Culture is the integrated pattern of human behaviour that includes thought, speech, action, and artefacts and depends on man’s capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations (Webster’s definition). Corporate culture is the set of understandings among members of a community. These are often unstated, unwritten, and tacit, which are shared in common (Dalkir, K. 2017).
Corporate culture is the crucial factor that helps in proper knowledge and information flow within an organization. If an organization does not have a culture that enables and rewards knowledge-sharing, employees will not be motivated to do the needful and participate in knowledge-sharing activities.
Knowledge and knowledge management are critical to the survival of any organization in the 21st century. Hence, organizations must nourish and cherish a knowledge management culture. Careful and targeted efforts can help an organization transform its culture into a knowledge management culture.
An organization must start to identify knowledge held in both tacit and explicit formats. This could be in a product or any other documentation already created and published. Or tacit knowledge with employees, which they have acquired after working for years with a particular organization and product. If not appropriately codified, such tacit knowledge may leave the organization with an employee’s exit due to a job change or retirement. Organizations must have KM processes in place, which will help identify and codify the knowledge.
Not all employees are willing to share their knowledge for various reasons. One of the reasons is insecurity. It took me years of hard work to gain this knowledge; why should I share it with someone? What if s/he performs better than me? He is not from my team… etc. To overcome such political and apolitical reasons, the management needs to create an open and transparent culture that encourages knowledge sharing without hesitation and doubt.
Creating an open and transparent work culture is the key. Employees should know that there is no hidden agenda and that knowledge sharing is helping the organization and will lead to proper recognition. For example, in my past organization, any employee contributing to the product support pages with a missing troubleshooting step would be recognized by devoting a page to the employee that will give them proper citation and recognition.
Rewarding can never be a bad idea. Rewarding employees who contribute to KM initiatives can encourage employees to participate in KM activities proactively. In addition, having a leaderboard in place can provoke healthy competition among employees for better and more contributions.
With open culture rewards for sharing, the organization must also ensure that the employees are given time and infrastructure to engage in KM activities. Organizations can make meeting rooms available for KM discussions, and online forum boards and chat rooms can assist in these efforts too. Not only this but employees should also be given time to engage in these activities. KM activities should not be an additional task someone must do after working hours. This will discourage employees from working on knowledge-sharing activities. For example, my current employer offers employees up to 10 hours a month to update internal wiki pages. This means I can spend more than two hours updating wiki content each week, and I am recognized for my time on these activities.
Using Slack channels, different groups and teams communicate and share knowledge. Often, new employees ask questions in such channels hoping that someone senior would answer them. Senior group members help the new resources find the correct information by providing links to the right wiki pages and additional information. In this way, the new resource learns to use wiki efficiently and starts to use and contributes to the internal knowledge management portal, wiki.
Apart from all these, support from the higher management is extremely important. This can make or break KM initiatives an organization is willing to engage in. A line of communication should remain open in both upward and downward directions. The KM initiatives will need time and money investment for successful implementation. Therefore, having buy-in from the higher management can prove to be critical in transforming organizational culture to knowledge management culture along with all other essential factors we discussed above.
Dalkir, K. (2017). In Knowledge management in theory and Practice. essay, MIT Press.