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Companies fail to use knowledge

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The CIPD is urging companies to put the collective knowledge of their employees to better use, in a report, Managing knowledge workers: the HR dimension.

According to this view, employers need to work harder at encouraging employees to share their knowledge, and ensuring that key know-how isn’t lost when workers leave. The report gives practical examples of how to manage knowledge workers, highlighting the importance of autonomy, challenging work and sharing in the creation of organisational values. It also examines ways in which organisations have taken a more inclusive approach to the notion of the knowledge worker, and attempted to spread knowledge work across the entire workforce.

The authors, Professors Phil Beaumont and Laurie Hunter, urge human resources professionals to take up the challenge of managing the strategic use of knowledge. This means finding creative ways of motivating employees to share their knowledge with colleagues and in turn make it available for the benefit of the whole organisation.

The CIPD’s Employee Relations adviser, Diane Sinclair, said: “The creation and sharing of knowledge is now a major source of competitive advantage. Companies can inadvertently encourage employees to keep knowledge to themselves, but this knowledge is increasing where critical value lies. Motivating employees to share knowledge will require a break from the past for many organisations. They must now focus on the incentive to share knowledge – not just the ability to do so. New technology, such as a company intranet, will be an expensive waste of time, if employees aren’t given incentives to use it.

Some of the new approaches to encouraging the development and sharing of knowledge outlined in the report include:
– Communities of practice which are groups formed by common interests, not functional areas
– Intermediaries between those who create and develop knowledge and the users of that knowledge
– The importance of the use of space to encourage knowledge transfer.

Sinclair also added: “Organisations need to think about the amount of time wasted by employees gathering information that is available in another part of the company and the amount of critical know-how lost when key employees walk out the door. This should motivate them to get started on activities designed to capture and transfer knowledge.”

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