Training & Learning

What is Knowledge Management and Why is it Important for UK Learning Organisations?

You have a wealth of institutional knowledge at your fingertips. So, why is it so hard to manage that knowledge effectively?

For many UK L&D leaders, the shift to distributed and hybrid work environments has made knowledge management a lot more challenging. These trends can lead to missed opportunities in the market due to information silos and knowledge gaps between teams. In some cases, this can even create professional liability for firms relying on incorrect information.

Our recent L&D study backs this up. Here, 18% of respondents expressed concerns about understanding employee knowledge needs, and a further 14% faced challenges with keeping their training initiatives current. Thankfully, there’s a way to overcome these challenges: with the right knowledge management strategy, you can successfully identify, capture, and share information to become a true learning organisation.

In this article, we’ll show you how.

What is knowledge management?

Knowledge management is the process of capturing, storing, and disseminating the knowledge and experience of employees within an organisation.

The aim of knowledge management is to create a learning culture and environment that promotes the sharing of knowledge wherever employees are. This approach empowers employees to learn, engage, and be productive. It also helps businesses to gain competitive advantage by leveraging their internal subject-matter expertise.

While many organisations understand the power of effective knowledge management, only 9% say they’re ready to address this trend, and only half of respondents provide distributed teams access to the tools and platforms they need to share their knowledge. This means a lot of internal expertise remains unused.

However, your learning organisation does have the ability to drive substantial growth with a well-defined knowledge management strategy.

Why is knowledge management important?

Knowledge management is important for your learning organisation because it allows employees to create high impact and drive exceptional decision-making. An environment of low authority and high accountability helps to support this decision-making, as this combination helps eliminate friction and gives employees greater responsibility.

At 360Learning, we encourage this combination by having documented scopes as part of our Convexity culture, so we know who should be doing what. This makes it easier for our L&D team to identify knowledge sources and in turn, map out and address potential gaps in knowledge.

Knowledge management is an important aspect of organizational culture. When organisations expect their employees to contribute their expertise–and then reward them for it–engagement and retention rates soar.

So, what are the main benefits of knowledge management?

Related: How We Use Peer Learning to Keep Our Company’s Competitive Edge

The 3 key benefits of knowledge management

By investing in knowledge management, your learning organisation can make better decisions and drive faster growth. That’s because knowledge management helps to:

  1. Increase company-wide collaboration. Knowledge-sharing encourages collaboration between peers, teams and business functions. This collaborative approach capitalises on employee skills, ideas, and institutional knowledge.
  2. Leverage the knowledge of in-house subject-matter experts. Your greatest asset in learning and development is your intellectual capital—that is, the different types of knowledge and expertise held by your teams. A knowledge management strategy will help you identify and recognise this expertise.
  3. Increase employee engagement and retention. Employees who are encouraged to continuously learn, voice their learning needs, and share their own know-how are more likely to stay engaged and motivated at work.

Identify, capture, share: knowledge management in 3 key steps

To effectively manage the knowledge within your organisation, you need to have a good understanding of what the knowledge management cycle looks like. These are the four key steps you should always follow.

1. Identify knowledge sources

To get started, ask yourself: who holds the knowledge? Where is it kept? How do you access the information? Is there a risk of losing any of the information?

Remember: information is everywhere. Knowledge can be held by specific departments, subject-matter experts, project teams, company wikis, and task forces. Knowledge creation can take place through individual learners when they identify their own learning needs in the flow of work. This knowledge might come from meetings, webinars, discussion forums, audits, lessons learned through reviews, or performance assessments.

Here’s an example: Joyce is a Knowledge Manager working with leaders across her organisation to identify tacit knowledge sources. She starts by noting down potential sources and exchanges of information happening through face-to-face meetings across her organisation.

2. Capture and store

The second fundamental step is to build a stack of knowledge management tools you’ll use to capture and store information. For example, at 360Learning we use our own learning platform and knowledge base to capture and store information.

Back to Joyce: she works to capture the tacit knowledge she has found into explicit knowledge and organised sources of information. She puts a business process in place that requires employees to use a structured template to document information on initiatives and projects discussed in meetings. This new knowledge is stored in a document management system for anyone to see and retrieve at a later date.

3. Share

Finally, our third step: knowledge-sharing. This step is critical for you to make information available in ways that actually encourage your teams to find it and learn from it.

A recent UK study by CIPD identified a number of learning methods: on-the-job training, online training, in-house development programmes, faqs, intranets, workshops and events, peer-to-peer learning, and mentoring. This list shows just how many learning methods are at your disposal–this makes it important to understand which methods your employees prefer.

Let’s return to Joyce. In the previous step, she put a process in place to capture and store information gathered from business initiatives and projects via a document management system. Now, she can create an online training course on her learning platform to teach new hires how to use the template as part of their onboarding. This key step enforces knowledge-sharing habits early on.

So, that’s a basic 3-step knowledge management cycle. But how can you automate and leverage these best practices?

How to leverage knowledge management best practices

Knowledge management looks different for every organisation. However, there are a set of crucial best practices to build, share, and develop a knowledge management system at your company.

  1. Decentralise knowledge-sharing. Let employees identify gaps in their knowledge and have them declare their own learning needs. This allows everyone in the organisation to contribute to the learning process in their workflow, making them feel more engaged and focused.
  2. Foster a culture of knowledge-sharing. You need to make knowledge management a priority within your organisation, and closely align these practices with your learning culture.
  3. Focus on fast course creation. Training is a big part of creating a knowledge-sharing culture. For knowledge management to keep pace, you need to be able to quickly ship training courses. This will ensure employees engage in knowledge transfer, stay well-informed, and reduces the risk of outdated information flowing through the company.
  4. Document your knowledge management process. You should always have a documented process outlining how knowledge management works at your company. Make the document accessible for everyone to see, and remember to include it in your onboarding process.
  5. Use technology to enhance knowledge management. A learning platform, combined with an information repository and knowledge base, has all the necessary components to identify, capture, store, and share company knowledge. Ensure your knowledge management process is powered by a strong knowledge tech stack.

Lastly, a Collaborative Learning approach is closely aligned with knowledge management. It focuses on peer-to-peer learning as a method to put to work your organisation's institutional knowledge.

Related: Centralised vs. Decentralised - Which is the Right L&D Approach for Your Business?

How Collaborative Learning can help your knowledge management strategy  

We know that implementing a knowledge management strategy won’t happen overnight. It takes careful planning, consideration, and time. You need to embed knowledge-sharing into your company DNA and celebrate it as a key part of your learning culture.

In this article, we’ve outlined some simple practices you can use to get started, including:

  • Listening to your learners. What do they want to learn? What knowledge do they feel they are missing to succeed in their role? Put a process in place to empower any employee to create a learning request.
  • Choosing a learning platform that promotes collaboration and engagement. A learning platform with social features encourages discussion and active learning which helps people retain information.
  • Making course creation easy, fast, relevant, and impact-driven. Create relevant learning content to answer urgent questions. This way, organisations can respond to opportunities for growth quickly and more effectively.
  • Rewarding internal subject-matter experts. Your greatest asset in learning and development is your team's knowledge and expertise. Find ways to recognise and celebrate them.

Collaborative Learning

Collaborative Learning can help you manage knowledge to become a true learning organisation that drives growth and productivity. If you’d like to find out more about this approach and how it can help you and your teams, don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of our experts!