Thursday, June 18, 2009

KM and HR: Siamese Twins?

Speaking of HR (previous post), @dineshtantri initiated a discussion some weeks ago - on the Ning Community for KMers in India - on how KM and HR must collaborate.

I gathered some of my thoughts on the topic and responded as follows:

I've previously pondered over how we could possibly work with HR to ensure success for KM and can perhaps summarize some of the key points as follows: (I am assuming that the points below represent key components in HR strategies)

1. Hiring - Hire people with at least an average KM quotient (attributes revolving around sharing, collective thinking, networking, coordination, collaboration, reuse, long-term thinking and big-picture perspective) Very much on the lines of what you spoke about during the K-Community meeting

2. Training - Encourage informal learning mechanisms (from peers, seniors, other divisions) and learning through communities and virtual teams. Include these in the HR dossier/induction programs.

3. Competency Development - Chip in with KM mechanisms for competency development...basically an extension of the previous point on Training along with aspects like mentoring, shadowing and coaching.

4. Appraisals - The well-known and often applied idea of including the employee's KM quotient as one of the objectives/competencies in the appraisal process and allowing that to make a difference in the overall rating (giving it a significant weightage)

5. Incentives - Including KM elements in the incentive schemes that HR will invariably have conceived for the organization and if possible including an exclusive category for KM - visibility/recognition/appreciation being more important than monetary gestures

6. Succession Planning - Identify the natural leaders who, according to me, would definitely be the ones who empower their teams through sharing, mentoring and practices involving collective thinking.

I'd forgotten to include some points which I recalled after Dinesh had some specific queries in the areas I'd left out...

He said:

How do we factor in things like employee commitment, motivation and satisfaction? The sense of belonging to a company?? In most cases, people work for a team or a leader in the team and in many cases leave the company because of problems at the team level. The Nick Bontis model relates employee commitment, motivation and satisfaction to knowledge generation and knowledge sharing. Employee satisfaction surveys [ asking the right questions ] seems important. The informal learning piece is interesting as well - the challenge is to make it a part of the culture..and I remember reading somewhere that 80% of learning happens in informal settings. Retention of key people, rotation of key people across projects also seem important. Peer- reviews and 360 degree appraisals may also be important in fostering trust, improving transparency etc.. This is complex but I believe all of these impact knowledge sharing....

And I, then, said:

- Employee Motivation/Satisfaction: I firmly believe that one of the critical aspects that contribute to employee satisfaction, delight and engagement is an environment that enables and celebrates knowledge sharing and collaboration. If employee satisfaction surveys can be designed in such a way that the link between such an environment and the sense of belonging that an employee has can be brought to light, half the job might be done. So, KMers do have a role to play in contributing to the design of employee satisfaction surveys. [I'd proposed this on one of my consultancy assignments (in an organization that was just kick-starting its KM initiative) at two levels - pre and post KM initiative.]

- I, personally, do not believe that an employee can have a true sense of belonging if she only knows, interacts and enjoys a good relationship with her immediate team-members. The camaraderie has to scale up to the Business Unit level and then the Organizational level through cross-team initiatives, Organizational Vision/Mission etc If this were to be so, people may very well explore other opportunities within the organization rather than leave it for the sake of something "smaller".

- How could I forget Job Rotation?! Such an important point...KM has a huge role to play in designing the Job Rotation policies and processes alongside the HR. We need to understand the links between various roles and how rotation of employees (knowledge) would help the organization get more efficient/innovative.

- Attrition/Retention - I suspect that Exit Interviews definitely need to be handled a lot better than they are at present (in most organizations). KM's involvement ought to add value - could revolve around knowledge retention, participation in communities as an ex-employee, part-time project-based consultation in the case of critical employees etc

Ooh. Such a lot that KM and HR needs to accomplish together, eh? Easy, provided leaders of both these functions put employee satisfaction above everything else. Please visit the community page to see the complete thread and read comments from other KMers.

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