Role of hr in knowledeg management final hard copy 2003


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Role of hr in knowledeg management final hard copy 2003

  1. 1. Role of HR in Knowledge Management Contents ♣ Introduction ♣ What is Knowledge? ♣ Types of Knowledge ♣ What is Knowledge Management? ♣ The Essence of Knowledge Management ♣ Why Knowledge Management? ♣ What does leveraging "collective knowledge" involve? ♣ An overview of Knowledge Processes ♣ Benefits of Knowledge to Enterprise ♣ An illustrative example of Knowledge Management initiatives: HUL's Packaging Network ♣ What are the barriers for implementing Knowledge Management? ♣ The role of HR in institutionalizing KM in an organization ♣ How then do HR processes and practices impact the knowledge sharing in a firm? ♣ How do we create a knowledge sharing culture? ♣ HR should be the catalyst for culture change ♣ Conclusion Introduction HR has a pivotal role in the KM movement. Key human resources (HR) processes -- corporate education, performance management and nurturing (sharing, doing and caring) culture -- have a key role in the development of the knowledge-based enterprise. Before we discuss the role of HR in institutionalizing KM in an organization, we will outline briefly, what KM is all about. We will illustrate this with an example of one of our KM
  2. 2. initiatives in Hindustan Unilever Limited. (HUL) -- The packaging community, so that seasoned HR professionals could come up with their own additional ideas / views on how best to harness HR processes to successfully implement KM in an organization. What is Knowledge? Knowledge can be defined as a fluid mix of experience, values, contextual information and expert insight that provides a framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information. Knowledge is information in action. Knowledge is what people in an organization know about their customers, products, processes, mistakes, and successes. Unlike the conventional Material assets, which decrease as they are used, Knowledge asset increases with use; Ideas breed new ideas, and shared knowledge stays with the giver while it enriches the receiver. Types of Knowledge ♣ Explicit knowledge: It is the visible knowledge available in the form of letters, reports, memos, literatures, etc. Explicit knowledge can be embedded in objects, rules, systems, methods etc. ♣ Tacit knowledge: It is highly invisible and confined in the mind of a person. It is hard to formalize and therefore, difficult to communicate to others. A master craftsman after years of experience develops a wealth of expertise ‘at his fingertips’. But he is often unable to articulate the scientific or technical principle behind what he knows. Transformation of knowledge from tacit to explicit form increases its usability and visibility. Capturing the experts Tacit Knowledge that resides within him in the form of Know-how and insights is a very difficult and challenging task. ♣ While tacit and explicit type of knowledge is only a way to dissect the field, in reality the situation is more complicated. The above two categories are so heavily interlinked that such a bipolar map is not easy to draw in practice. For example, to understand completely a written document i.e. explicit knowledge, it often requires a significant amount of experience i.e. tacit knowledge. A sophisticated recipe is meaningless to someone who has never stood in kitchen or a diagram of machines is indecipherable without an engineering background. What is Knowledge Management? Sustainable competitive advantage a firm has comes from what it "collectively knows," how efficiently it uses what it knows and how readily it "acquires and uses new knowledge," in
  3. 3. short by becoming a Knowledge Driven Organization. Knowledge Management (KM) provides an enabling framework to derive this advantage. It helps institutionalize processes to fully leverage the "collective knowledge" in an organization. Knowledge management refers to all systematic activities for creation and sharing of knowledge so that knowledge can be used for the success of the organization. KM processes provide a framework for connecting people to people and people to information, to develop and share distilled learning’s and best practices. Knowledge management helps the organisation to: Improve organizational effectiveness. Improve the returns. Build competencies/competitive advantage. Create greater value for core businesses. See the opportunities and exploit them. The Essence of Knowledge Management Knowledge Management is a process that, continuously and systematically, transfers knowledge from individuals and teams, who generate them, to the brain of the organisation for the benefit of the entire organisation. It is the systematic, explicit, and deliberate building, renewal, and application of knowledge to maximize an enterprise's knowledge-related effectiveness and returns from its knowledge assets. The central theme of Knowledge Management is to leverage and reuse knowledge resources that already exist in the organization so that people will seek out best practices rather than reinvent the wheel. Why Knowledge Management? In this competitive knowledge economy, our most valuable asset is the knowledge asset. It is often said that, in this economy it is not what "we own," but " we know" that would give us the competitive advantage. We must therefore, quickly learn the strategies and management techniques of Knowledge Age. In short, we must adopt practice of knowledge management to strengthen our competitive advantage. Specific business factors, includes: Marketplaces are increasingly competitive and the rate of innovation is rising. Competitive pressures reduce the size of the work force that holds valuable business knowledge.
