As a Knowledge Management (KM) professional, I believe knowledge is ‘sticky’. It can’t be separated from people without losing its context. That’s why talents are valuable. Although we can’t transfer the exact knowledge to other people, we can transfer similar knowledge to other people. Thus people who received knowledge will re-interpret its meaning and usefulness in the new context that allows him or her to achieve the performance level of the person who transfer the knowledge. For example: I learned golf from my coach. I can make the ball fly as far as my coach can (I can achieve the same performance level as my coach can), but I can’t swing in exactly the same manner as my coach can (I don’t use his exact knowledge to perform the swing – I re-interpret his knowledge into a new knowledge that works for me). Hence, talented people are valuable resources for any company, and each company should develop their (junior) staff to be talents.
So what am I saying? KM is inseparable from Talent Management, just like the brain is inseparable from the nerves. Managing knowledge is not limited to creating and designing a database of lessons learned, or that of best practice. It involves people development. It means growing people to meet their true potentials and bringing people who enables the organisation to carry out what it wants to do. This means we need to:
- Provide opportunity where our staff can talk to each other and find out about others’ skills, experience, and education.
- Recruit people with the right skills and expertise, that can add value to specific project that a department / a team is dealing with.
- Train / develop people according to knowledge needs of the team / department.
The above points lead to three KM action plans for Senior Management and Head of Departments:
- Build an online platform where staff can connect and share in their own free time. Since learning in an online environment is asynchronous, then they can access the online platform when they have the time to do so.
- Provide opportunity for staff to network and work on a common project (preferably a cross-departmental one).
- When planning for future workplan, a department (team) needs to audit their knowledge and see if there is any knowledge gap. They can then close the knowledge gap by training / developing several staff in the required skills / expertise, or recruit a new staff who possess the skills / expertise.
Building an online platform (also called intranet, or knowledge portal), managing / facilitating conversations, and conducting knowledge audit – are Knowledge Manager’s job. In other words, what I have described above requires KM professional’s involvement. Alas, that is the ideal. But it is not how most companies manage their ‘talent’. Traditionally, talent management initiative is usually led by Human Resource (HR) department, and here is how they implement the ‘talent management’ initiative.
For recruiting a ‘talent’:
- Get Head of Departments to write job description.
- Post job advertisement internally and externally (through newspaper or job portal).
- Arrange for interview between the candidates and the Head of Department.
- Offer the selected candidate the job (At this point HR’s job is completed).
For training ‘talents’:
- Get Head of Departments and the staff to discuss and write ‘Training Roadmap’. Staff can apply for several training course provided by external training providers.
- (If there is no budget cut for training) Staff can go for training course as stated in their ‘Training roadmap’.
We can see the problems with the current practice of recruiting and training staff. First, staff cannot relate what they have learned from an external training provider, with their task. This is partly due to the external training provider can’t comprehend the complexities surrounding the task that the staff needs to perform. Second, HR is playing a passive role in recruiting talent. The need to train / recruit talent cannot be solely left to Head of department’s hand. It has to be identified during corporate workplan, when various departments propose what they want to do for the upcoming year. At this point, each department would have a rough idea whether they have knowledge gap or not. And HR ought to be aware of this gap, and assist the respective Head of Department to justify the need to bring in the required manpower to the senior management.
Clearly the current model of recruiting and training staff is no longer suffice. Staff development cannot be ‘outsourced’. It cannot be divorced from the work that the organisation is doing (or going to do). And because of this, KM and Talent Management have to be integrated.