Knowledge is an asset in organizations, and the management of knowledge is as important as the hiring of a highly skilled staff. Organizations rely on knowledge to succeed; therefore, there is a need for Knowledge Management (KM). KM is the process for best utilizing the knowledge available in organizations, enhancing the knowledge and ensuring that the knowledge does not leave the organization, even if employees leave. Employee turnover is inevitable, especially, in this age of psychological contract in employee-employer relationship, where employees no longer desire job security, but value and appreciation for their talents. KM then becomes one of the driving factors of Learning and Development in Organizations, and it guarantees competitive advantage. Therefore, a competitive strategy must drive the KM strategy, because the essence of KM is to implement the business strategy. Knowledge is a key to competitiveness.
There are two main types of knowledge in Organizations: Explicit Knowledge (E.K.) and Implicit Knowledge (I.K.). In clear terms, E.K. is knowledge that is tangible, formal or codified, e.g. knowledge that can be written in manuals of operation, handbooks and quick guides. It could be saved in databases, corporate intranets and intellectual property portfolio. On the other hand, I.K. also known as tacit knowledge (though a school of thought says tacit knowledge cannot be codified, while implicit knowledge is not codified too but teachable) is intangible and exists in people’s minds. The only way to get this type of knowledge from being embodied to be collective is mainly through personal experience. This could be in the form of mentoring, coaching, supervising and leading.
Some of the approaches that could be applied in Organizations to ensure that Tacit Knowledge is transferred from those that have it to those that lack it are:
- Embracing an open culture that encourages interaction across cadres
- Observing a participatory team meetings that can be cascaded to department/team/unit levels
- Facilitating knowledge exchange sessions or teach-back sessions as a tool to maximize the Training and Development budget/efforts
- Having an active intranet system or an interactive platform for chatting or quick exchange of ideas
- Establishing a working mentoring and coaching system
- Encouraging a performance-focused work environment, where the aim of appraisal is for progress/development and not ‘witch-hunting’. When a performance management system is for development, growth and attainment of business goals (which is a win-win situation for both the organization and the employees), supervisors/managers will definitely be required to have managerial skills that only bring out the best in their subordinates/direct reports, or gracefully redirect them to where their skills will be optimally utilized. This makes harmonious sharing / person-to-person learning seamless.
Possible ways to manage Explicit Knowledge in organizations include:
- Keeping proper and neat records for reference (documentation)
- Having a manual of operations, as may be required for equipment or processes
- Having well-updated databases
- Investing in an intellectual property portfolio
- Having Handbooks, Quick Guides, Writing Templates, etc.
Organizations will thrive if knowledge is well managed. There is a need to continually create, acquire, capture, share and use knowledge to remain competitive in business. Hiring right is an opportunity that should be fully maximized for optimal returns on investment through effective Knowledge Management.