Knowledge Retention: (5/7) Promoting the Knowledge Exchange

Previously in this series of Knowledge Retention versus People Retention I’ve talked about Enabling the employees to become knowledge sources, How to find out where the knowledge is, Encouraging the employees to share their knowledge, and Giving the employees the tools to share their knowledge.

The last article was long, so this one is going to be much shorter, and is covering the huge topic of promoting the knowledge exchange. The reason this big topic is so short? Well I’m not going to give everything away am I? Then you’d have no need for consultants!

Promoting Knowledge Exchange…

A Wiki can be created under a certain topic and marketed to employees as the source of information. Then sit back and watch them fill up the system with all that knowledge. Not quite. Starting with an empty system will only attract the boldest of employees to enter information. They need to feel that there is something beneficial for them, or some form of recognition in entering their information, and again this returns to the idea of giving them the space and time to use the systems and also acknowledging and rewarding them for their participation and input.

There’s also a good way to get kick started. Identify groups of individuals with the most popular knowledge that is being referred to again and again. Seek them to write content before the system is announced to the wider employee base, and either launch with this already fed into the system, or drip feed this in so that employees see information being added.

Choose topics that will deliberately appeal to a wide employee base, or topics that are slightly contentious that might provoke strong debate. These are simple and effective methods that are used on discussion groups and blogs throughout the Internet and to great success, they are proven to pull people from the fringes of lurking into the discussions and get them contributing.

Again the idea of an employee being acknowledged on screen as the author of relevant information which all can see is a huge incentive for someone to begin writing, and the notion of articles appealing to the ego of lurking experts is also true here. A new paper or comment will appear and will grab the attention of a reader who may know more on the topic, this will prompt them to amend and/or write their own material to show that they are more knowledgeable, and this organic growth of knowledge is ideal in the environment of a Wiki.

The other important piece is to ensure that the use of these systems are built into the daily routine of the employees. If they are going to search for information, one of the first resources they should go to is the knowledge system installed, whether that be a wiki or discussion board or any other capturing and retention tool.

All this takes marketing, giving the employees the time to informally learn, rewarding the employees for learning and continual reinforcement of the knowledge retention methods through ongoing communication.

Through time, employees will populate these knowledge centers with information, they’ll find it becomes part of their working day, and they will be a standard place to look for information. Indeed the employee will feel that it is part of their role to update the knowledge system. It does take time though, and it will require continual work.

There we go, short and to the point. I’m skirting around some of the harder cultural and communication issues deliberately, I obviously don’t want to write a step by step guide as it could start putting consultants out of business, and there’s also got to be a level of understanding of your own employees. Your organisation and employees have their own processes, methods and styles of working, and (hopefully) your own people will know how best to promote change with them. If they don’t, you’ll need a consultant for that!

Next in the series is Delivering the Knowledge to the employees, which will deal with a very interesting topic. There are now all these information stores, knowledge is being pulled out of the employees and spread through the organisation, but how do employees get to them? How do they find out about this new knowledge? Well all you need to find that out is the Internet, they’ve been doing it for years…

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