  4. 4. Reductions in staffing create a need to replace informal knowledge with formal methods. The amount of time available to experience and acquire knowledge has diminished. Early retirements and increasing mobility of the work force lead to loss of knowledge. Changes in strategic direction may result in the loss of knowledge in a specific area. KM provides an enabling framework to leverage "collective knowledge." When KM becomes "the way we work," it helps us deliver on strategic priorities and business goals - growth, innovation, speed of response, quality of response, faster time to market, strengthen organizational learning, protect functional and operational excellence in a dis-aggregated organizational structure. What does leveraging "collective knowledge" involve? ♣ Working in collaborative teams, capturing and sharing knowledge and delivering business excellence. ♣ Developing and sharing "best practices." ♣ Faster replication of innovations through faster movement of knowledge through the organization. ♣ Acquisition and sharing of "new knowledge." ♣ Creating an environment that is comfortable to the idea of openness, knowledge sharing, risk of failure as well as rewards for success. ♣ Managing organizational learning. An overview of Knowledge Management Processes Beckman’s has proposed an eight stage knowledge management process. These stages include: Identify stage: This stage includes identification of competencies necessary for organizational success. Collect stage: This stage includes acquiring existing knowledge, skills, experience etc. To possess the competencies. Select stage: This stage deals with the assessment of value of collected knowledge against the standard requirements for success.
  5. 5. Store stage: This stage takes the nuggets of knowledge, classifies them and includes them in the organizational existing knowledge. Share stage: This stage makes the new and existing organizational knowledge accessible for employees. Apply stage: This stage enables employees to apply knowledge in organizational activities/operations, decision-making, problem-solving, exploiting opportunities etc. Customer Acceptance: This stage involves obtaining customers’ acceptance/clients approval for the products/services produced/developed based on the knowledge. Create stage: This stage involves development of new knowledge through observation, feedback, brain storming, failures in the previous events etc. The key knowledge management processes are: ♣ Linking people to people in teams through formal / informal structures, for them to effectively share knowledge. A Community of Practice (CoP) is one such useful structure. In large organizations with geographical spread, multiple business units, businesses, organizational silos are likely to constrain effective knowledge sharing and leveraging of collective knowledge of the enterprise. Communities of practice (knowledge communities or teams) formed around core competencies of the company help overcome this constraint. A CoP is a team of people who are practitioners of a well-defined knowledge domain (Packaging, engineering, sales etc.) who come together to capture, create and share relevant knowledge, in pursuit of business excellence. Such a team is empowered to develop best practices, maintain the knowledge repositories, and develop and deliver relevant training programs to build the capability in the knowledge domain. ♣ Linking people to information / knowledge repositories / best practices - Intranets with efficient search engines provide an effective way to connect people to knowledge repositories with the capability for easy retrieval of needed information. Benefits of knowledge: Companies derive the benefits from knowledge management.These benefits include: • Unleash new Ideas and Creativity
  6. 6. • Improve and accelerate Learning • Enhance Team Collaboration & Coordination • Improve the Flow of knowledge • Attract, and retain motivated, loyal, and committed Talent An illustrative example of Knowledge Management initiatives: HUL's Packaging Network Opportunities / Challenges Packaging in our company is very important, both for providing protection to the product in transit and storage as well as its contribution to pack presentation / brand image. Total packaging cost incurred by the company is very significant, across various Businesses. Packaging professionals are divided by category structure. The challenge is to deliver functional and operational excellence in this divisional organizational structure, without being constrained by the organizational silos of the formal structure. How do we make sure that the collective knowledge of the packaging professionals in the company is fully leveraged by the packaging professionals in each business, to add value to his business, through problem solving as well as innovations to reduce cost and or improve functionality? Our response: We formed a knowledge community, consisting of the packaging development managers and officers and packaging buyers of various HUL businesses. Some of the key suppliers were also invited to be part of the extended team. This Packaging Community's charter was to improve speed and quality of innovations, implement Packaging Technology lead cost effectiveness and practice packaging synergy across businesses through harmonization, learning and knowledge sharing.
