Friday, 2 October 2020

How newly hired graduates search for knowledge?

How do graduates search for knowledge, and what this means for KM.

 
Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Here
 (summarised here and slides here) is a really interesting study about the difference between the strategies that new-hires use when seeking for information and knowledge, and the strategies their employers expect them to use.  

The study was conducted in 2012, so some comments about the digitial illiteracy of non-graduates may no longer be valid, but there is still some very interesting material there.

The study is summarised as follows
"Overall, our findings suggest a dramatic shift is occurring in the workplace related to how information is found and used.  
"We found the traditional research competencies—the use of non-digitized information sources—may be disappearing with each passing year as a new batch of college hires joins the workplace and employers make assumptions about their information competencies.  
"We found that few, if any, of the employers we interviewed said they hired college graduates solely because they could solve information problems in record time. Yes, employers recruited hires with the ability to conduct online searches. At the same time, however, other qualities also mattered.  
"In particular, employers expected hires to possess low-tech research competencies, such as the ability to make a phone call, to poke their heads into a co-worker's office to ask a question, to interpret results with a team member, or to scour a bound report. However, many fresh-from college hires sorely lacked these traditional research competencies.  
 "These low-tech information skills are essential to the workplace research since so much information in the workplace is contextual and highly individualized to the operations of the organization itself. But many of these young adults considered perusing the index of a print volume or picking up the phone to consult a colleague as outdated as using an adding machine to balance the payroll.  
"These findings, of course, warrant further investigation. But they are certainly plausible as more and more information becomes digitized, as each new crop of college graduates is more than likely to be “born digital,” and as employers continue to make hiring decision based on online information gathering proficiencies".
Most graduates in the study focus groups said "they found it difficult to solve information problems in the workplace,where unlike college, a sense of urgency pervaded and where personal contacts often reaped moreuseful results than online searches.... New Hires tend to use online searches  in preference to any other mechanism, often using cursory search". 

The report states that "Most college hires were prone to deliver the quickest answer they could find using a search engine, entering a few keywords, and scanning the first couple of pages of results, employers said, even though they needed newcomers to apply patience and persistence when solving information problems in the workplace".


Given that searching and finding are crucial components of KM, then the implications of this study for Knowledge Management are as follows.

  1. Graduates need induction into the company Knowledge Management framework and how to use it, including the location of the knowledge stores, and the communities of practice, to avoid the default of cursory use of search engines.
  2. If graduates default to online search, then there needs to be a knowledge base for them to find; even if it is just an index of "people to contact"
  3. New graduates need, as part of their induction, to be introduced to as many people as possible, in order to start building the social networks that can replace online search.
  4. They need to be inducted into the relevant communities of practice, as in the office world, 80% of the knowledge is undocumented, and will never be found through online search.

The search habits of new graduates are "search first, ask later (if at all)". Until those habits change, make sure there is something for them to find even if it is only the name of the person to ask. Make your knowledge findable, especially by new hires.

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