The results of a critical KM survey by John Ragsdale shows that nearly everyone believes knowledge sharing has a major impact on real organizational outcomes. Nearly 75% of respondents said that knowledge sharing will deliver at least a 20% return on investment. The challenge for most organization is getting the team to practice knowledge sharing. One of the best ways to motivate an organization is to start measuring what you want to change.

Knowledge-sharing practices are complex behaviors, though, so measuring their adoption can be tricky. We have to try, though, because we need an immediate indicator of whether our organization is sharing their knowledge effectively. We can’t wait for the outcome. The second measure (of our five) that we think is important for tracking and implementing knowledge-sharing practices is:

Staff adoption

Staff adoption is the most important measure of the team’s behavior. How well are individual team members (and the team as a whole) integrating searching, reusing, enhancing and creating knowledge into what they do every day? From the perspective of a manager or executive, how successful has the organization been in affecting the behavior of the team? Does the team understand why knowledge-sharing practices will make their work better and more fulfilling? Does the tool—wiki, file repository, dedicated knowledge software package—allow the team to access the knowledge they need when and where they need it? Do the changes in team behavior provide the appropriate knowledge when and where a need arises?

What does the measure look like?

Staff adoption is a comparison of two different metrics—the number of opportunities the team had to share or reuse knowledge and the number of times the team actually did. There are two ways to present this measure, depending on your need and audience. If you want to show progress over time (hopefully improvement over time!), you can present staff adoption as a percentage. It tracks well on a line graph if you add a trend line or add a running average. If you want to show results, particularly for an executive audience, you can present staff adoption as a ratio. The ratio does a great job showing how well the team is adopting knowledge-sharing practices at a high level. It stands in for how well your team is leveraging its collective knowledge.

How do I get these two metrics?

In some areas, understanding how well the team is integrating knowledge-sharing practices in their work is simple. In others, it isn’t quite so simple. Why?

It’s because different teams encounter different triggers or needs for knowledge. In some teams, the trigger is easy to find and well-understood. For support teams—technical support engineers or process support (like HR generalists)—the trigger or need for knowledge is simple and easy to document. A customer or colleague has a question or needs a service. The need is also often documented in a tracking system (like a CRM system). CRM systems often can include a link to a knowledge repository as part of the case or request (either a hyperlink or a link within the application, itself). We have our two measures for staff adoption.

Number of cases opened = Number of opportunities to share or reuse knowledge

Of those cases opened, number with a link to a knowledge article = Number of times knowledge was shared or reused

For other teams, it isn’t as easy to identify when and where knowledge should be shared and reused. Sometimes, you have to use a proxy for reusing knowledge for a team. A project-oriented team might need to rate the knowledge it used (maybe a five-star scale) or provide a place in the project documentation to reference the specific knowledge reuse.

For each team, though, we want to know the same thing – how much has the team’s behavior’s changed? Are they searching, reusing, enhancing or creating knowledge?

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