Where Does the Corporate University Fit in?

4handsWhen I started my career in the Corporate Communication field more than 15 years ago, the hot debate was how can Corporate Communication and Human Resources, namely Training & Development, work together. Each function has a communication element to it. Obviously, Corporate Communication’s sole purpose is to communicate with the media, investor community, customers and, of course, employees. It was that employee communication arena that led to some turf wars back in the day. As I migrated into the Training & Development field, the attention turned to this newly formed function called Knowledge Management.

Today, there is confusion over how Corporate Universities and Knowledge Management & Collaboration functions interact. Where is the line drawn? Does KM “own” social networking or does that it better into a university model? Are we on the brink of another turf war or already in it?

Maybe. I see companies struggling with defining roles in this area. Learning & Development professionals attend conferences from ASTD and ISPI and learn all about how they should leverage social collaboration tools to further learning efforts. Knowledge Management professionals attend KM World and Gartner conferences to learn how they should leverage social collaboration tools to further knowledge sharing efforts.

Who’s right? They both are. I would argue that corporate universities should not “own” the administration or governance behind collaboration tools. While they can be used for learning purposes, they are also used for sharing and finding knowledge and information and increasing efficiencies in work processes…something much more aligned to the Knowledge Management function.

Some companies combine the KM and L & D functions to ensure alignment; however, that may or may not be necessary. Regardless, the silo that can exist between these two areas must be torn down and real conversations about where certain information gets stored (team workspaces, university website or other content management system) plus who will administer social networking and collaboration must be defined together.

In my opinion, corporate universities need to be the internal customers of the Knowledge Management team and consumers of this technology for their purposes…perhaps even champions or early adopters. These two groups need to clearly define roles, responsibilities and accountabilities accordingly. Otherwise, you could have two teams working on the same initiative in a vacuum, which leads to more turf wars!

Is Records Management the Same as Knowledge Management?

Many organizations separate Records Management from Knowledge Management because they are seen as two distinct functions. There are many differences between the two – one is focused on retention and standards while the other is focused on collaboration and bubbling up good information for active use. However, there is certainly overlap in very important areas that businesses need to consider. Organizations that separate the two functions could be taking on risk they may not have planned for.

At a minimum, Records and Knowledge groups need to be talking to each other if not organized on the same branch of the org chart. They are two sides of the same legal coin; they both facilitate and manage content – content that should be findable by people in their organization and can be discoverable in a lawsuit. Search and e-Discovery are booming businesses today and both functions need to work together to establish policies and processes to provide for both.

RM_KM_chart

Here are some key strategies to ensure findability and discovery needs are met:Establish lifecycles for each type of content. A sales proposal may be a good example of a current strategy and have a short lifespan in a Salesperson community but what if it leads to actual client work? Then, it should be formally versioned, archived and retained per the client agreement. Content lifecycles and uses are key elements to define together.

  • Define where each type of content should be stored. What should go in a community site vs. the Document Management system? Should client information be stored in the sales wiki or the CRM database? Where content should be stored has a lot to do with its lifecycle and purpose. For example, Facts and figures about a client should go into the CRM for people to find it; but where the client likes to play golf may not be essential but helpful information and could go in a wiki.
  • Set up governance and roles and responsibilities that naturally break along people, process and technology lines for the two groups. For example, Records should be the managers of standards, document naming conventions, lifecycles and policies; Knowledge should be responsible for community oversight and strategy, collaboration tools, sharing processes and capturing lessons learned. The two groups should collaborate on taxonomy development! Which leads me to my final point…
  • Mesh taxonomies to reduce confusion. Both groups should focus on taxonomy development and be aware of changes made. Knowledge people may feel folksonomies are more effective, organic and collaborative. Regardless, there will be a common vocabulary, common high-level categories, industry lists, client lists, however content should naturally be organized. These two groups must work together to ease the burden on the user. Having identical or very close taxonomies also helps if content from a document library on a collaborative space actually needs to move into a formal records repository.

Should We Be “Social” at Work?

Companies are aware of and understand they must embrace social media externally with their clients but also internally to engage their employees and inspire collaboration. However, some leaders are still wary of social media as a time-waster, and, despite the numerous companies we hear about everyday using social media, many companies have still not adopted it for legal and productivity reasons. They think their staff members will constantly be updating their Facebook status or tweeting and re-tweeting items all day long. But, what about using these tools or like tools behind the firewall for business purposes?

The fact is people want to communicate this way, and it’s not just for the younger generations. Seniors are the fastest growing population on Facebook. Whether you allow access to “Facebook” or you implement a Facebook-like application behind your firewall, this is an efficient, easy-to-use and engaging way to get people to share what they are working on, report on their availability for other projects and connect and build relationships with people inside the company. We used to encourage connecting with people at a training class or through the company softball team. This is no different; it just involves a computer or Blackberry to do the connecting.

Here are five steps to ensure “social” isn’t viewed as non-productive “socializing”:

  1. Don’t call your internal People Profiles tool “Facebook”; call it “PeopleFinder”, “Connections”, “BluePages” (if you’re IBM). These may sounds similar but don’t conjure the “Facebook” image necessarily. Or, if you implement NewsGator Social Sites, call them “communities” instead. Brand it something that doesn’t imply these tools are a time-waster.
  2. Don’t necessarily call these tools “social media” when pitching them to senior leadership. Call them “collaboration tools”, “team builders”, or, better yet, “efficiency enablers”.
  3. Establish business purposes for why tools like this are needed. A common one I’ve heard is: “The younger generations expect it, and if we want to attract talent we need to have these tools.” While this might be true, I have found that this isn’t always compelling enough as leaders often ask: “What about the 75% of our population that isn’t 23 years old?” Good reasons include: Understanding a person’s area of expertise and experience leads to better staffing of projects; being able to tell when someone is or isn’t available instantly saves time in making decisions or getting answers; connecting people to people speeds up problem solving and helps new people establish relationships faster thus decreasing their ramp-up time.
  4. Try to get one leader on your side. Determine who would be the most willing to not only approve and champion the effort but be one of the first people with a profile.
  5. To help with legal and leadership hesitations, create a decent policy around using these tools and ensure there will be a dedicated activity monitor. A Good Policy Example: IBM’s Social Computing Guidelines

Top 10 Myths About Social Media (the First Five)

#1 You can just launch it and forget it. Yes. The purpose of social tools is to inspire collaboration and transparency, and its content should grow organically. However, you need a plan to monitor postings to ease your attorneys’ apprehensions and track usage for proof of success. 

#2 People will stumble upon it own their own. Despite all of the buzz around social media, not everyone will adopt it right away. Jump-starting posts and driving traffic to these tools is critical for success. 

#3 Leaders should be involved in every conversation to show support. Be careful here. Leaders should lead by example but they should start the conversation and then stand back and let the conversation happen between employees. Chime in from time to time but too much interference will be a barrier to some.

#4 Social media doesn’t need governance. Along with monitoring and measuring usage, determining who can post, reply, manage its content, report on content are very important parts of the requirements definition process. Can anyone start a blog? Maybe yes; maybe no. It depends on your needs and your organization’s culture. What content gets captured in a wiki vs. a SharePoint site? These questions also need to be answered ahead of time in your governance model to ensure people don’t get confused as to where to store information.

#5 People don’t really listen to what others’ have to say.  Au contraire! In a Universal McCann study, 72% of respondents used social media to research a company’s reputation for customer care before making a purchase. In a health study by Christakis and Fowler, social networks influence behaviors and even affect people’s happiness. People are reading and acting on what others have to say.