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Six ways KM supports organizations in the COVID-19 era

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2. Coach people on the shift to virtual work

As COVID-19 forced many employees to shift to remote forms of work, KM teams helped coach them through this transition and acclimate them to the culture of digital work. Whether or not KM directly “owns” the enterprise toolkit for virtual collaboration, organizations and their leaders recognized the unique expertise that KM has when it comes to hosting webinars and online events, engaging people in virtual collaboration, and helping people communicate effectively. In some cases, KM teams were asked to deliver even broader guidance on how to stay productive, connected, and sane in a virtual work environment.

For example, at global oil and gas company TechnipFMC, the KM team combined new and existing learning content to meet the needs of a newly remote workforce. “Our hub had great learning content, but people wanted more—they wanted that connection to the how,” said Kim Glover, director of knowledge management and social learning.

Glover and her team organized content around six critical needs: working from home, using Microsoft Teams, working in virtual teams, leading virtual teams, delivering virtual meetings, and facilitated collaboration. They also redirected existing KM channels like the organization’s “Experts Explain” webinars and “Illuminate” podcasts to share tips and advice around virtual work. Beyond technical know-how, the content addresses issues related to mental and physical health during the pandemic. “It’s been a great opportunity to provide that coaching and be that first responder,” Glover said.

3. Bolster connections and community

As the pandemic kept—and continues to keep—workers away from the office, KM helped them re-create a sense of community by leveraging collaboration platforms and helping virtual gatherings run smoothly. Virtual happy hours, coffee bar chats, and other digital events are replacing the traditional “water cooler” to keep remote workers connected to the organization and one another.

At healthcare consulting firm The Chartis Group, for example, the KM team rebranded existing Yammer communities as part of the organization’s broader COVID-19 response. “We connected everything and branded our organizational response into what we call the Homefront,” said Darrin Brogan, director of KM. “Our existing wellness community in Yammer is now called ‘Homefront Wellness.’ We also have Homefront communities for things like cooking, parenting, and homeschooling.” Brogan said the response has been overwhelmingly positive. “These connections not only foster a greater sense of community in the enterprise social environment,” Brogan said, “but also carry over into everything else we do in terms of weekly calls.”

Amy Frank-Hensley, global knowledge center program manager at Swagelok, said that KM has helped create a sense of belonging across the workforce by ensuring that digital events allow everyone to participate. “We were finding that the big conversations on webinars were not allowing people to express their fear and the pain or get down into the deep conversations that were impacting their business,” she said. To meet this challenge, Swagelok split people into smaller groups of eight or 10 that met on a weekly basis to discuss common challenges and concerns.

“The feedback we’ve received on that was really positive—people feel like they have a stronger connection to our  organization than they’ve ever had because they have a place to share and be vulnerable,” Frank-Hensley said.

4. Support rapid innovationand business continuity

Whether through communities of practice, ideation, or knowledge mapping, KM teams are using the tools at their disposal to help organizations innovate to address fast-moving challenges.

For example, one oil and gas company repurposed its ideation platform—which it typically uses to crowdsource fixes for complex technical problems—to refine ideas about keeping employees productive during the pandemic. Other organizations have stood up cross-functional communities to brainstorm everything from cutting costs to diversifying supplier networks and designing touchless delivery channels.

In many cases, KM is using its virtual collaboration expertise to help organizations understand needs and refine strategic priorities. For example, Pazderka said that FHI 360 used Microsoft Teams and digital whiteboarding tools to host human-centric design brainstorming sessions that would typically be done in person. “We’ve also been encouraging people to think and plan in terms of ‘post-pandemic,’ and those are comforting conversations to have and facilitate. We take those ideas, curate them, and prioritize them to see how we can help the organization pivot.”

At some organizations, COVID-19 has also driven a push to leverage certain knowledge-sharing tools more broadly than before. Glover said that Technip-FMC has promoted its ideation tools and approaches more widely to help people innovate and plan. “We’ve been able to put these tools in more people’s hands and elevate knowledge about how to use the tools,” she said. “We’re also having different challenges and idea jams to help the organization decide what needs to stop, become leaner, or accelerate.”

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