On HR and knowledge management

One of my favourite podcast sites is HBR IdeaCast. And one of my favourite podcasts that I have listened to recently is called The new science of human capital, IdeaCast No. 76. The podcast is an interview with one of the authors of the book Beyond HR. The gist of the podcast concerns talent management within organisations. The key message is about finding where talent makes the most difference – the pivot points. Thus, the podcast discusses how one identifies these positional pivot points, and how to enhance the talent in these pivot points.

An example used in the podast to illustrate a pivot point is the street sweeper at Disneyland. The street sweepers have fundamental process-driven work but what is pivotal, what can make a big difference, is how well these street sweepers are able to help Disney theme park customers by answering questions and giving assistance in a highly beneficial manner. So, the key talent management objective in street sweeping may not just be the ability to undertake the process of street sweeping but how a sweeper handles face-to-face customer relations. This pivot point may not even be in the job description and certainly not part of the training regime unless the pivot point is recognised.

In addition, the street sweeper supervisors at Disney are included in park design meetings. These supervisors tell the designers what they hear from customers, literally from the street. This information forms part of the park improvement cycle to make the Disney experience even better.

Identifying and improving these pivot points are critical in a host of organisational contexts. For example, banks (and their customers and potential customers) would be better served by harnessing the experiences of their tellers and other customer-facing staff.

There is much more to follow up from the book and it’s on my “to read” list. But the point I wanted to highlight was that this process of identifying pivot points and maximising talent effectiveness is pretty much what knowledge management professionals are working towards as well. How can knowledge management practices make the people and the organisation work much more effectively? And one of the ways in which knowledge management works is to facilitate the exchange of knowledge between people within (and often outside) the organisation, just like using the street sweepers’ knowledge to make Disney a more customer-friendly and helpful organisation.

I am pleased to hear that HR is finally taking some of the fundamental principles of knowledge management and using them in the quest to make people more effective inside organisations. It’s not before time!

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3 responses to “On HR and knowledge management

  1. Brad

    Not sure I agree with you that KM is any further ahead in identifying the pivot points. and its not just about bigger and better.

    As I listened to the article I thought of something a colleage said to me yesterday- we count “outputs” and we shoud be counting “outcomes” KM can create places to store and share information,, sure….and also facilitate sharing of informaiton… Tick….but I think what the article was saying was “are we asking the right questions? ” and Are we making the right connections …..This is a different question.

  2. Sally,

    I do think KM is ahead of the curve in identifying pivot points (and connecting them to the organisation) compared to the HR profession. KM is all about finding those pivot points and KM professionals actively seek them out and facilitate communication and connections. KM professionals actively engage with people in the organisation to identify knowledge, connections and conversations, and opportunities to develop the human and social capital within the organisation. HR largely stands aloof of all this.

    Whilst there are some learning and development initiatives in HR that are undertaken, these are generally one-to-one initiatives (often suggesting a course, without integration into the business). I don’t see HR (as a profession) wanting to, let alone look to, leverage the internal knowledge assets of the firm, let alone identifying critical pivot points in the business. Maybe they don’t see that as their role. Perhaps that’s why the role of identifying pivot points is “beyond HR”.

    As to asking the right questions and making the right connections, at least some KM professionals, the good ones, have been doing this for some time. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen much evidence that this type of work has been of much practical interest in the HR world so I was pleased that “Beyond HR” identified some of the things good KM has already been doing.

  3. Pingback: On records, information and knowledge management strategy « Brad Hinton - plain speaking

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