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David G.


Time for HR to come in form the cold?

Founder, alkAme by - Developing dynamic people, agile teams and adaptive, sustainable organisations

HR has a vital role to play in the management of knowledge resources, so why is it not generally happening?

Time for HR to come in from the cold

Follow @kmskunkworks Organisations need to manage the boundaries of their operations if they are to coordinate their knowledge resources and, in doing so, become more dynamic, agile and adaptive. This boundary management means engagement with human...

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  • August 9, 2012
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  • Vincent L.


    Vincent L.

    Going the Intellectual Capital way...

    "Why HR is not keen to take a role in KM" was the question I frequently asked. And I think I have the answers. It is because KM is not included in HR management studies, not included in HR practitioner job descriptions, and not included in HR professional associations topic of concern. And HR people are, in general, more conservative to take the lead to change the situation that may add responsibilities and work loads but not ncecessarily income. I knew it because I was once HR managers for more than a decade.

  • David G.


    David G.

    Founder, alkAme by - Developing dynamic people, agile teams and adaptive, sustainable organisations

    Hi Vincent, totally agree, which is why there needs to be a shift in thinking.

  • Douglas W.


    Douglas W.

    Chairman at International KM Institute

    David, I agree.
    If it is correct to describe a key KM activity as - "create a learning organization", then where are the learning experts - trainers?

    Clearly, HR folks (especially those that are training and organizational development experts) need to be involved on KM Team, even if not as Chief Knowledge Officer (CKO).

    In the KM Institute's "KM Transformation Solution"™, HR must play a key role, as they should. But, are they aware of that need/role?

  • Bob D.


    Bob D.

    Inspiring Excellence.

    A complication to this question, in regard to the learning experts, is learning is not always a function of HR. As an example, at one of my former employers, learning was a function of each vertical such that the learning teams of Sales, Contact Centers, and Marketing were independent of each other. In this arrangement, learning did not play a strategic/leading role, rather, they followed and did as directed by non-learning leaders.

    This is, and has been, a serious issue in the learning realm for many decades now. As a KM practitioner who came from the learning realm, I don't believe having learning a part of HR is a successful arrangement. The arrangement I support is a specific learning function with a CLO (learning officer).

    I would agree that both learning and HR are not aware that they need to be involved in KM activities. I also would put forth that many other functions are unaware, such as Legal, Facilities, and PR. Recognizing this, I made it a part of my KM roles to ensure all functions of an enterprise were aware of the role they need to play and how the role would benefit everyone.

  • John James O.

    John James

    John James O.

    Independent Advisor & Practice Coach available internationlly re Governance, Knowledge, Records & Information Management

    In my experience of several types of organiational systems in the public sector and not a few in the private sector, HR (donning my asbestos suit) is more about compliance and procedure than about human resources. Bob's observation about vertical management of team capacity resonates with my experience. That said, HR can be engaged creatively...but as in any such endeavour, that's about introducing (provoking?) change. 'twas ever thus.

  • Matthew L.


    Matthew L.

    Senior Analyst - Healthcare at WBB

    I don't think that HR practitioners typically think they are out in the cold, but are indeed fighting their own demons in terms of becoming trapped in purely administrative and functional roles.

    SHRM is pushing down the path of HR becoming more business-focused, hence the increasing number of HR practitioners with MBA qualifications, and they do not seem to feel that KM is on that path.

    @Bob, I agree with that, it seems to me that when L&D is seen as something important in a firm it typically gets established as a separate function outside HR, and where it is not seen as critical it just slides in under each functional unit. i.e. Customer Service sees to their own training, Sales do whatever training they feel necessary, etc.
    The only part that often does seem to stick to HR is Occupational Health & Safety, but I guess that Safety departments frequently take that on.

    Something that puzzles me is why KM and I/O Psychology are typically so far apart.
    Even more strange, IOP and Applied Psy coursework often mentions KM, but KM seldom if ever mentions IOP/AP.

    I have a fair library of KM and IOP textbooks, and it is remarkable that even when KM deals with directly "people stuff" like CoP, none of those textbooks mention IOP/AP, whereas most of the IOP/AP textbooks I own mention KM.

    Is it perhaps that it is we who are "out in the cold", rather than HR?

  • Bob D.


    Bob D.

    Inspiring Excellence.

    @Matthew, I have wondered about the separation between KM and IOP as well - I agree, they seem very connected.

    KM practitioners are just as out in the cold as HR and Learning - It is as you put it in the response to my comments. When deemed critical, these functions are brought in and expected to contribute equally to mission success; otherwise, the functions are managed as support groups.

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