Robust employee knowledge is a critical component of optimal performance. After all, if employees don’t know, they can’t do. Unfortunately, when it comes to arming employees with the knowledge they need to execute their roles to the best of their ability, many organizations skip an important step: providing on-demand access to information. This is one of the most critical components of workplace knowledge. Here’s why…

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In reality, your organization’s information—the sum of all of the product details, processes, policies, and procedures that dictate how you do business—is the real foundation on which all other knowledge is based. But, rather than provide employees with direct access to the entirety of this information, managers typically engage in what I call “perceived importance” and decide what bits and pieces should be made available. This puts employees at a considerable disadvantage, as they are unable to take ownership of their own knowledge to meet their performance needs. And yet we often complain that employees always need to be spoon-fed!

This hierarchical approach simply isn’t how information moves nowadays. After all, no one attempts to drip-feed you information at home. You are free to search the Internet and make the decisions necessary to locate the best possible information when you need it. It’s time we provided this same autonomy to employees as the foundation of our learning and performance strategy.

It won’t be easy, and you can’t expect to change your organization’s approach to knowledge management over a few weeks, months, or perhaps even longer. But, for the long-term good of your people and your business, you have to get started.

Here are 5 important steps you should take to establish on-demand access to information as the foundation of your learning and performance ecosystem:

    1. Establish a single-source repository

When they don’t know where to go for information on the Internet, people typically start at a single access point: Google. Leverage this established behavior by curating all of your organization’s information in a single online repository. Move away from complex file structures, email attachments, and shared network drives and give your employees a single, searchable place to go when they need to find information quickly to do their jobs.

  1. Organize content by topic, not role

Many existing knowledge management systems are hamstrung by hierarchical silos. Each team builds their own space with their own information and restricts access to just their own people. Again, this assumes that people only need certain information to do their jobs and inhibits collaborative learning. Overcome this problem by building and organizing information by topic rather than role. This will cut down on duplicative work and break down unnecessary silos through shared information.

  1. Install an organizational curator

There’s A LOT of knowledge floating around your organization. Unfortunately, the majority exists only in the minds of your employees. Many companies take the time to formally document only vital processes and procedures—often, as required by regulation. To collect the full scope of organizational knowledge, create the formal role of curator. In addition to their content development ability and deep familiarity with all parts of the business, be sure this person (or team) is a skilled researcher who can both locate valuable information and, through effective curation, transform it into meaningful shared knowledge.

  1. Enable employee contribution

As I mentioned, tacit knowledge is a massive gap when trying to collect shared organizational knowledge. A single curator likely cannot handle the total amount of information within even a medium-sized business. To truly scale your curation efforts, turn on the “save” button and allow your employees to contribute their knowledge. Provide simple, low-barrier opportunities for people to share their knowledge in the ways they prefer, such as basic text, documents, or video. Motivate employees to share valuable, relevant information in a timely way to support not only the organization, but also their peers and customers. Where necessary, establish guidelines and approval workflows to please all necessary stakeholders. Leverage peer recommendations, such as content ratings or other social triggers, to help bubble the best, most relevant information to the top and further simplify the user experience.

  1. Connect everything L&D does to curated information

As the foundation of your learning and performance ecosystem, this curated information should be the basis of everything L&D does. When you hold an instructor-led event, be sure the information on which the course is based is available to employees. Deploying short bursts of microlearning for reinforcement? Link the content back to your shared information so employees can learn even more about the most important topics. Simply stated, don’t train it unless it’s available to all employees all the time.

Establishing on-demand access to information as the foundation of your ecosystem will not only help you make better use of the other components in your learning and performance strategy, but also create an integrated, user-centric support system that enables your employees to truly boost their knowledge.

How do you enable on-demand information access as a foundational component of your learning and performance strategy? What role does information access play in your larger ecosystem?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

JD Dillon

Author: JD Dillon

JD Dillon, the principal learning strategist at Axonify, has spent 15 years designing and implementing learning and performance strategies for respected global organizations, including The Walt Disney Company, Kaplan, Brambles, and AMC Theatres. With his practical approach and ability to integrate science, technology, storytelling, and pure common sense, JD delivers modern solutions that enable employees, improve organizational performance, and drive business results. In his current role with Axonify, JD works with an award-winning team to boost employee knowledge and performance for leading organizations through the application of modern learning practices and cutting-edge technology.

3 Comments

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  1. Shaun Browne

    The second item on the list, organizing by topic and not role, is an interesting one. I wonder how that would work when building standard work instructions, where you need information in job performance order. While the SWI information may not be taught in JPO (often JPO is the last method you want to chose to train a task, especially when dealing with difficult sequences in the middle of the task – I would use ‘difficult first’ to build those competencies first) you do need to use JPO to capture the process correctly, in order to curate it.

    Reply March 4, 2016 at 5:06 pm
    • JD Dillon

      Thanks for reading, Shaun! There are definitely circumstances in which reference information is built for and applies to a specific role. In those cases, content designed to support the performance of a role-specific task is a great idea. However, I typically find that a significant amount of an organization’s content is widely-applicable – well beyond 1 or 2 roles. At the same time, our natural, real-world search behaviors tend to drive by topic (fix pipe) vs. role (plumber info). I recommend starting curation/building efforts with topics in mind, then drilling down to role-specific info where applicable. And, unless REALLY required by regulation, all information should remain accessible to all employees – even if you don’t think they need it (you never really know).

      March 4, 2016 at 7:08 pm
  2. Heather Reynolds

    Love this! With respect to number 5, we do this for EVERY SINGLE Axonify question we use. In the “Explanation” portion, we include a link to where the related information can be found… which is in our single-source repository (your number 1), a corporate wiki.

    Reply March 10, 2016 at 12:49 am

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