Hi all. Nowadays, Knowledge Management is the BUZZ-WORD. Please comment upon the role of HR department in this subject. Regards, Ashwini Kumar
From India, Hyderabad
How then do HR processes and practices

impact the knowledge sharing in a firm?

Let us briefly examine some of the HR processes and practices that should be aligned to strengthen knowledge management.

At the stage of induction of new executives into the organization, coaching and mentoring systems are meant to transfer knowledge, exposure during training to variety of functions, units and geographical locations helps knowledge awareness / transfer.

Employees will benefit from "Mentorship," not only during the initial months but also for a long time after that. The role of the mentor in the later period would be to challenge the executive to look beyond the obvious, look for past learning and base decisions on a more informed platform.

Job rotations: Well-planned job (role) rotations across geographical locations and businesses in a firm help not only people development, but also provide an important vehicle for transfer of knowledge and best practices, even though an organization cannot obviously depend on this as the main source of knowledge transfer.

Networked organization: A networked organization with people playing multiple roles, being part of multiple teams -- a vertical team (Business / category) as well a horizontal team (function / knowledge domain), is the way forward to effectively "leverage collective knowledge" of an enterprise. HR should play a key role in developing such a networked organization, through sponsorship and or facilitation of knowledge communities (teams), cutting across formal organizational silos.

Training: Learning and knowledge are inter-linked. Knowledge strategies should encompass learning initiatives and knowledge initiatives need to converge with training initiatives. A Company's training program needs to focus on functional and business specific skill development programs as well as competency development focused programs.

Knowledge communities (Teams), as the owners and users of the knowledge, should play an active role in developing suitable course material for the functional and business specific courses.

Knowledge management cannot be practiced without a clear focus on "learning" within the organization. An example of this is the "Bulab learning center" in Buckman Laboratories, an oft-quoted exemplar practitioner of KM. They set up this learning center to provide employees greater access to training and education and an ability to drive their own development. Rather than the student going to a class, this learning center delivers the classroom to the student -- anytime / anywhere in the world. Apart from offering internal training courses, the learning center also offers courses for credit from multiple Universities around the world, for degree programs ranging to Ph.D. level. All the courses offered are free to the student, if he completes it successfully.

E- Learning is online learning. It is made available through company web sites (Intranets), and even through CD-ROMs. It allows the learner to enroll into courses or programs of their choice and acquire knowledge at their own pace at the place of their choice. Corporate online universities, exclusive learning space to induct managers or develop future leaders, on going programs for sales personnel and induction into new products and services are some of the e-learning offerings, some of the companies are making available to their employees to develop themselves. E-Learning provides the benefit of convenience -- allows the learner to do the learning at his or her pace, flexibility -- Learner does not have to sacrifice a training program because of its clash with customer or personal visit, and ease of learning. Experience in US / Europe seems to confirm that e-learning also saves costs. As of now Bandwidth might pose some constraints, but with fast changing IT infrastructure, even in India, this could offer interesting opportunities.

IBM has about 2500 on-line courses on offer to meet the different employee needs. At Buckman Laboratories, all the employees are connected to their Global IT network. They have therefore chosen to deliver the classroom to their employees over the Intranet rather than require them to travel to a classroom.

Even in cases where the employees are called upon to participate in training in classrooms, they have an interesting approach to distance learning. The introductory material that would be normally presented at the plenary class room sessions is provided through distance learning packages via CD-ROM or Intranets. This ensures that every one can go through it in his or her own speed. Physical classroom meetings are used to really interact with each other, the teacher and the material.

By delivering the class room to the student instead of sending the student to the class room, Buckman could significantly reduce the training costs per hour per employee, through savings in out of service cost, travel cost, cost of classroom, housing cost while taking the course and the cost of the professor or content. The Learning Center is currently capable of handling a wide variety of the courses -- internal training, courses for credit from some of the universities.

The training and skill profile of the employee is regularly updated, based on the successful completion (examination) of the on-line courses.

We in HLL put a lot of emphasis on continuous training (both internal in HLL, at the Global Training Centers as well as external training) to develop the capability of our employees and help them realize their potential. Our company training programs --- like creative workshops, team excellence workshops, process improvement workouts, forums for best practice sharing and KM workshops strongly support capability building in the areas of knowledge creation / capture (Innovation) and knowledge sharing.

Many of our businesses in Unilever have set up global learning centers (HPC Marketing academy, the ice cream academy, world tea academy etc.) to develop training programs tailored to the skill requirements of the respective businesses. The mission of these academies is to help build within Unilever superior business specific capabilities necessary to deliver sustained competitive advantage and increased profitable growth. Our global training center at Four Acres -- UK, has developed Interactive Learning Programs in a few strategic priority areas.

Another very useful role HR could play is to capture stories of successes and failures in the company, archive them in the company-training center for reference for future. This would not only support learning but could prevent repeat of same mistakes.

