At its core, training is all about the transfer of knowledge from the trainer or instructional designer to the learner. While it sounds simple on the surface, the training process is anything but.
Creating a positive and successful learning environment involves a ton of planning and preparation revolving around:
- Individual training modules
- Overall training programs
- Organizational policies
…and much, much more.
It’s a lot to keep track of, no matter the size of your business organization. But, to be sure, it must be done. Getting a firm grasp on all the data, information, and knowledge flowing throughout your organization is key to the success of your L&D team and the employees who constantly develop their professional skills.
This is where knowledge management comes in.
What is Knowledge Management?
The systematic management of an organization’s knowledge assets for the purpose of creating value and meeting tactical & strategic requirements; it consists of the initiatives, processes, strategies, and systems that sustain and enhance the storage, assessment, sharing, refinement, and creation of knowledge.
Note the emphasis on terms such as “knowledge assets”, “value,” and “tactical and strategic” processes. Knowledge management isn’t just the act of managing “on-paper” data; it’s the act of transforming this data into useful information and contextualizing it in order to steer your L&D team in the right direction.
The goal of knowledge management (KM) is to enable organizations to use the knowledge they possess — individually or as a team — to achieve the goals they’ve set for themselves. KM is essential to ensure your employees become more informed, knowledgeable, and continuously develop their skills and competencies.
Let’s take a closer look at just how valuable knowledge management can be for your organization.
Knowledge Management allows for strategic planning
Talent development professionals don’t simply aim to teach employees facts and information for the sake of knowing them. They need people to actually be able to use what they’ve learned to better perform their jobs.
Adopting knowledge management processes allows your team to become more strategic in this area, as it will lead you to take better stock of:
- What employees need to learn to succeed in a specific role
- Why the knowledge you’ll be transferring is important and/or essential to their success
- How you’ll need to deliver said knowledge to ensure this transfer takes place
How, exactly, does KM make all this happen?
For one, it shifts your team’s focus onto making sense of and using data to inform your decision-making processes. By taking the time to understand what all this data actually means with regard to what and how you teach, you’ll be able to create much more engaging and meaningful experiences for learners.
Similarly, KM also helps your team focus on creating the context within which to deliver your training modules and program to learners. This allows you to develop a foundation for them to build upon, and to deliver scaffolding that enables them to develop in a way that matters to them.
Finally, strategic KM involves the unearthing of relationships between various data points and the like. This allows your team to easily identify strengths and weaknesses throughout your processes (learner-facing or internal) — and to just as easily determine the best way to improve them moving forward.
All talent development teams aim to be strategic when developing their learning communities. With knowledge management driving your team’s decision-making processes, you’ll all but ensure that your approach to training your employees will lead all involved parties to massive success.
Knowledge Management enables collaborative and holistic training
Learning does not happen in isolation. Or, more accurately, earning occurs most effectively when not done in isolation.
This goes back to the importance of contextualizing the knowledge being transferred to learners. When the knowledge they get in one training module or course can be used in other areas of their job, they’ll be much more likely to see the value of it — and more likely to hold onto it.
Knowledge management aims to put structures in place to allow for the creation of a more holistic learning environment for trainees. Instead of siloing learning, KM centralizes it.
With these structures in place, your team of trainers and instructional designers can easily share a variety of data, info, and knowledge, such as:
- Training plans, materials, and other resources
- Insight into employee learning performance and behavior
- Teaching techniques, organizational policies, and other means of maintaining and improving the learning environment
In some cases, this knowledge is a bit more straightforward and tangible. Other times, specifically when dealing with tacit knowledge, your team may need to demonstrate or otherwise extrapolate on the knowledge they possess to communicate it to their team. In either case, KM works to ensure all team members can access and use this knowledge to supercharge their own learning efforts.
Knowledge Management facilitates the delivery and reception of knowledge
So far, we’ve focused on how knowledge management helps improve the backend aspects of training, such as the creation of your organization’s training processes and policies. But, KM also allows you to make the actual transfer of knowledge from instructor to trainee as efficient as possible, too.
A huge part of KM is ensuring that knowledge is made accessible and digestible for all who may need it. When it comes to training, there’s both a logistical and practical sense to all this.
In terms of logistics, knowledge management aims to keep knowledge and knowledge assets organized and retrievable at all times. This allows instructors to quickly find any resources they may need, whether they be collaborating with a teammate or enhancing a training module. Learners can also benefit from this accessibility, as they can quickly get the information or knowledge they need to make progress in their learning path.
In a practical sense, knowledge management allows your team to make learner-focused knowledge more understandable by focusing on content format. Using the right format — be it text, video, etc. — is vital for optimal delivery and digestion of training content. In providing knowledge via multiple formats, said knowledge becomes universally acceptable to each of your learners.
As a quick footnote, this notion of accessibility is crucial for self-guided and/or remote learning. Again, knowledge management helps facilitate the creation of knowledge content in multiple formats — and ensures this content is readily available for your learners as needed.
Knowledge Management leads to the ongoing improvement of the training environment
Strategic knowledge management sustains and enhances an organization’s knowledge assets and the processes that go along with them. This concept of maintaining and improving knowledge is ever-important in the training realm, for a number of reasons.
Proper knowledge management aims to keep your organizational knowledge accurate and current as time goes on. Again, this goes for your on-paper resources (policy documentation, lesson materials, etc.) and your L&D team’s understanding of how to best educate your employees.
Something else to consider here is the retention of organizational knowledge. Ongoing knowledge management ensures your team won’t lose any knowledge assets over time, even should trainers and instructional designers leave your organization in the future. Since you’ll have documented the knowledge these individuals possess, the other members of your organization will still be able to use it in their own training experiences.
KM also allows your team to take a “meta” look at your training operations across the board. With meaningful performance data and other such knowledge on-hand, your team can easily identify various strengths and weaknesses throughout your training processes. More than just identifying these areas, KM also enables your team to make meaningful improvements that will have an impact on your employees’ educational outcomes.
Injecting KM into your training processes ensures you never get complacent with what your team knows, and with how you develop your employees’ professional skills. Rather, strategic knowledge management is all about using the knowledge your team possesses to its highest potential — while always looking for ways to enhance the value of these knowledge assets, overall.
Emil, the founder of knowledge base software company Helpjuice, is an organizational learning expert & author of Knowledge Management: A Theoretical and Practical Guide for Knowledge Management in Your Organization.