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How KM enhances productivity and the employee experience

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In addition, employees whose organizations have documented critical knowledge spend less time: 

Re-creating information or work that already exists somewhere in the organization 

Providing duplicate information or repeating the same answers/updates 

Creating or using work-arounds for broken systems or processes 

Performing busy work that serves no ultimate purpose 

Overall, employees whose organizations have documented critical knowledge save 2 hours per week compared to those whose knowledge is stuck in their heads. Multiply that by the number of knowledge workers inside your organization and you’ll see that’s a lot of time that you could free up for innovation, learning, and other value-added activities. 

Enterprise search boosts productivity and morale 

Employees spend a lot of time looking for information and expertise, so it’s intuitive to think that implementing better search and discovery capabilities would have a positive impact on personal productivity. The research bears this out: 

Those who say findability problems hurt their productivity spend more time each week looking for information and expertise as well as re-creating and duplicating information. The total difference is upwards of 3.5 hours per week. 

As part of the research, APQC asked knowledge workers about their organizations’ use of content management, taxonomy, metadata, and expertise location tools. All of these have an impact on productivity (particularly content management, which is linked to fewer challenges finding and accessing information), but not as much as implementing an enterprise search tool that scans across systems and platforms. 

This makes sense in the context of the problem so many knowledge workers face, which is not general disorganization but rather dispersion. Earlier research by APQC found that the average employee has at least five different systems and repositories to search through at their organization. The most common challenges employees cite regarding findability are confusion about where information is stored and too many disconnected systems to search. 

The productivity research reinforces this narrative and emphasizes the impact of a unifying search tool in boosting the feeling of productivity. Respondents with access to enterprise search are significantly less likely to report that productivity challenges led to the following personal impacts: 

Too much time spent working 

Too much time focused on repetitive manual tasks 

More likely to leave current organization 

Wasting time looking for stuff hurts productivity and morale. People don’t feel productive when they spend hours digging around for what they need, and that doesn’t feel good to people who want to use their time effectively and do a good job. Findability problems may or may not increase the actual hours they spend at work, but these issues definitely increase the likelihood that they’ll feel frustrated—and start looking for greener pastures. 

The power of peer mentoring and coaching 

Unlike documenting critical knowledge and implementing enterprise search, mentoring and coaching may not be seen as core to the KM value proposition and use case. So, what’s it doing here? The line between KM and organizational learning, which usually owns mentoring and coaching, is often blurry. But that’s a good thing. Organizational learning provides learning opportunities that are more holistic and structured, whereas KM provides ones that are more bite-sized and self-determined. In organizations with diverse learners and learning needs, you need both. 

When it comes to mentoring and coaching, organizational learning’s offerings are typically targeted to developing employees’ technical expertise and domain knowledge. KM can supplement these efforts with more informal, peer-to-peer mentoring and coaching around topics such as productivity. This often happens naturally during KM activities, such as communities of practice and knowledge-sharing events, as like-minded employees share tips and coach each other through challenges. But KM can and should do more to intentionally provoke these discussions and build these peer-to-peer relationships, because the research shows that peer mentoring and coaching is one of the best productivity-boosting tools available. 

When organizations provide productivity-focused peer mentoring and coaching opportunities, knowledge workers are significantly less likely to report productivity problems. 

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