Culture change: Leveraging collective knowledge is possible only when people value building on each other's ideas and sharing their insights. Much of this shaped by the culture of the organization. In some cultures, where knowledge is seen as power, knowledge sharing may be seen to be in conflict with the individual's personal interests (individual excellence / competitive advantage). Therefore, institutionalization of Knowledge Management requires HR to focus on managing the culture change / mindset of the people to strengthen collaborative team working and knowledge sharing.

How do we create a knowledge sharing culture?

Realign incentive and reward program:

"People do not do what you tell them, but what you measure them for." HR needs to institute a system of rewards and recognition, training and performance development practices -- activities that reinforce the discipline of sharing, documenting knowledge and reuse of others' ideas with pride to achieve business goals.

People in business most often behave in a way that increases their career opportunities, or recognizes their achievement. Most organizations reward individual effort or task achievement. They reward something done in a crisis, but most incentive programs do not reward avoiding a crisis. The best KM practitioners reward employees for learning, sharing and collaborating.

Some of the steps HR could implement are:

Institute Team awards to recognize and reward excellent collaborative team effort, which has strongly contributed to business results. Ensure high visibility for teams which have excelled in knowledge capture / sharing to deliver business excellence. Many companies have found such team awards very useful in building up the enthusiasm and commitment to collaborative team working and knowledge sharing in the initial years, even though after a while, they might have discontinued these once they moved beyond the need for such awards, once the knowledge sharing is embedded into the culture.

Some examples are as follows:

Xerox : By including knowledge sharing as a dimension for its prestigious president's award, leadership at Xerox has demonstrated those senior management values and rewards knowledge-sharing behavior. Also, at Xerox, the worldwide Customer Services organization created a " Eureka Hall of Fame" for technicians who author solutions that resolve the greatest number of problems. It also created a " Validator's Hall of Fame" for the second level engineers who test the solutions submitted by the technicians for validity. Hall of Fame members receive cash awards and recognition.

Hewlett Packard Consulting: Senior management made explicit the desired behavior of employees, in their "vision" statement: "Our consultants feel and act as if they have the knowledge of the entire organization at their fingertips when they consult with customers. We will recognize those consultants that share and those that leverage other's knowledge and experience as most valuable members of the HP team."

Leadership commitment is further evidenced by the Knowledge Masters Award, which recognized excellence in knowledge creation and use. This prestigious award recognized employees whose knowledge mastery best exemplified the culture of balancing innovation with reuse; and contributed to significant and measurable business impact. The nominations for these awards were accompanied by written stories of why the individuals were being nominated. The stories not only reflected the growing understanding for the concepts and application of knowledge management but also provided stories that demonstrated the business value of knowledge sharing.

Unilever's Path to Growth awards recognize outstanding achievements in meeting the Company's strategic goals. There are three award categories, embracing broader employee and business achievements. The three categories recognize:

Measurable significant growth in either revenue or margin

Big ideas with demonstrable potential for future growth in either revenue or margin, and

"Enterprise culture in action" - single-minded passion for winning, liberating rigor and connected creativity.

HR should be the catalyst for culture change

Buckman Laboratories is an example which best illustrates this. Bob Buckman, former CEO of Buckman who led the culture change initiatives in the company emphasizes ­ " our Code of Ethics is the glue that holds the company together and provides the basis for respect and trust that are necessary in a knowledge sharing environment. These fundamental beliefs are essential to being able to communicate across the many barriers to communication that exist in our company. A common set of shared values is critical to guide the relationship with in an organization that wants proactive knowledge sharing. Ours is embedded in our Code of Ethics." This Code of Ethics was developed by the organization through debate and discussions in which a wide cross-section of employees in the company participated. "This Code of Ethics are an integral part of the effort to achieve and maintain knowledge sharing in our company."

In our own company, we are in the process of launching few key initiatives for culture change, to firmly establish the "the enterprise culture," on the bedrock of our "values" -- Truth, Courage, Action and Caring. HR has been a key enabler in the process so far in helping articulate the behaviors and big-ticket action plans.

HR will also be a key facilitator in implementing a company wide communication of value behaviors. Team excellence workshops and process improvement (speed, simplicity and excellence) workouts are among the key initiatives that will soon be launched by HR to support the culture change. These culture change initiatives will strongly support our efforts to become a stronger knowledge driven company, committed to business excellence.

Hope it will solve the purpose.



From India, Delhi
hello frns,
m pursuing my summer internship project in " role of HR in institutionalising knowledge management " , i would like to thnk archana for enlightening us with the insights abt KM.
As a part of my internship i have prepared a questionnare abt the same so PFA questionaare enclosed with dis post ...
ur cooperation would definitely help me in shaping a nice project ..

From India, Gurgaon

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