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We’ve all heard that old chestnut ‘knowledge is power’ and recognise the truth of it in our everyday working and personal lives. However, in recent years it has become clear that globally, we’re somewhat lacking in the technological and ‘high-end’ skills that many businesses and large organisations require.

Of course, in order to gain highly qualified employees, it takes a certain amount of investment. However, this takes many forms and one of the most important for modern enterprises is recognising and fostering those that have knowledge in the first place.

According to The Knowledge Economy, “[t]he increasingly technological nature of society and its unpredictable long-term impact means that Australia is constantly facing new and diverse lifestyle, environmental and economic challenges and opportunities. With this comes a growing demand to commit to an education that fosters new knowledges, capabilities and dispositions. Examples of this include responding positively to change, embracing technological understanding, developing critical awareness, thinking in new ways that cross traditional boundaries like culture or subject disciplines and imagining many futures.”

Whilst this relates to the education system, it’s also true of enterprise. Organisations need to be innovative in order to attract and retain staff (and the knowledge they possess now and in the future) that can move them forward. These days, knowledge is not only power, it’s also something that can be used within an organisation to foster innovation.

What is Knowledge Management?

People. process and technology

(Source: The Knowledge Network)

According to Gartner, “Knowledge management is a discipline that promotes an integrated approach to identifying, capturing, evaluating, retrieving, and sharing all of an enterprise's information assets. These assets may include databases, documents, policies, procedures, and previously un-captured expertise and experience in individual workers.”

With this in mind, in the modern organisation, it’s essential to ensure that this integrated approach is taken if it’s to maintain an agile, productive and innovative working environment. Happily, the technology that’s required to do so is now easily assessable, more affordable than ever before and simple to deploy.

Databases, documents, policies: all of these are assets that an organisation is accustomed to managing. The same can’s always be said about an organisation’s employees though and for those that have thus far not seen them as business assets, it’s time to ensure that they do.

In order to do so though, organisations must give employees the tools to ensure that they can share the knowledge they possess.

Why is Knowledge Management Important?

There are several reasons why knowledge management is important.

  • It ensures all relevant information and resources can be access by employees when they need it
  • Important knowledge is kept within the business even after employees move on from the business
  • It avoids duplicated efforts
  • Take advantage of existing expertise
  • Standardised processes and procedures for knowledge management

This all leads to faster and more effective decision making and easier collaboration. More importantly it stimulates innovation and growth.

The New Digital Workplace

To facilitate knowledge sharing is to ensure that it is retained within the workplace. For the most part, the problem that many organisations face is that the way we work and the demands put on modern organisations has changed beyond recognition.

The workplace was once composed of a physical office space with employees working face-to-face and through email during set hours between 9am to 5pm. Fast forward several years.

It is now the norm for employees to be working across multiple locations, hours and devices; the workforce no longer confined to a single office environment.

As these diversified workplaces emerge, the need for team-based and collaborative, digitally connected work environments becomes to knowledge sharing, retention and access - aka the digital workplace.

Step Two Designs defines a digital workplace as a “holistic set of workplace tools, techniques, platforms and environments, delivered in a coherent, usable and productive way. It allows stakeholders to co-create content and work together with little to no friction, delay or challenge to perform their jobs more effectively”.

In this digital workplace employers must give their workers the support that they need to facilitate sharing which can take the form of:

  • Training via intranet/cloud-based e-learning platforms
  • Online spaces to ensure ease of collaboration
  • A voice within the organisation

All of this can be done by adding social and learning aspects to the intranet (which often forms the basis of an effective digital workplace), so that workers have an outlook for expression too. Using social aspects also allows employees to get to know one another, no matter what department they’re in, thereby embedding them even further into the organisational culture.

Valuing People

As the global recession subsides, it’s likely that we’ll see many of the younger generation leaving jobs that don’t live up to their expectations and this is something that organisations must recognise and attempt to halt. Whilst the global skills gap exists, it’s an employee’s market and this means that in order to satisfy and retain employees, enterprises must ensure that they feel valued. This can come about with the use of collaboration, the intranet and the offer of further training.

The intranet is a great facilitator of this as it allows workspaces to be set up, social aspects to be added for better communication and even a certain amount of competitiveness between employees and departments.

The social intranet is especially useful, as it can be used as a ‘go to’ for those who are looking to further understand the organisational requirements which enable them to do their job effectively.

In order to do this, it takes a little knowledge gathering and pre-planning:

  1. Audit of the existing digital workplace to identify areas for improvement
  2. Look at what areas can be expanded upon to increase value to client and employees
  3. Enrich that knowledge base with further information
  4. Enable organisation-wide sharing
  5. Assess future knowledge sharing and look at how it can be taken to the next level

The Social Intranet

Much of this can be facilitated by adding social into the digital workplace mix. This means that everybody, from the most senior to the most junior employees, can add what they know about their jobs into the organisations knowledge pool, which can then be easily accessed by fellow colleagues.

This can be done with the use of:

  • Profiles for employees
  • Wikis
  • Blogs
  • Collaborative workspaces

Of course, who has the ability to add what to wikis and blogs will depend largely on the workforce and size of the organisation. However, the ability for employees to do this means that the knowledge base of the organisation is one that is constantly growing and further, belongs to the organisation, rather than an individual.

It’s necessary to plan with the following three key areas at the front of the pack:

  1. People/culture
  2. Organisation
  3. Technology

Technologies come and go and most organisations are somewhat resistant to change, which is essentially what creates the problem in the first instant, so it’s highly necessary to place people in a centric position. Workers who feel that they are valued are valuable as they will essentially be happier in their work, something which leads to increased productivity.

Organisations of all shapes and sizes can easily add aspects into the intranet to form an effective digital workplace, ensuring that the working culture becomes and remains more innovative, providing excellent customer service and retaining workers that become an asset.

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