Using KM to Leverage and Develop Experts
Unfortunately, mentoring requires a significant time investment from the technical leaders who serve as mentors, and advanced training can be equally high-touch when experts help design and deliver lessons. Most organizations do not have enough expert trainers and mentors to bring nex’perts up to speed, nor do they have years to wait for training and mentoring programs to achieve their full effect.
We recommend three categories of complementary approaches to help address the scarcity of experts and enable nex’perts and newcomers to take on additional responsibility in the short term:
- Structural approaches—such as gathering experts into a center of excellence or allocating them to specific regions or project areas;
- Knowledge management approaches—such as technical networks and forums, communities of practice, profile-based expertise locators, technical conferences and formal processes to codify and transfer expertise; and
- Content management approaches—such as improving access to content and learning through contextual search, special libraries and clear ownership of content.
The data suggests that some KM approaches—such as communities of practice and technical networks—are already providing significant value to organizations looking to leverage experts more effectively and build skills and competencies. Others—most notably expertise location, libraries and repositories and knowledge transfer approaches—may represent opportunities for improvement. Systematic solutions to codify knowledge and connect employees to experts can be tricky to design and implement, which is probably why survey participants perceive them as slightly less effective. But these tools are the key to organizations extending the reach of existing knowledge and expertise, allowing them to survive with fewer technical experts. KM and collaboration tools also function as learning resources and lifelines when less experienced employees take on more complex tasks.
An Integrated Approach
Although most of the approaches we recommend can be implemented on their own, organizations benefit from looking at the issue more holistically and purposefully combining techniques from executive management, HR, KM, content management and the technical disciplines themselves. Our research shows that, while a majority of firms have multiple programs in place to address expertise shortages and competency development, less than half have any degree of integration between those programs (figure 2, page S5 KM White Paper or download PDF).
Important problems often require cross-functional solutions, and our data suggests that the degree of integration among multi-disciplinary approaches is positively correlated with their effectiveness, both individually and in totum. Even organizations with mature knowledge and talent management programs may benefit from more inclusive strategies to address expertise gaps and accelerate time to competency—especially for the mid-career professionals in which some firms appear to be underinvesting.
We strongly recommend that knowledge managers initiate conversations with stakeholders in learning, talent, competency and content management groups to begin gravitating toward more comprehensive, enterprisewide interventions.
APQC is a member-based nonprofit and one of the world’s leading proponents of knowledge management, benchmarking, and best practices business research. Working with more than 750 organizations worldwide in all industries, APQC provides the information they need to work smarter, faster, and with confidence. If you would like to learn more about APQC, visit www.apqc.org or call us at 713-681-4020.