  7. 7. The team is very focused on learning, sharing knowledge and effective implementation of the team's charter. Knowledge is shared in a structured way - each team member wearing two hats - one of business unit / category focus and another of Packaging Technology focus. The team meets once in two months for structured knowledge sharing and monitoring progress of implementation of the charter. This has enabled systematic implementation of innovation projects and preparation of best practice documents. The team learns through proactive sharing of successes as well as failures. The basic approach and methodology adopted by the team: Develop clarity on business expectations from the packaging team, understand of Packaging Skills Chain, improve understanding of Consumer needs through participation in consumer clinics, keep abreast of developments in Packaging Technology nationally and internationally, undertake brain storming and idea generation on a regular basis. The team identified well-defined knowledge blocks in Packaging area and appointed sub- teams to specialize / lead in each of the knowledge blocks. The sub-teams will help the total team to keep up-to-date with technology and strengthen the packaging skill base in the company. The team from time to time organizes "knowledge workshops" with the core team and the extended team to generate new ideas and opportunities. It focuses on capability building through continuous skill mapping, gap analysis and need based training. The team developed an Intranet application with collaborative working tools, to facilitate knowledge sharing on a continuous basis, in between the face to face meetings. This Intranet is also the repository of Best Practices and is used for replication of ideas / innovations across business units. Results achieved The Packaging community has been consistently delivering as per their charter. It successfully initiated a number of cross business synergy projects and delivered significant saving. Getting it going needed considerable attention to strengthening knowledge sharing behavior through facilitation, training and leadership. What are the barriers for implementing Knowledge Management? Conceptual / mindset related issues: We need to create a culture of sharing. Often knowledge is seen as power and in a competitive environment there could be a tendency to hoard knowledge. Key to success of
  8. 8. KM is creation of knowledge sharing culture and elimination of organizational and cultural barriers for communication. We should move from “hoarding of knowledge to gain power" to "sharing of knowledge to gain power." Operational issues: Time: The typical executive is already hard pressed for time. He has no time for an additional initiative, if it is seen as a diversion from focus on immediate results. So, it is important to integrate KM into existing business processes in the company and embed into workflow. KM should not be seen as a separate initiative, but should be integrated into current workflow as a more effective way to achieve business results. The experience of exemplar practitioners of KM demonstrates that it succeeds only when we are able to signal to employees, strong senior management endorsement for KM. Like all organizational transformation processes, KM needs to be led by senior management. The role of HR in institutionalizing KM in an organization As can be seen from the above, knowledge management is essentially a people related discipline, with focus on strengthening collaborative team effort to leverage collective knowledge of the enterprise. HR has a pivotal role to play in the KM movement. Key HR processes - Corporate Education, Performance Management and nurturing (sharing, doing and caring) culture, have a very significant role in the development of the knowledge-based enterprise. Talent management, which is the domain of HR and knowledge management are closely interrelated. While Talent Management focuses at individual level -- recruitment, training, skill and competency development and career planning of an individual, knowledge management focuses on people at collective level, how to leverage the collective knowledge of the enterprise, through Mentoring and knowledge sharing and collaborative team working. These new HRM roles are those of: Human capital steward, Knowledge facilitator, Relationship builder, and Rapid Deployment specialist. The human capital steward recognizes the value of intellectual capital, must ensure that human capital is available, effective and that it will grow in value; this means brokering the services of knowledge workers. The knowledge Facilitator places emphasis on learning and development, the effective management of knowledge, and creating environments conducive to knowledge creation, sharing and dissemination . The relationship builder focuses on creating and sustaining networks and communities of practice, of joining together people in various parts of the supply chain in new ways.
  9. 9. The rapid deployment specialist faces the challenge of rapidly changing markets where information, business processes and organizational design can be combined in different ways to meet ever changing dynamic environments characteristic of life in the knowledge economy. KM has the capacity to significantly broaden the role of the HRM professional. 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.
  10. 10. 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, ongoing 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 everyone 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, Buck man 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.
  11. 11. 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. Illustrated below is an example: 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 behaviour. 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
  12. 12. 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 behaviour 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." 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 is 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 companywide 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. Develop "Knowledge Pull" -- a grassroots desire among employees to tap into their company's intellectual resources. HR can impact this through -- training and practices that reinforce this desire. Some of the steps that HR could take for cultural change : ♣ Performance Development Planning (PDP). In HUL, our PDP incorporates "knowledge - Development & Sharing” as one of the key competencies to be
  13. 13. monitored and developed. Some of the key competencies linked to knowledge development and sharing are: 1. Learning from experience (actively searching for others ideas, willingness to discuss failures and openness to feedback) 2. Developing others (commitment to share insights, help others shine, focus on future) 3. Team commitment (promoting cooperation and trust, open and active participation in team projects, task forces, communities of practice / Networks, upholding team's ideas and proposals). ♣ Develop a mechanism to communicate effectively what knowledge-related behaviour is expected from the employees. Identify knowledge as a key competence and recognize and rewards those who develop and excel in this competence. For example, this could be one of the key competencies for identifying managers of high potential. There are examples of companies who included sharing of as a criterion to get the highest rating in performance evaluation. There are other examples - where people who do not share are ignored or fail to be promoted or are "siloed." ♣ Share with all employees, success stories of collaborative effort and knowledge sharing, through House Magazine, workshops etc. ♣ Make KM part of the Company training modules. ♣ Hold visible knowledge sharing events like " Knowledge Fairs." Such events will energize the whole organization -- where high visibility is provided for excellent contributions to knowledge capture creation and sharing. Conclusion: Transformation into knowledge driven organization is essentially a people related issue. HR has a key role to play in nurturing and strengthening knowledge management through "learning initiatives" and "culture change initiatives." HR is best placed to play the role of an effective facilitator, and give positive reinforcements for Knowledge Management through organizing visible knowledge sharing events and strengthening skill and competency development of employees. HR should put in place specific processes and structures for KM and the necessary monitoring systems. The primary focus of any organisation should be on establishing a culture that respects tacit knowledge, reinforces its sharing, retains its experts, and builds employees’ loyalty to the organisation. Knowledge management has already been embraced as a source of solutions to the problems of today’s business.