Tuesday, 11 August 2015

How KM works with Learning and Development

Learning and Development and Knowledge Management are allied disciplines, so how should they work together, and how do they differentiate their roles?


On the face of it, there should be a strong link between KM and L&OD, as both are about learning, and about the development of capability through learning. In the past, L&OD has focused on learning and development of the individual, and KM has focused on learning and development at team, project and community scale. Yet teams and projects and communities are made up of individuals.

Traditional learning was classroom focused, but increasingly L&OD is incorporating learning on the job – online learning, the use of learning blogs and wikis, and remote learning through webcasts and other tools.

The leads us into KM territory, where learning becomes collective rather than individual, involves learning from peers rather than tutors, and happens on the job rather than in the classroom.  KM sees the development of capability as being more than a personal issue, and rather a collective and interpersonal issue.

At a strategic level, KM and L&OD should be linked, as the strategic competencies of the organisation should be addressed by both disciplines. KM and L&OD together should for example coordinate the knowledge resources, ensuring that new knowledge is provided consistently through training, through reference materials and through communities.  They should monitor organisational capability and competence, identifying the gaps that need to be filled.

KM provides support and learning solutions outside the classroom, and personal development through interventions like site visits and learning visits can be linked with team learning as well. We have worked with one organisation where the corporate university is supported by a series of communities of practice, so that L&OD and KM are structurally connected through the university.

This message was passed on to us many years ago from Colonel Ed of the US Army, where there is a close link between KM and training, with lessons from the frontline being used to continuously update the training programs. He told us that training occupied 70% of the Army’s time, which is a proportion no business will even match. However a proper linkage between training and knowledge sharing, between building the capability of the individual and that of the organisation, and between L&OD and KM, is likely to be the next step forward in consolidating KM as a fully embedded support mechanism for performance.

Unfortunately L&OD has a very fuzzy understanding of what KM can offer. Claire Chaundy recently sent me an article from HR world on social learning, which made no reference to KM and seemed to imply that introducing social tools was all that you needed to introduce on-the-job learning - an approach that we know does not work. On the basis of this and other articles, I am not sure HR and L&OD really understand how KM works.

The onus is on us, the Knowledge Managers, to work with our L&OD departments, to develop a shared understanding of the range of workplace learning, and build a common strategy for the development of both individual and collective competence in service of the business goals.

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