Convincing Reluctant Knowledge Authors to Contribute: The Carrot and The Stick
Way back in the late 90s when I first implemented a knowledgebase during my time at JCPenney tech support, I ran into a problem that has come up on just about every KM project I’ve been involved with, and continues to be a FAQ on any KM webcast. Here is the question, posed most recently by an audience member for our May 19th webcast, “More Reasons You Love to Hate Your Knowledgebase–Keeping the Spark Alive.”
Q: We have a maintenance process that works well when knowledge owners participate. Any recommendations on HOW to get reluctant knowledge owners to participate?
Here are my thoughts, but I’m hoping all of you KM experts out there will add some additional suggestions. From my perspective, it comes down to two options: the carrot and the stick. The carrot means rewards, the stick means the threat of punishment. Employees tend to prioritize activities that are clearly linked to performance reviews, bonuses and raises, so if knowledge base contributions are highly valued in the employee review and recognition process, most employees will participate. However, check out this data from the TSIA benchmark:
5 = greatest impact, 1 = least impact. As you can see, KB contributions have the least impact on employee reviews of any element surveyed, so companies are not doing a good job today of making KB activity a priority in the minds of employees.
The alternative is the stick, meaning employees who do not contribute, or who regularly contribute garbage, must receive some sort of disciplinary action, typically a lower score on their performance review which impacts raises and bonuses.
But beyond these basic employer avenues, here are some other hints.
- From drudgery to challenging. Many people who don’t want to contribute to your knowledge efforts are coming from a place of insecurity. They’ve worked hard for their knowledge, and they fear if they share it with everyone they will no longer be valuable. As a manager, I could usually solve this easily by coaching them that documenting their knowledge means someone else can now solve those redundant issues, leaving the employee to work on more interesting and challenging problems.
- Sell them on the ROI. One of the biggest employee complaints about new technology is it “shoved down their throat.” Be sure everyone is on board with the KM project BEFORE it goes live–let employees sit in on demos and participate in beta tests. If they understand the value of KM to the organization, and how the tool improves performance AND makes the support tech an expert on every problem, it is easier to get them on board and participating.
- Learn from high achievers. When you identify top contributors to the knowledgebase, don’t just reward the high achievers, share their secrets. Have them talk at staff meetings about how they write articles, give examples of good and bad articles, use analytics to show the impact of good knowledge (linked to solved incidents, for example), etc. Be sure you have good editors in place, and templates that make writing easy–even for those who find writing a chore.
What else have you tried that works? Please add a comment on how you tackled this issue in your environment. And as always, thanks for reading!Best Practices, knowledge management
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