Agencies must rethink knowledge management to keep pace with the human+ worker

Today’s human+ worker is on the move. This emerging wave of workers, empowered by technological capabilities alongside their own skills and expertise, is moving rapidly throughout and across public sector organisations. With that movement brings a challenge. Knowledge moves with them.

Public service agencies must address the new reality of increasingly distributed knowledge because knowledge is the lifeblood of any organisation. Workers rely on quick access to information to be agile and efficient. However, in my opinion, the way government agencies are set up now puts the onus on workers themselves to act as stable sources of institutional and industry knowledge.

New knowledge management approaches are essential to helping the organisation keep pace with the high velocity of the human+ worker.

Make it flow

Although there is more information available than ever, knowledge management and access strategies within public service have not kept up with the increase in people moving from role to role. One way to manage the movement of knowledge is to invest in learning and reskilling strategies that prepare employees for changing roles.

Technology presents several opportunities. For instance, extended reality can make learning more immersive. Artificial intelligence (AI) enables new levels of personalization. AI can also help employees to more quickly get to the answers they need to get their work done efficiently. New Mexico’s Human Services Department has applied AI and Robotic Process Automation to free up caseworkers’ time, by developing a Conversational AI chatbot that can answer system questions, log new issues and validate case data.

Telecom provider Swisscom was struggling to manage distributed knowledge within its 21,000-person workforce. The company is now using an AI-powered solution that, when an employee asks a question, identifies relevant experts and automatically shares the inquiry. The knowledge of each employee becomes easily accessible to everyone. People save the time they would have spent searching out the right expert, and instead spend that time putting the answers to use.

Machine learning can also help agencies to gauge employee satisfaction more granularly and frequently, which is important for adapting approaches in real time rather than waiting for an end-of-year survey. While this isn’t knowledge management in its traditional sense, the public sector’s greatest assets are its people. Collecting and understanding their feedback is important knowledge for any public sector organisation to be able to deliver for citizens.

Collating workforce engagement data at a speed that matches the rate of employee velocity will allow the organisation to better manage attrition and identify opportunities to engage the workforce.

Getting up to speed

To enable fluid knowledge flow in the public sector, I believe leaders should consider how to adapt knowledge management and learning strategies within the organisation. Ideas to consider include:

  • Put technology to work. Technologies such as AI and extended reality offer new opportunities for employees to participate in self-directed learning while also giving leaders new insight into what will drive employee satisfaction.
  • Train smarter to make transition easier. As employees move between roles, create a training plan that supports employee velocity. Look to provide on-demand training and opportunities for extended reality-driven experiential learning.
  • Ask employees. Create an open dialogue and ask employees whether they feel that they have the resources and support needed to learn new skills. Use technology tools to gauge employee sentiment on an ongoing basis.

The workforce is changing fast, and the practices the public sector uses to manage workforce knowledge and equip employees with new skills must change, too. Technology can be a launchpad to give workers what they need and give the public service enterprise methods for retaining critical knowledge. What hasn’t changed, is that having an engaged and equipped workforce is essential to being able to provide the best possible outcomes for citizens. Interested in finding out more? Take a look at our latest research into the human+ worker in public service.

Rainer Binder

Global Social Services Lead

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