As federal human capital leaders confront a myriad of challenges and problems, one area of opportunity might also, surprisingly, help address these same challenges and problems. Knowledge sharing provides opportunities for improved agency performance and a better chance to fulfill an agency’s mission, but also can provide relief to the aging federal workforce, the challenge of hiring and retaining millennials, employee engagement problems and leadership development challenges. Federal HR leaders should look to knowledge sharing as part of their overall HR strategy.
This is the sixth post in a series looking at various strategic federal human capital management issues facing federal HR leaders. This post covers the often untapped opportunity and power of knowledge sharing within federal agencies, and can help play a role in HR’s drive to attain a more strategic within the agency.
From Knowledge Hoarding to Intra- and Inter-Agency Knowledge Sharing
Over many decades the tradition of knowledge hoarding has been ingrained in many organizations. Even understanding that knowledge is important or even vital to the helping an agency achieve its mission, employees may often feel an even greater tie to the power it holds for themselves. While historically this might be expected, it is certainly not advantageous for the agency, and a cultural shift is required to eliminate the practice and elevate an agency to an environment of ongoing knowledge sharing.
HR has an opportunity to lead the charge for its agency to move toward a model of collaboration, and forward-thinking agencies are moving in this direction. It can be a difficult move, but the rewards are real, as employees understand and are rewarded on broad contributions, ability to collaborate and communicate.
The National Institute of Health (NIH), part of the Department of Health and Human Services, recognizes the importance of knowledge sharing, and uses formal, informal and systematic methods to impart information to others that increases organizational effectiveness. Information is shared at staff and project team meetings on a wide variety of subjects. The NIH recognizes that most people need the help and support of others, and the NIH benefits from this collaboration.
Inter-agency knowledge sharing also reaps big benefits. Open Opportunities is a portal where government employees can collaborate and ask for assistance developing new ideas for their agency or program office. As the Federal Times reported, it has evolved “into a collaboration platform and community for getting things done.” Any government entity that can accomplish that goal is a winner.
Knowledge Sharing to Address People Challenges
Let’s look at how can knowledge sharing help agencies address some of their ongoing HR challenges:
- Retirement tsunami: Agencies are under the gun to prepare for the brain drain coming from the looming surge of retirements of its oldest workers. Knowledge sharing can help ensure the vast knowledge of an agency’s leaders and other veteran employees is not lost with new employees and employees in line to succeed the outgoing leaders.
- Millennials: The challenge of hiring, retaining and developing millennials continues to be steep. Knowledge sharing assists with the ability to improve the speed and quality of onboarding, which can be a big assist in providing an acceptable or hopefully enjoyable experience in joining an agency. Millennials want to move fast, and with the proper tools and information, new employee confidence and integration into the agency is accelerated. They can even start contributing their own knowledge, further benefitting other employees and the agency’s overall performance.
- Employee engagement and retention: HR can lead the agency to a more communicative workplace culture by instilling the value of knowledge sharing. Sharing knowledge not only helps build agency competence, but also can boost trust and engagement between employees and their managers. Trust is a big part of engagement and employee morale, another area that consistently gets poor grades in the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.
- Succession planning and development: As agencies look at their succession plans, knowledge sharing can play an important role to ensure replacements have the necessary knowledge and expertise. There are many aspects to training and leadership development, but with an ongoing culture of collaboration, the entire process improves.
The Way Forward
While there is technology that is available to assist in knowledge sharing, the mindset, processes and culture need to be in place before implementing a piece of technology. If you are looking for technology to improve collaboration without accompanying organizational changes, it’s doomed for failure. But with the underlying processes in place, beneficial change can occur.
Diane Berry, Senior Vice President of Market Strategy at Coveo, a software firm that helps employees find relevant information and people to enhance their skills, point outs out that organizations “have to help employees gain skills and knowledge as they need them in the flow of their work.” This mindset can help agencies become more adaptable and flexible, and give employees more satisfaction as they quickly obtain the information they need.
Originally published on Acendre blog.
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