Best Practices: After You Train, Retain

A knowledge management system should develop a sense of community and create more awareness of the company’s core competencies as a result of its employees’ experiences.

By Neal Goodman, Ph.D., President, Global Dynamics, Inc.

All too often, companies invest in the professional development of their workforce only to lose that investment after employees leave (or when they simply forget what they learned). According to Ernst & Young, 44 percent of employees are “poor or very poor” at transferring knowledge.

But companies increasingly are moving toward the implementation of robust knowledge management systems to collect and share existing information. The truly effective systems improve an organization’s ability to take full advantage of the knowledge and experiences of its employees and make it easily accessible to the entire organization at any time.

In such a system, all of the information is collected and retained for reference, and the information can be accessed as needed by any group inside the organization, meaning that all useful information is available across several different functional departments. Such a system reduces the impact of organizational silos and promotes social networking within the organization. The retrieval of common useful information also can connect relevant people across departments, allowing for further discussion and the establishment of new networks within the organization.

In an international organization, for example, a knowledge management system would store information available from various training programs and provide the experiences and names of employees within the company familiar with working in certain regions and countries. The information obtained from these employees would allow others to use this information and stimulate further discussion and internal networking among employees within the company who share common experiences. The information then bolsters the knowledge of the organization as a whole.

Following are the key functions of one such model that has been deployed successfully at leading global corporations:

  • Deliver a core cross-cultural competency course for all employees that captures and categorizes each participant’s global challenges, issues, personal goals, case studies, “lessons learned,” and e-mail addresses to form an electronic community.
  • Establish curriculum “paths” based on building specific core competencies. For example, create paths focused on developing global leadership, project management, customer service, etc.
  • Provide for the ability for each associate to create their electronic, competency road map and skills component. This would systematically track individual progress toward competency goals.
  • Establish an international assignment “series of interventions” in support of expatriates and repatriates.
  • Record “lessons learned” throughout each international assignment, global project team, and international business activity.
  • Capture international issues and trigger personal coaching based on individual circumstances.
  • Analyze the information to identify and interpret trends, and identify process improvement opportunities.
  • Establish a cross-cultural library of existing blended learning courseware.
  • Query” the collective knowledge derived from the case studies, “lessons learned,” and personal/business experiences in the database.

Ultimately, the true value of knowledge management systems lies in their ability to limit the unnecessary repetition of tasks and improve efficiency and coordination within the entire organization. (According to Delphi Group, employees spend 7 to 20 percent of their time on the job replicating existing solutions for others.)

The knowledge management system should develop a sense of community through the retained employee information that is made available to share, and create awareness of the company’s core competencies as a result of its employees’ experiences. By improving the organization’s internal awareness of itself, knowledge management systems allow organizations to find strengths they never even knew they had.

What success or challenges have you had as a training organization at implementing a knowledge sharing process? Let me know at ngoodman@global-dynamics.com.

Neal Goodman, Ph.D., is president of Global Dynamics, Inc., a training and development firm specializing in globalization, cultural intelligence, effective virtual workplaces, and diversity and inclusion. He can be reached at 305.682.7883 and at mailto:ngoodman@global-dynamics.com. For more information, visit http://www.global-dynamics.com.

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