drops to 13% worldwide. Even worse, your employees are likely to move to another company if learning opportunities do not exist in their current role.
Poor onboarding is an area that many employees cite as a reason for leaving a new job shortly after being hired. Also, lack of access to relevant technologies will also cause your staff to churn.
Knowledge management is a crucial part of making your employees more engaged and can address many of these challenges – if implemented correctly.
Part of the overall picture of investing in employee engagement means that you are reducing staff turnover. Staff turnover is a key area where businesses lose profits, and also lowers morale overall. Improving your employee engagement has the potential stop them from leaving, and to increase profits by an average of $2400 per employee per year.
Don’t reinvent the wheel. Curating knowledge is something you do for your future self, and pays dividends later down the line. Knowledge management is key to powering growth for your business.
In the knowledge economy, each business is defined by its unique store of knowledge, and ability to deliver outstanding services.
“Data is not information, information is not knowledge, knowledge is not understanding, understanding is not wisdom,” says Clifford Stoll. In a world awash with data, these resources will be nothing unless you proactively turn it into knowledge that can be used.
It’s not enough to expect your team to organically share knowledge. You need to implement knowledge management practices in your company now.
About the Author
Emil is the Founder of Helpjuice, a leading knowledge management platform used by large and medium-sized enterprises. He is an expert in knowledge management & author of Knowledge Management: A Theoretical and Practical Guide for Knowledge Management in Your Organization.