Magazine article Talent Development

Partnering to Improve Time to Competency and Proficiency: When the Training and Knowledge Management Teams Work Together on Knowledge-Sharing Initiatives, Significant Improvements Result

Magazine article Talent Development

Partnering to Improve Time to Competency and Proficiency: When the Training and Knowledge Management Teams Work Together on Knowledge-Sharing Initiatives, Significant Improvements Result

Article excerpt

New practices in knowledge management-such as Knowledge-Centered Support-turn traditional approaches to technical training on their head. They require learning and development experts to impart knowledge-acquisition skills, not technical knowledge itself.

The result is a different approach to training-one with substantial benefits and a significant reduction in the time it takes to bring team members to a level of proficiency where they can work independently. This new approach requires new organizational partnerships, changed training modalities, and new ways of measuring success.

Cutting-edge knowledge-sharing practices are significantly different from the way we used to think about knowledge. These practices question one of our basic assumptions in knowledge management: that we should create knowledge before someone requests or needs it.

In technical support, that meant creating a list of frequently asked questions and answering them for customers before they asked. We determined that most of this pre-created knowledge is never used or, at most, used once. Rather than spend time up front creating knowledge before it is needed or requested, these practices have teams look for existing knowledge first, then create knowledge if nothing exists.


To successfully train in the practices of knowledge sharing-not the knowledge itself-knowledge management and training teams must work together. Knowledge management teams have sometimes been thought of as anomalies. They do good and important work.

The rest of the organization, though, rarely knows they are around. Their processes are tightly focused on delivering to team members the knowledge they need to accomplish a task or resolve an issue.

Best practices on how to deliver this knowledge are freely shared within the team, but rarely with the rest of the organization. Organizational silos make matters worse. Often, knowledge management teams are entrenched in operational units such as IT or customer support and rarely meet across silos.

Training teams often mirror this organizational position, operating either as a contained unit within an organizational silo or as an enterprisewide team. The knowledge they have in designing effective training programs, measuring success in training delivery, and selecting the right tool to assist in that delivery is separated organizationally from the subject matter expertise.

Normally, that is not an insurmountable problem; training teams have long had experience acquiring and delivering the required knowledge. In the case of our cutting-edge knowledge-sharing practices, the knowledge itself is different, and the traditional methods of acquiring and delivering a well-defined set of knowledge will not work.

The knowledge management team has deep understanding of the knowledge-sharing tool (for example, knowledge management system) and the practices. And the training team has the experience and tools to help train on practices and provide context on why the practices are important. This partnership can transform the traditional training approach of imparting knowledge to a new model, one that teaches practices-searching, enhancing, and writing knowledge-and the reasons why these practices are critical.

For example, when a customer calls to troubleshoot a specific issue that the support organization has never seen before, the support team member creates content at this moment of need. With these practices, the handoff of content to the training team doesn't look like a series of questions and answers.

This different approach to training echoes the rapid changes in the ways many companies are doing business. Lean and Agile processes require partnerships between different areas of the organization, not handoffs (and certainly not "throwing work over the wall"). In addition, the partnership between training and knowledge management teams helps demonstrate their value to the business by enabling real results for the employee-from on-boarding to competency and beyond. …

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