Gloria Spittel sees immense value in creating and retaining knowledge

At the heart of knowledge creation is an organisation’s human resources. And the short and simple – albeit arrogant – answer to retaining organisational knowledge is the retention of human resources. But with the nature of work changing drastically across the world and increasing employee mobility, retaining human resources is a tough task regardless of employee benefits and policies.

While guaranteeing employee retention is next to impossible, retaining the knowledge created during a staff member’s tenure comes down to using appropriate tools and fostering a favourable organisational culture.

Organisational knowledge creation is a process that depends on many factors. They include structural allowances for its creation, sharing, revision and ultimately retention through storage. Developing an organisational culture that promotes the creation of knowledge is a necessary foundation on which knowledge sharing tools can be built.

An organisational culture that promotes the creation of knowledge will have space for employee engagement, learning and development, as well as trial and error.

Weekly divisional or departmental meetings may be a great tool with which to begin sharing concerns and issues that employees encounter, as well as conducting brainstorming sessions involving all stakeholders. Decisions and solutions achieved through consultative processes tend to be more sustainable than those enforced by individuals.

Workshops, seminars and continuous training are all options for developing and sharing organisational knowledge.

While continuous training may seem rather onerous to employees, if the programmes are linked to certification processes or other reward mechanisms, they may seem more attractive than punitive. And training need not necessarily be formal; it could be available in the form of a mentorship conducted by peers or even informal recreational outbound training activities that are combined with post-event breakout sessions.

Internal workshops and seminars can provide employees with information on how other departments function and for which workflows they are responsible. These workshops and seminars – for example, those conducted by the finance and legal divisions of an organisation – could also have information that employees can utilise in their personal lives.

While external workshops and seminars are costly, they serve the purpose of exposing chosen employees or divisions to expert and new knowledge. This helps in the overall development of knowledge in an organisation as employees can hold further meetings or internal presentations, and review and update organisational knowledge.

Technological tools are a great resource in encouraging and upholding a knowledge-creating and sharing organisational culture. Many tools are available but choosing what is appropriate would depend on the organisation’s scale, budget and type of knowledge.

One of the more popular tools at present is organisational intranets where employees could log on for information related to job functions or work conditions such as HR policies. Intranets can hold valuable knowledge that’s necessary for employees to perform their jobs. But the knowledge needs to be presented in a manner that can be accessed easily through search functions and understood widely.

To this end, some organisations have worked on incorporating flowcharts and workflow models – which include infographics – into their knowledge repositories. Moreover, when intranets are made accessible through an employee’s mobile device or computer, access to relevant knowledge is improved as and when required.

But this complicates the security aspect of access to organisational know-how. Tools such as timed sessions, user-restricted and user-based access, and multilevel authentication, can provide a degree of security. For some organisations, accumulated organisational knowledge is too extensive to be accessed through an intranet and utilising a knowledge management system (KMS) would prove to be a handy solution. In years past, accessibility to a KMS may have only been within an organisation but with the advent and development of cloud-based solutions, it can provide agile and dispersed employees with access to knowledge and information on any device.

Other technological tools such as note sharing applications (e.g. Evernote and Microsoft OneNote) are also beneficial to the processes of creating and sharing knowledge.

A key consideration when developing a knowledge sharing culture is to identify the different types of knowledge and how they can be effectively communicated to employees.

Organisational knowledge consists of both tacit and explicit knowledge. Of these two types, explicit knowledge is easily codified and transferable to sharing tools such as the intranet or on KMS platforms. But sharing tacit knowledge requires different strategies.

For the effective dispersion of tacit knowledge, organisations need to develop knowledge sharing techniques that emphasise and promote employee interaction and face time. Whether these are formal or informal training sessions, workshops, in-house seminars or mentorships, the importance lies in transferring knowledge that cannot be codified.

Knowledge is an important value addition in any organisation. It can streamline workflows, as well as lead to innovative breakthroughs in products, services and processes. There are many advantages to safeguarding and sharing knowledge but above all else, the creation of new knowledge – rather than the reinvention of existing knowledge – will save an organisation valuable time and resources.