The ability to access needed documents, collaborate with coworkers, and conduct virtual
meetings has become a critical need as many organizations make an abrupt shift to remote
work. Knowledge management (KM) has tools and approaches to help organizations cope with these challenges, and KM teams are well-positioned to demonstrate their value in the current crisis. KM training for employees is especially critical in this “teachable moment” as newly remote employees are likely to struggle not only with focus and productivity, but also with accessing information and connecting with one another. Below, we discuss five strategies that can help KM teams provide the support that organizations and employees need right now.
ALIGN WITH THE CURRENT REALITY
In times of crisis, a critical first step for KM is to align with the current reality. KM teams need to evaluate their current initiatives, potentially pause certain routine activities, and refocus on what needs to happen now to meet the needs of the organization. For example:
» Do you need to centralize access to key resources on a more accessible platform?
» Can KM offer support to teams that suddenly need to collaborate online and/or conduct
» Do you need to remind people how to use KM tools to find the answers they need?
» Should you temporarily “loan” a KM team member with in-demand skills to another
A Knowledge Management team’s strategy and direction in this moment will depend on the organization and its knowledge needs. For example, KM may need to focus on one particular area of the business that is especially vulnerable, or take on projects that fall outside of KM’s typical scope.
REMIND EMPLOYEES WHAT’S AVAILABLE AND HOW TO USE IT
Smart KM teams continually reinforce what knowledge to share as well as when, where, why, and how to share it. Point people to the resources you have or create new training targeted to the current environment. Any content should be user-friendly and easy to consume.
While email and social are good for quick reminders, employees now working from home may be particularly receptive to high-touch virtual support. Host live trainings or informal Q&A sessions to answer questions and help employees troubleshoot. For example, the KM team at one software and technology consulting firm hosts regular office-hours sessions. The first half focuses on a specific topic (like how to use a certain tool), while the second half is an open- ended Q&A where participants can pose any question they want. These office hours make KM more visible and accessible to employees, help identify who is struggling (and with what), and help employees build trusted relationships with KM.
COACH EMPLOYEES ON “RULES OF THE ROAD” FOR VIRTUAL KNOWLEDGE SHARING
With so many newly remote employees, organizations are likely to experience a flurry of digital interaction in email, community sites, and enterprise social channels. These digital updates and conversations can quickly become overwhelming, especially if the information is off-topic or “nice to have” rather than critical.
To encourage the right contributions, employees need clear guidelines on what to share (and not share) as well as guidance on the best channels to use. In collaboration with KM champions or super-users out in the business, KM can convey simple rules of thumb on what’s worth communicating and where it’s best to post a particular update or question.
When employees are posting too much or in the wrong place, thank them for their contributions and redirect that enthusiasm to the right areas.
You may also want to designate certain outlets for social conversations so these don’t get mixed up with—and distract from—the critical work of the business. Establish some fun threads in your collaboration platform or host a virtual coffee break or happy hour for your team or department. Events like these help replicate the sense of community that many employees are likely missing right now, and they are a great place to redirect off-topic contributions.
PROVIDE EXTRA SUPPORT FOR LEADERS, EXPERTS, AND KEY PERSONNEL
While KM should help everyone, certain personnel—such as executives and subject matter
experts—may need specialized support right now. Many senior leaders have experience leading and communicating virtually, but others may be unfamiliar with the tools or skeptical of the benefits of using open channels like communities and enterprise social, instead of emailing or calling people directly. Encourage these key personnel to role-model good communication habits by using the same “rules of the road” as other employees.
Senior leaders will be extremely busy right now, so make it as easy for them as possible.
For example, a KM representative could speak with a leader for five minutes, translate her ideas into a blog post or message, and run it by her before posting it on her behalf. Without dictating to leaders, be ready with ideas and proposals where you can—There’s no better way to communicate the value of KM than by making an executive’s life a little easier during a stressful time.
TAP INTO YOUR NETWORKS
Now more than ever, KM teams need their connections in the business to provide insight into urgent knowledge needs. Reach out to internal and external support networks, including your KM team members, KM champions in the business, partnering functions, executive advocates, and contacts at other organizations, all of whom can provide valuable guidance. There are already many organizations like Shopify with a primarily remote workforce, whose experiences offer important insights into effective collaboration among employees working from home.
This article is written by APQC in the document COVID-19 ORGANIZATIONAL SURVIVAL GUIDE, Featuring insights and strategies from APQC’s 5 major research areas.
APQC helps organizations work smarter, faster, and with greater confidence. It is the world’s foremost authority in benchmarking, best practices, process and performance improvement, and knowledge management. APQC’s unique structure as a member-based nonprofit makes it a differentiator in the marketplace. APQC partners with more than 500 member organizations worldwide in all industries. With more than 40 years of experience, APQC remains the world’s leader in transforming organizations. Visit us at https://www.apqc.org/, and learn how you can make best practices your practices.