This post was originally published on lessonly.com.
It’s safe to say that knowledge management is a tricky business. The role and process are an essential part of a company’s success. Because it’s so important, many companies have created specialized knowledge management jobs that focus on how to best gather, store, and share a business’s organizational knowledge. Knowledge managers have many strings to their bow, but what are their typical duties and responsibilities, and what skills and attributes are needed to do the job well?
Let’s dive straight into the different roles knowledge managers must play: the strategist, the promoter, and the manager.
It’s your first day in the brand-new role of a knowledge manager. Where do you start? Your first order of business is to come up with a knowledge management strategy—either from scratch or building on a company’s existing one.
A knowledge manager must create an end vision for what their business’s knowledge management process will look like and have a clear step-by-step roadmap of how to get there. This plan must align with the company’s overall business goals, organizational culture, and values.
One key factor to consider is to establish an internal hub, also known as a knowledge base. All information can be easily input, accessed, and shared in a central system in this hub. The knowledge managers of today need to be super tech-savvy and able to decide which type of knowledge base is the most intuitive and easy to use for the entire team, as well as other digital knowledge management software and tools that will aid the process.
Once a knowledge management framework is in place, it’s all about seeing if it actually works, which means the strategist should consider how each step of the process is measured. A knowledge manager will regularly track its effectiveness to see if short and long-term goals are being met. Is the knowledge base easy to navigate? Is the right knowledge entering the system at the right time? Are your team members struggling to find answers to their burning questions? These are crucial considerations for a knowledge manager.
In return, a knowledge manager should also be adaptable and willing to shift gear to change the strategy when needed. A certain amount of trial and error is inevitable, so flexibility is key here.
This may all seem like a mammoth-sized responsibility, but a great knowledge manager is skilled at prioritizing, organizing, and being methodical, breaking each stage into bite-sized pieces that can be easily measured, and will come together to form the long-term vision.
Once the technical strategy is in place, this doesn’t mean a knowledge manager can put their feet up. A good knowledge manager recognizes that half the battle is encouraging the team to embrace their vision. They will want them to use the knowledge base and technologies correctly and with enthusiasm, keen to share their knowledge with others.
Employees often need convincing that although a knowledge manager has the formal label, everyone in the organization is responsible for managing the company’s knowledge. This means a knowledge manager takes on the role of an educator and shows the team why they should care about sharing knowledge in the workplace. This goes for senior management as well as brand new team members. Everyone must get on board for it to work.
To promote the vision, a knowledge expert must be a very visible and approachable member of the team and present at the key learning moments. They also should be excellent at communicating, whether it be through written or verbal presentations, informal chats, team meetings, or in a team’s online social channels. A good knowledge manager should also be very likable and gain support and trust by influencing others to become knowledge champions like them.
As well as a promoter, the knowledge experts are ambassadors who embody the values they are encouraging. They set high standards, but they always follow them and practice what they preach. This includes being an open book when it comes to knowledge sharing; something others are often reluctant to do.
The clue to knowledge management is in the job title. A knowledge manager’s day-to-day tasks consist of making sure content in the knowledge base is relevant, valuable, up-to-date, and constantly flowing.
A common stumbling block companies fall upon is thinking that the more information added to the knowledge base, the better. In reality, the best knowledge management system focuses on the quality of knowledge over quantity.
As much as it’s a strategic and operational role, it’s a social and human one too. This is because knowledge managers are responsible for making sure the team adopts the knowledge management process on a day-to-day basis. It’s about managing people just as much as managing systems and technologies. And, like any great manager, they need to develop the skill to be a team leader.
This doesn’t mean chasing people around the office and giving them a hard time if they don’t use a knowledge base properly or are hesitant to share information. However, people do need regular reminding, particularly when there is staff turnover.
Of course, a level of authority and strong leadership is needed too, but then again, knowledge managers should understand that not everybody learns and shares knowledge in the same way. Team members have very different ways of working, even the same tasks.
The role also involves being a guardian of an organization’s valuable knowledge, as companies now recognize that their knowledge is a vital business asset that needs protecting. They should ensure a strict protocol for getting team members to share their knowledge before they leave the company, so it doesn’t leave with them. Similarly, they should be a strong pillar of support during the onboarding process for newcomers who quickly gain a lot of knowledge.
The knowledge management process
A knowledge manager takes on many different roles in order to create, promote, and maintain the company’s knowledge management process. They shape-shift between strategists, educators, ambassadors, leaders, promoters, and knowledge protectors.
Above all, they are the central figure that bridges the gap between team members and tech systems. Without them to connect the dots, teams lose their focus on understanding the value of knowledge and how beneficial a winning knowledge management strategy is.