Point. Click. Profit. (As published in The Business Journal)

Strategies to Promote Knowledge Capture

Knowledge Capture

Do you allow your employees to post to Twitter or Facebook during work hours? Can they chat online with colleagues? If your answer is based primarily on a concern for minimizing distraction, you may be missing out on an opportunity for knowledge capture.

Finding the right employees is of utmost importance to a successful organization. To maximize the investment made in hiring, new staff must be quickly educated and integrated towards successful execution of their roles. For those who are capable and can function well within the company culture, the next concern is retention.

One answer to the challenge of supporting new staff through the hiring and adoption process is an internal knowledgebase (KB), with easy-to-access resources covering everything from company policies to technical reference material. Unfortunately, many companies large and small lack the dedication to create this infrastructure, and even those with the best intentions may fail to succeed when they are unable to win regular participation from the staff who possess the information they need to capture. “If you build it, they will come,” doesn’t apply. The goal is to create a culture that encourages employees to regularly contribute knowledge without needing to be chased after. Incentives aimed at encouraging participation may help kick off a KB campaign, but a greater buy-in will be needed by the time the initiative’s honeymoon aura passes.

To complicate matters, the IT environment within which the employees must work is often based on a defensive assumption of mistrust. IT administrators typically base their policies on what network policies will be easiest for them to manage, rather than an adequate consideration of what environment will create the most harmony in the workplace. Restricting or prohibiting social outlets, such as access to Facebook, Twitter and chat, while perhaps simplifying network management and easing management concerns, can erect barriers to knowledge sharing.

Start by recognizing when workers are sharing knowledge, and implement tools to capitalize on it when brainstorms arise. What media are workers instinctively turning to and depositing information into? Recognize that some of their social musings are work related, and give them a portal to share them.

Software environments are always changing, and knowledge workers must be ever alert for more efficient ways to leverage the tools needed to perform their jobs. When a new shortcut is learned, it’s natural to want to share the discovery. “Hey, did you know Shift+F7 applies this formula?” Or, say, the challenge is that the employee knows there must be an easier way to perform a task, but he is unable to figure it out without help. Why shouldn’t he be able to chat with other employees or pose the question on Twitter to find an answer when a Google search comes up short?

Facilitate chatting with co-workers. Salesforce.com offers a free tool, Chatter (http://www.salesforce.com/chatter), that supports internal collaboration. Conversations are logged and retained indefinitely, so threads that contain valuable information can be transferred into a KB. Administrative dashboards allow you to monitor the volume of interactions, identify heavy users, and determine whether they are valuable fonts of information, targets for additional training or sources of distraction in need of intervention.

Encourage employees to solicit and offer ideas on approved social networks like Twitter and Facebook while letting them know you expect the conversation to be primarily work-related. Both Twitter and Facebook have robust APIs (application programming interface) that support the development of custom tools, so you could build an interface into your intranet for social networking and at the same time allow noteworthy posts to be captured and tagged into the KB for future reference.

By creating a supportive environment built on the ideals of trust and empowerment, you demonstrate a commitment to appropriate and effective communication and collaboration. In the process, you enable the organization to capture knowledge that might otherwise be lost.

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