Organizations often view knowledge management (KM) as a means to bridge a skills development gap. For example, your level-1 service desk agents may not have strong technical troubleshooting capabilities. To overcome the lack of technical skills, the organization sets out to capture knowledge from subject matter experts and make it available to level 1. While this is an acceptable way to help level 1 be more effective and solve more issues without escalation, technology managers often hope that knowledge management will solve the skills gap when formal training is more effective.

Here are three examples in which skills development can accelerate learning as part of a holistic knowledge-capacity-building approach.

Experiential Knowledge Is Difficult To Transfer

Explicit knowledge can be easily codified and documented in a knowledge management system. In my example above, a solution to a problem can be documented by a subject matter expert, stored in an enterprise knowledge system, and then shared with a level-1 analyst. Explicit knowledge is often knowledge that is captured as the outcome of learning. The subject matter expert works through the problem, and then after it has been solved, the solution is documented in a knowledge article. However, what the subject matter expert learned by solving the problem is not easily transferred.

A typical problem-solving process requires replicating the problem, walking through many possible solutions, and testing your hypothesis of the root cause. During the trial-and-error process, the subject matter expert learns much more than what is documented as the final solution. A level 1 analyst gets the outcome but not the experience of applying the problem-solving method. Access to the knowledge article is not the same as learning.

Product Launches Require Hands-On Learning

As product teams deliver new features to internally developed applications, marketing efforts are vital to helping employees take advantage of the new capabilities. Reading about a new feature is very different than using that feature. Hands-on training will not only improve the adoption of products and services across the enterprise, but it is also essential for support staff to have the opportunity to learn how employees use the software.

All too often, changes to products and services are released into the environment with little or no forewarning for support teams. When an employee calls in for support, knowledge of how the product works is extremely helpful in ensuring a better support response. How-to knowledge articles are not a substitute for hands-on experience using a product or service.

Skills Development Is Essential For Innovation To Thrive

Career development is a high priority in improving employee experience and retention. For a knowledge management practice to thrive, career development is also critical for the long-term health of the knowledge practice. Not only must knowledge workers use and improve knowledge, but they also need to contribute new knowledge. Learning new skills provides new experiential learning opportunities. Upon completion, the knowledge workers can continue improving the captured knowledge and contribute new content that has not yet been shared with the team.

Your KM practice must be adaptive to meet the diverse needs of your employees. A knowledge management practice should include a variety of means to develop knowledge workers, including skills development. Build a KM practice that uses different capture methods, provides a broad avenue for experimentation and has standard guide rails that ensure consistency across the organization.

To better understand what is needed to build knowledge capacity in your organization, read my model overview report: The Forrester Knowledge Capacity Building Model Advances Your Knowledge Management Practice — Take A Holistic Knowledge-Based Approach To Innovation And Continuous Improvement.

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