Is your company struggling to create a knowledge sharing culture? You might be comforted to know you’re not alone.
A yearly survey conducted by the Technology and Services Industry Association (TSIA) proves that adopting operationalized knowledge management practices continues to be a challenge. Despite the millions of dollars invested in this area in the last decade, organizations haven’t reported any significant improvement in their knowledge management programs.
Why has improvement stalled? In a recent webinar, Your Roadmap to Knowledge Management Transformation with TSIA, John Ragsdale, Distinguished Researcher, VP Technology Ecosystems, TSIA, and Bonnie Chase, Director of Service and Support Product Marketing, Coveo, teamed up to discuss what organizations need to consider when striving to build a knowledge sharing culture.
According to Ragsdale, the three top obstacles to successful knowledge sharing are:
- People: Not enough resources to create & maintain content
- Process: Lack of defined processes around knowledge creation & management
- Technology: Poor search technology or badly designed portals
Whether you’re creating a knowledge sharing process from the ground up, or transforming the one that you already have, you’ll face all of these obstacles on your journey.
Where do you begin when tackling these challenges? Ask yourself the following questions.
1. Who should be involved in the knowledge transformation process?
Many organizations will say that sharing knowledge is every employee’s job. And that’s true, in a sense; knowledge comes from every department and level of the company. Still, it’s crucial to have dedicated knowledge experts to direct and lead the process.
As Ragsdale stated in a February 2022 webinar: “If everyone is accountable [for knowledge management], then nobody is accountable.”
To support the dedicated knowledge experts who will author and edit the majority of the content, you’ll need enough resources and people dedicated to search, distribution, data analysis, and more. Chase pointed out that more important than having enough people, however, is making sure you have the right people involved in the collaboration.
“If everyone is accountable [for knowledge management], then nobody is accountable.”
Having input from the executive level down to the support team will provide a well-rounded view of your knowledge management system’s impact. It will also ensure that the technical side of the process is being overseen by both individuals who have a clear understanding of your current system and those with a vision for the new one.
Key players in the Knowledge Management team can include:
- Executive sponsor
- Change agents
- Cross-departmental champions
- Program owner
- Knowledge manager
- Subject matter expert
2. How do you encourage knowledge management participation?
Participation in a company’s knowledge management system can include content creation, using search portals to help customers or inform daily work, sharing and talking about knowledge with colleagues, and more. The more that employees interact with and contribute to the overall knowledge base, providing valuable data, the smarter an AI-powered search platform can become in delivering relevant content to the right audiences. Chase and Ragsdale both agree that a company culture of knowledge sharing is critical to the success of the system.
Employees focus their efforts in the areas they believe their managers and the organization value the most. And because only half of companies tie knowledge sharing to employee performance, productivity, and/or incentive compensation, motivation can be low or nonexistent.
Introducing gamification elements is one way to encourage shared knowledge. The first step is putting processes in place to track key data. For example, how often are support agents attaching content to closed cases? A leaderboard can then be implemented to provide benchmarks and encourage people to increase their use of existing content.
Another idea is to build relevant knowledge participation into the system. Ragsdale suggested programming a rule that does not allow support staff to close a case until they either attach existing related articles or create one to fill that knowledge gap.
Do you have an over-competitive atmosphere where employees engage in knowledge hoarding? Reframe knowledge sharing activity in terms of the customer experience. The purpose of a good knowledge sharing process is to reduce call times and resolve issues as fast as possible, no matter who the ideas come from.
3. What comes first: content or search?
If you’re starting a knowledge sharing platform with very little or no content, it can feel right to wait to invest in a portal or intelligent search until you have built up a library of articles. After all, why encourage people to start using the system before you have much knowledge available?
Unfortunately, there are a few flaws with this approach. The first is that the creation of content will never be finished because employees continue to learn and create solutions. There is a risk that the process will get stuck in a cycle of creation and storage, never moving on to distribution and use.
The second is that a focus on content creation and storage can be inefficient without the data gathered through early implementation of smart search. The earlier you implement machine learning, the sooner you’ll understand exactly what content and formats customers need first, how search language differs between customers and support staff, and more.
This point also applies to companies with existing content databases who are switching from one management system to another.
As mentioned by Chase: “Don’t wait until you’ve finished the full knowledge transfer before you put a smart search system in place. There’s this big gap between what we think our customers need versus what they actually need, and without the data, it’ll really put you behind.”
AI-powered search will also simplify content storage processes that might have been handled manually. For example, good metadata and tags are added automatically, search results can be personalized to the individual, and content can be found no matter how it’s structured or where it lives.
Chase suggests shifting from an inside-out perspective to an outside-in one.
“Instead of looking at your own organization and what you’re doing, think about what your customers are doing and how they are using your information. You don’t have to do creation before distribution.”
By focusing on content creation and distribution simultaneously, you can direct resources and expertise where they are most needed.
Curious about the full conversation? Check it out here.
Where does your organization fall within the knowledge management maturity model? Identify where you stand with this walkthrough.