Today, a company’s internal knowledge is among its most valuable assets. In fact, some of the world’s largest and most influential organizations, like Alphabet and Meta, built their entire business around the information they’ve collected and applied. But someone has to ensure all of those essential learnings and insights are captured, organized, and available to the workforce. And that’s where a knowledge manager comes in.
Knowledge management is a vital and fast-growing field that spans all industries and impacts every facet of a business. And as we continue increasing our reliance on data and corporate knowledge, knowledge management professionals will only become more indispensable — which can translate into practically unlimited career growth and income potential.
In other words, there’s never been a better time to explore a career in knowledge management.
Here’s a deeper dive into what a career in knowledge management entails, which skills you need, and how you can advance all the way to the C-suite.
What Does a Knowledge Manager Do?
A knowledge manager is responsible for ensuring everyone in an organization can access the information they need to succeed in their jobs–and that the collective knowledge of the organization is used to support operational efficiency, innovation, and revenue growth. They develop and execute strategies for collecting, systematizing, and distributing knowledge and data and ensure all information is relevant and up-to-date.
Most knowledge management responsibilities can be divided into three functions:
Knowledge and information enter organizations through many different pathways. For example, a new hire might bring fresh skills and insights, a product or research team might collect user data for a specific project or report, or a company might source information from a third party. Without someone to manage this knowledge, it can become lost, siloed, or simply too overwhelming for employees to parse through.
To preserve this data and ensure everyone can access it, a knowledge manager must ensure it’s well-organized. This means coming up with a system for regularly gathering and arranging data so it’s easy for people to find, use, and share. And while there are plenty of knowledge management frameworks to choose from, a knowledge manager has to tailor their method to users’ habits and behaviors.
Capturing and organizing knowledge is hard–but getting people to use and share knowledge is even harder. That’s why it’s essential that knowledge managers act as change agents who can promote a culture of knowledge sharing.
After developing and implementing an organizational strategy, a knowledge manager has to ensure the workforce understands and uses the system. This means educating employees on how the system works, communicating the value of knowledge management and how it will make their jobs easier, and getting buy-in from senior leaders.
A knowledge manager may run knowledge management software trainings, answer user questions, and identify knowledge evangelists within the company who can help spread enthusiasm for their system.
No matter how successful your system is, there is always room for improvement. After rolling out a knowledge management framework and choosing the right knowledge management platform to facilitate it, a knowledge manager must consistently analyze performance and look for opportunities to improve it.
This means reviewing critical knowledge management metrics like:
How many people contribute to the platform, and how frequently do they contribute?
How much are people engaging with contributions? Are they commenting, liking, and sharing posts with their teammates?
How long does it take for someone to respond to questions posted on your knowledge management platform?
Of all total accounts, how many users are consistently active on the platform?
How often do people search for information, and what are the most common queries? What search keywords are people entering that currently don’t yield any results, and may indicate that the organization needs to produce new content?
A great knowledge manager always seeks new ways to support knowledge sharing within the organization.
What Skills Do You Need to Be a Knowledge Manager?
One of the best things about going into knowledge management is that if you’ve worked in roles like marketing, sales, IT, operations, product development and design, or customer service, you likely already have many of the skills and experience necessary to perform well.
Here are a few of the most important skills for a knowledge manager:
Written and verbal communication
You must communicate effectively with employees at every level via multiple channels. This includes everything from sending easy-to-understand emails and messages to confidently presenting outcomes to senior management. Knowing how to build rapport with people who have different communication styles will also make your job easier and more enjoyable.
Given organizing information is a significant part of your job as a knowledge manager, you should be proficient in cleaning up messy file structures and arranging information in a hierarchy that makes knowledge easy to find and consume.
As with any job, you’ll do best in knowledge management if you can logically assess problems and quickly develop effective, practical solutions.
You should feel comfortable managing big projects, like choosing and rolling out new knowledge management software or updating existing knowledge frameworks. And, as you rise up the ranks as a knowledge manager, you’ll likely be responsible for managing your own team or department too.
As your organization’s reliance on information grows and technology advances, your knowledge management practices will also need to evolve. You should be adept at educating people, communicating the value of new methods or systems, and supporting people through change with patience and empathy.
There are also a few technical proficiencies you need to adopt. For example, you should be familiar with knowledge management platforms and their functionalities. You should feel comfortable reviewing data sets, setting and tracking metrics and KPIs, and translating data into action. And you should also have a firm grasp of data security best practices and user experience principles.
How Can You Advance Your Career in Knowledge Management?
Once you have your foot in the door as a knowledge manager, the opportunities are practically endless. Depending on your professional goals, you could rise to director-level, VP, and even CKO (Chief Knowledge Officer).
Here are three things you can do to help advance your career:
Earn a Certification Through the KM Institute
The KM Institute offers a variety of programs, including its flagship certification, the Certified Knowledge Manager (CKM) course. Earning a certification shows employers you have proven expertise, and that you’re dedicated to success in the field.
Continue Enhancing Your Skill Set
Consider the skills listed above and identify any areas of opportunity—especially in communication and change management. Where could you benefit from additional training and experience?
Learn How to Demonstrate the ROI of Your Efforts
One way to ensure senior leaders recognize the value of your work is by tying it directly to revenue and other specific company objectives. For example, if call-to-resolution time, customer satisfaction scores, or employee turnover drops after you roll out a knowledge management solution to the customer support team, communicate this to senior management. Proving the ROI of knowledge management will ensure that you and your team are seen as an indispensable resource.
A career in knowledge management means wearing many hats and taking on considerable responsibility. However, it’s also an essential role in modern organizations that offers lots of room for upward mobility and high-earning potential. By continually working to refine your skills and leveraging the right knowledge management software, you can achieve significant success in this field.