I was recently thinking of all kinds of strategies and best practices on how to make an organisation work regardless if a person (any person) suddenly leaves the company. A saying however was stuck in my mind: “nobody is irreplaceable”.
I realised how true this was and how much syncretism it involvs:
Nobody is irreplaceable. This merely means that if you think you are irreplaceable you must be nobody.
On the other hand, it doesn’t say that no soul is irreplaceable; it just states that no “body” is irreplaceable. As simple as this.
At the end of the 90’s, KM challenges were addressed through technology-based solutions. When you told someone about KM, they would reply with a tool or a software-driven initiative; usually a corporate-wide one. It took a few years to find out that an IT project would not solve the need of knowledge and would not necessarily improve knowledge sharing culture within company.
Later on, KM was perceived not along with IT but rather with HR. To comply with both, a key message soon became that organizations have to acknowledge people over technology as the active protagonists in knowledge-sharing. And now we come to the next step: processes. KM later was associated to managing processes and understanding the knowledge flow. So, where does KM fit in at the end? Does it need a separate entity? Should it be part of something else?
After reviewing a large number of situations, reports and statistics, I see that there are two situations:
KM is perceived as a response to a strategic need (especially after the downturn) that often even remains unidentified. They call it somehow else but they are trying to manage knowledge flows, have a knowledge-sharing culture and even build some IT if necessary. As KM is not defined, it’s not even called that way.
Top management perceives KM as something they “must do” to be ahead of competition. They say they are engaged to harmonizing knowledge-sharing processes across the organization but the exact reasons why they are strategically implementing KM is still not very clear. As KM is defined, it is established as an individual separate entity from other organisational structures.
So, again, where does KM fit in? Any experience is different but here might be similarities we can work on to better understand how this is developing.
• Can you identify your key talent today?
• Are you prepared to put a retention payment system in place to ensure that key talent does not leave your organisation?
• What will be the effect of such a programme on employees who are not covered by it? Are you ready to manage the consequences?
• Is this the time to review remuneration structures and to consider increasing the variable and/or deferred element?
• Have salary sacrifice cost reduction opportunities been fully explored?
• Can you use this opportunity to maximise the financial efficiency of current and future incentive arrangements?
• Should you review flexible working policies to drive down cost and extend the concept for specific areas of the business?
• Would it be appropriate to open up part-time working opportunities to employees who might not qualify under the existing policy arrangements?
• Is this the time to introduce policies for unpaid leave, career breaks and sabbaticals?
• Do you need to review effectiveness of your HR function, its restructuring capabilities and future role?
• Do your HR business partners have a clear understanding of the commercial realities facing your business?
• Have you thought about how best to minimise the negative impact of restructuring on your employment brand values?
• Do you need to reinvigorate your employment brand initiatives for future talent acquisition?
• Do managers know what you are expecting of them when it comes to maintaining the equity of your employment brand?
• Do all your stakeholders (shareholders, employees, suppliers, community) know what your vision is for the organisation going forward?
• Is the message clear and supportive to your business plans?
• Have you considered the customer perception of your restructuring actions?
• Have you considered what your employee relations strategy needs to be during a restructuring phase?
• Have you built in the time necessary for consultation in all the markets in which your business operates?
• Do you need the approval of any employment inspectorates before you implement your restructuring proposals?
• Are you prepared to stop external hiring to ensure that future employment opportunities are available to your existing employees first?
• Are you required to stop hiring in some markets where you are implementing compulsory redundancies?
• Are you going to police the consistent application of any hiring freeze you announce?
• Which parts of the business are growing? Which are shrinking? How do you respond to both?
• Does your business evolution require new capabilities? If so, do you have a strategy for putting these capabilities in place?
• What is the acceptable pay-back time for any restructuring programme in your business?
• What should your future organisation look like in its customer-facing activities?
• Should you explore alternative channels of distribution to optimise customer reach?
• Is there scope to rethink your support structures? Are they providing you with the mix of cost efficiency, speed and customer orientation that your business requires? Have you benchmarked these features against your competitors?
• Is there an opportunity to rethink your operating principles to reduce costs through virtual teamwork, outsourcing and/or centres of excellence?
• Is your business operating in multiple jurisdictions? If so, have you thought through the differing legal requirements which restructuring activities prompt in these locations?
• Do you have an overarching commitment to consistent treatment of employees?
• Have you consulted appropriately at international level as well as at local levels?
• How do you plan to maintain engagement levels in your business? Have you considered the retention challenges that may be prompted by restructuring?
• Are the challenges and associated time-frames you are setting out for your business attainable?
Do you have clear measures in place to ensure that you can respond swiftly to downturns in engagement levels within your business?