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Harvesting Knowledge Management: An HR Perspective

If you have ever watched a father teach his son to ride a bicycle, you would get the essence of knowledge management. The father holds the bicycle securely, while the child rides it taking lessons from his dad. His father explains how the cycle works, how to balance the cycle and ride it without bumping into any object. The practice is entirely done by the child, but the concepts are taught by the father.

Knowledge is one of the greatest assets that human beings have. Every day, millions of people create new forms of knowledge as they go about their day to day business. But it is appalling to see that very small percentage of this knowledge is really being harvested. As a result, we have duplication of knowledge and information, repetition of effort, and in all, a sheer waste of time and resource. If this knowledge is harvested right, human beings can advance to higher levels of growth.

Knowledge management is the process of creating information, recording and transmitting knowledge and building up the knowledge reservoir as more knowledge is created. In the example of the father and the child, the child learns to ride the bicycle is lesser time than did his father. So the child can move on to learning new things at a faster pace.

Companies are a reservoir of knowledge that can be harvested to build better systems and processes. Many companies invest in expensive software to harness knowledge. Key information is recorded and tools for feedback and appraisal are commonly used to create a knowledge pool. But organizations very often mistakenly believe that systems can replicate the knowledge sharing process in the same way as people do. Information is a very complex bundle of data bytes. It is highly dependant on the situation. Hence the learning and transmission process also need to be adapted to the circumstance. This can only happen when there is a synergy between knowledge management systems and people. Systems don't function automatically. Nor can they interpret the relevance of knowledge sharing at every level.

For companies to survive competition and technological obsolescence, it is important for knowledge management to be an integral part of the HR processes. Also when procedures are followed without innovation or adaptation, a lot of snags are carried along the design thereby creating slack business processes. Managers need to restructure information transfer processes and create an environment conducive for knowledge sharing.

Knowledge should also not be lost along with the employee. If firing your employee is inevitable, it is important that information created by the employee is not lost along with the employee. Instead, procedures should be in place to harvest information created during the course of employment.

Knowledge sharing and management can work only in a learning organization. Organizations need to have an environment conducive for growth with emphasis on training and development. Leaders need to take proactive steps in creating more leaders and participating in the development of the organization structure. Empowerment of employees and democratic management styles also create a viable environment for knowledge management.

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