Knowledge Management

Background

The University of Iowa must be able to transfer knowledge among staff members to assure the continuing operation of the University. Current employment trends such as aging of the workforce, rapidly changing work processes and technology, knowledge-based work, and the need for succession and development plans for key positions, emphasize the need for a consistent plan to transfer essential knowledge.

Definition

Knowledge Management includes:

  • Documented procedures for what and how a position’s responsibilities are fulfilled
  • The resources and tools used
  • The contacts needed
  • The reports and information used/developed
  • Timeframes in which defined tasks must be accomplished
  • Why work is done
  • Who work is passed off to or received from
  • Unique or unexpected situations
  • Decision-making considerations
  • How approval/acceptance is accomplished
  • Any historical, political and environmental considerations
  • Expected result of work done

In addition to the knowledge to be transferred, there needs to be a consistent approach to the methodology of documentation, access to the system by individuals who need it, and a plan to orient and develop individuals who may have a need for the knowledge as part of current or future role. 

Methods and Tools for Transferring Knowledge

Here is a list of methods and tools used by effective organizations to transfer knowledge:

  • Coaching
  • Job sharing/shadowing
  • Job Aids, Quick Reference Guides
  • Mentoring
  • Knowledge Repository/e-Library/Wiki
  • Documentation of procedures by individual performing them.
  • Pairing a phased retiree with the person taking over the role allowing for time to teach/learn the knowledge needed and a gradual handing over of the responsibility for delivering results in the role.
  • The employee leaving retains a relationship with the organization/individual to provide information as needed.
  • Structured interview process by a third-party facilitator to gain access to less-easy-to-document job information and subsequent documentation or other sharing of information.
  • e-Learning and social networks (use of technologies such as myquickcoach, LinkedIn, FaceBook, etc., to link current staff with terminated staff and others who can assist with critical information as needed.

Action Steps

HR Leaders should work with their collegiate/org and unit leaders to take these steps to develop a consistent plan for knowledge transfer:

  1. Define critical knowledge and risk areas (for example, functions where there is little backup but high risk/need in the work being done, individuals who are at risk of leaving, unique skill sets, individuals who are resources to others on processes).
  2. Define how knowledge will be gathered and who it will be shared with. Staff must feel reassured that participating in knowledge transfer is not a threat to their employment security and those learning should not see it as a guarantee of a future position.
  3. During notice periods for resignation, retirements (including phased), take actions outlined in this guide to assure critical knowledge is retained and transferred.
  4. Define the system which will store knowledge.
  5. Define users of the system.
  6. Grant access to users and educate about use and purpose.
  7. Make knowledge transfer an ongoing requirement of the job as well as a learning requirement and evaluate how well it is accomplished by both those who have the critical knowledge and those who need to learn it. This will assure an ongoing and consistent transfer of knowledge in an atmosphere of collegiality.

Documentation Resources

A system which may be a resource is the UI’s Wiki - information can be found at: http://wiki.uiowa.edu/display/DOC/Home. Using a Wiki allows others who have access to the Wiki to edit the content to allow for collaboration about a process when several people may do the tasks and easy changes to processes or information.

A second system is SharePoint which allows for defining user access and greater control over who can edit.