One of the most under-rated resources in any business is the knowledge new staff bring to their new organisation. I am not just talking about the set of skills and capabilities that a new employee brings into an organisation, but the knowledge they bring with them from working at their previous employment.
One of my knowledge management activities has been in making contact with new starters and talking with them about their previous workplace experiences and observations. This usually formed part of my introductory contact with them that not only introduced me but also the information and knowledge services. Ideas about what was both good and bad were important in keeping abreast of the competition but also in terms of developing new ideas and refinements in my own knowledge management practices.
In addition, in the communities of practices I administered, previous workplace experiences were often shared in relation to a question or an insight into a particular problem. There was nothing unusual about this at all and proved immensely valuable.
I had a good chat about this information gathering exercise with new starters this morning with Mark Schenk from Anecdote in Canberra. I was lamenting the lack of interest by HR departments to take advantage of gathering important information from new employees on a systematic basis, since I was not always able to undertake the work myself (and my interest was focused on KM activities and internal communication channels).
Mark suggested using anecdotes as a good way of capturing snippets of information about other workplace activities and processes. These anecdotes can become stories in their own right, capturing insights that may be valuable for the new workplace.
The important point to remember is that new starters still have their previous workplace experiences fresh in mind. Also, they are not yet enmeshed with the processes and culture of their new employer that might filter their perceptions of their previous work experiences.
Having the conversation with new starters and seeking anecdotes is really a great KM activity to do without it necessarily becoming a pure competitor intelligence debrief that alienates rather than engages.
Remember, it’s conversation, not interrogation!