Knowledge management is a term used to refer to the practice of creating, developing, using and sharing the collective knowledge of the companys products, people, and processes with a view of increasing productivity and efficiency in how things are done. Sharing information, for instance, enables employees to improve their effectiveness in their duties as they have absolute command of skills required in carrying out responsibilities. While many corporations desire to have perfect knowledge management practices, there exist many challenges that hamper these efforts. Expert location is one of the challenges of knowledge management for Microsoft Corporation, as discussed in the paragraphs below.
Expert location refers to the determination of the person or the employee with the knowledge. Microsoft Corporation has more than 118,000 employees spread in many countries around the globe. Say, an employee in India may be highly knowledgeable about a particular process as a result of his hands-on experience in that operation, say, for example, the process of pitching Microsoft products to managers.
The employee might have discovered a particular aspect of interest to many customers in a certain field, like, for example, in research. That means that if every sales person in Microsoft learns about the particular need of research companies and institutions, then they can make better sales or capture the interest of the R&D department to enhance the feature, for that market. In this particular problem, the employee in India may not even know the importance of his knowledge and therefore he may just keep it to himself.
The above illustration is just an example of how expert location is a problem to knowledge management. At the top, the managers want to have as much knowledge about the company products and employees as possible, but sometimes they cannot force people to share. Even the adjustment of corporate culture to ensure that employees feel free to share knowledge is not a sufficient motivator for experts working in the company, because, as noted above, some of them may not be aware of their skills.
Potential Management Solution
Analysis of algorithmic communication to and for employees; Microsoft can put in place a communication watcher that analyzes the kind of information that goes into an employees mail and from, to determine the potential sets of skills the employee might have. By reading mails, twitter conversations or Facebook updates, or just following the employees personal blog, the management can discover very useful knowledge from the employee, either learned at Microsoft or in previous jobs.
Of course, the above proposition will create employee-employer conflicts regarding privacy and treatment of personal communication information. Particularly, the management would be balancing between making employees aware that their communications are monitored and keeping it a secret. There is a worry in making an employee aware that they are been watched because they can hide important communications or use encrypted channels. For Microsoft, tracking communications in the company mail and that in the public domain saves the company from potential employer-employee confidence conflicts, but it may not reveal enough.
Legal practices, culture, and behavior are different across countries. It may be legal to track employee information in India but illegal in Ukraine, posing a challenge on Microsofts tracking of employees. In such situations, the company may decide to use employee performance metrics to spot outliers and exemplary talent.
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