Implementing a knowledge management strategy (and the technology to support it) offers significant business benefits. Knowledge management can help you capture, preserve, and share the knowledge that exists across your organization, and a knowledge management platform can give employees a searchable, one-stop shop for all the information they need to do their jobs efficiently. However, introducing a new approach to knowledge management is not without its challenges.
Fortunately, you can reduce the impact of those obstacles with the right technology and implementation strategy. Below, we outline 6 of the most common knowledge management challenges and what you can do to overcome them.
Getting Employee Buy-In
Employees are notoriously resistant to change. In fact, an estimated 70% of change programs fail due, in large part, to employee resistance. As technology advances and companies implement new systems, employees can become overwhelmed and prefer to do things “the old way.”
Plus, habits, in general, are difficult to change. Once employees have a particular way of completing their work, they often don’t want to veer from that process.
Research reveals that employees often resist change because they lack awareness of the reason for the change. Prior to and during the implementation of a knowledge management system, it is essential for organizational leaders to build a culture of knowledge sharing. Employees must understand why the organization is implementing the new system and how it will benefit them (e.g., by helping them find information more quickly or increasing the visibility and impact of their work).
Getting Senior Leadership Buy-In
A culture of knowledge engagement starts from the top down. However, senior leaders can also be slow to adopt new technology, as it doesn’t always directly fit into their day-to-day responsibilities. Executives tend to focus on big-picture strategy items and may assume that knowledge management doesn’t apply to their roles. And when employees notice that leaders and managers aren’t using the technology, they may follow suit, slowing the overall technology adoption.
To convey the importance of knowledge management—and reduce employee hesitancy—senior leaders should publicly demonstrate their usage of the knowledge management system. Often, it’s most effective to work with a champion on the senior leadership team who is specifically tasked with speaking about the value of knowledge management and conveying the importance of adopting the new system. This leader can also demonstrate their commitment to knowledge sharing by posting regular updates in the knowledge management platform. Posting a short monthly video update, for example, can be an impactful way to show that the knowledge management platform is the organization’s go-to place for the latest trusted information.
As technology advances and employees are constantly asked to learn new systems, they can experience technology fatigue. Many employees find it difficult to focus on their job duties—and complete them efficiently—when they’re continually being asked to update current technology and adopt new tools.
To add to this, employees can be skeptical about using new knowledge management technology if they’ve seen digital transformation efforts fail in the past. After all, why invest time and effort into learning new tools if the company will eventually revert back to the original processes?
Overcoming technology fatigue requires clear communication and a change management strategy. The team responsible for the implementation should prepare a short elevator pitch that answers the following questions:
- What problems will the new knowledge management technology solve?
- What specific needs will the platform meet for the end users?
- What will the organization look like in a year or two thanks to the change?
It’s also helpful to implement an easy-to-use knowledge management platform, as it will require fewer IT resources and updates, and take less time for end users to learn.
Further into the implementation of your new knowledge management technology, you may face a new challenge: navigating the ever-growing wealth of knowledge within your platform. By design, you want to accumulate that knowledge; however, the more content that’s stored in your platform, the more challenging it can become for employees to quickly find the information they need.
And it’s even worse if your platform uses a folder-based system, like Google Drive or SharePoint. If your workers don’t understand the organizational taxonomy, they will likely struggle to access the right information—and may even end up finding and using outdated resources.
To avoid information overload, employees must be able to intuitively navigate to the content that is most relevant to them. Your platform should be equipped with a powerful search engine that indexes every word in every file—even those spoken within audio and video files–so employees can find what they’re looking for even if they don’t know the exact file name or title.
It’s also helpful to give users multiple routes to find a particular resource. For example, employees may choose to look for information via a keyword search or by using category filters to narrow down the available results until they find what they need. Bloomfire also lets users create personal or shared content feeds based on a set of criteria, ensuring the content that matters most to them stays front and center.
It should be relatively straightforward to upload existing content assets to your knowledge management platform, but what about the knowledge that lives in employees’ heads? Sharing employees’ tacit knowledge can boost productivity and help new hires get up to speed faster, but this requires employees to document what they know first. Employees may be resistant to documenting their knowledge if they feel like it will be too time-consuming and take them away from other responsibilities.
Encourage employees to share what they know by making the documentation process as easy as possible. Consider developing templates they can use for common types of content so that they’re not starting from scratch. And when it’s practical, let employees choose the documentation format that makes the most sense to them (for example, some employees might prefer recording a how-to video instead of writing a step-by-step guide).
Team leaders should also consider including knowledge documentation to their team members’ job descriptions. This makes it clear that knowledge sharing is a priority, not an afterthought.
One of the most important aspects of maintaining a knowledge management system is ensuring that the information within it is up to date. If time-sensitive content isn’t regularly updated or archived, employees may end up accessing and using outdated resources. And this can be especially harmful if employees share that inaccurate knowledge with customers. Once that happens, employees may lose trust in the system and become hesitant to use it on a regular basis.
Employees must feel confident in the information within the knowledge management platform. To build this confidence, your company should look for knowledge management solutions that allow contributors to automatically unpublish or schedule reviews when content expires. In Bloomfire, you can also choose how long you want content to be listed as current in the platform and display a “Current Content” badge on up-to-date posts. This helps employees know that they are accessing trusted resources.
Change can be hard—but when it comes to implementing a knowledge management platform, the benefits outweigh the challenges. By choosing the right platform and clearly communicating its benefits, you can successfully preserve organizational knowledge and equip your employees for success.
This post was most recently updated and expanded in June 2023.