KM and HR: Mutual Synergies?

KM and HR: Mutual Synergies?



by Madanmohan Rao

Editor, The KM Chronicles

Bangalore; May 18, 2011



The monthly meeting of the Bangalore K-Community focused on the synergies between knowledge management and human resources (sign up for updates at HR professionals in Indian organisations are facing serious challenges of scale, growth, cost-pressures, competition and diversity. Knowledge retention is a key challenge due to high churn, and competitive pressures mean new employees have to be brought up to speed extra fast.


How can KM help HR? And how can corporate HR improve knowledge capacity in an organisation — via KM workshops/awards and formal KRAs for knowledge work, for instance? How can HR and KM metrics be aligned? Externally, how are Indian colleges and universities responding to the KM and innovation needs of Indian companies, and how can enterprise HR and KM partner with them in this regard?


Panelists from Nokia, Oracle, Unisys and Wipro addressed a number of interesting issues on these lines. I had a good time as usual chairing the session, hosted by Unisys; here are some of my observations and takeaways. See also the excellent blogpost by panellist Pavan Soni on the K-Community discussion:


1. Knowledge sharing comes naturally to digital natives


Students by nature tend to share their work and discuss it with their peers; when they join the workforce this sharing nature is amplified by social media. However, many of their innovative behaviours and risk-taking attitudes tend to get stamped out by the uniformity of corporate life. Hence knowledge managers should pay special attention to tapping the sincerity and curiosity of digital natives.


2. A key balance is between collective and individual innovative behaviours


Some non-conformist behaviours in innovative thinkers don’t gel well with collective activities and collaboration. Collaborative thinking, knowledge sharing and brainstorming should be nurtured in organisations but without stamping out the sometimes radical creative sparks in employees.


3. The ‘knowledge quotient’ of employees should be nurtured and promoted


It is important to hire people who have sufficient ‘knowledge quotient,’ or inculcate it among them, i.e. a respect for knowledge, an understanding of knowledge dynamics in an organisation, learning on job, mentoring and peer activities.


4. Knowledge cultures should be embedded in organisational ecosystems


Expectations of knowledge sharing and advancement should be encouraged in organisations at all stages: knowledge champions and knowledge leaders, at the level of projects, products, processes and policies.


5. Succession planning and knowledge retention should go hand in hand


Knowledge mapping plays an important role in understanding organisational, industry and competitor knowledge advantages and gaps. Succession planning and stemming knowledge attrition can gain from a combination of these mapping techniques as well as tools for knowledge pattern detection at the individual, project and organisational levels. The “science and art” of exit interviews calls for much sharpening of skills and scenarios.


6. KM and strategy should go hand in hand


Smart CKOs should be right at the head table with the CEO, aligning KM activities with organisational strategy. Knowledge behaviours should be exhibited in an exemplary manner right at the drawing board stages of organisational evolution. Ideas for pursuing strategies should be managed in a transparent and accountable manner.


7. Training&development and KM should be opposite sides of the same coin


Knowledge roles like knowledge champions are a crucial overlay on other roles such as project managers. But to be successful curators and custodians of knowledge, knowledge champions will require additional capacity building in soft skills such as mediation, handling delicate powerplays, and becoming brokers between multiple parties. HR should devise appropriate reward and recognition schemes to promote knowledge sharing – but should also know when to phase out such incentives and make knowledge sharing the expected norm in the organisation.


8. Knowledge deficits and liabilities should be actively addressed by HR


In addition to building knowledge champions, it is important to address factors which inhibit knowledge sharing, such as lack of diversity in the employee pool, differing vision, and inadequate training in knowledge activities.


9. Management ‘disconnect’ should be minimised


Many organisations suffer from ‘bloated middles’ and a disconnect between top management and the ‘doers’ in the workforce. There is a lack of alignment between purpose, autonomy and mastery in organisations that must be overcome.


10. Organisations should creatively deal with failures


There can be as much learning from failures as from best practices, but many organisations do not have systematic and even fun ways of learning from failures at the individual and group levels. How many managers ask you what your Top Five failures are and what you’ve learned from them?


A number of issues were debated by the panellists and audience. Does collective thinking kill creativity? How should organisations find the balance between ‘studio’ and ‘factory’ modes of activities? What happens to knowledge behaviours and HR alignment during mergers and acquisitions? How does role rotation help guard against knowledge loss while also building muti-disciplinary skills? When do teams become more destructive than creative? How can ‘hunting’ and ‘farming’ behaviours be nurtured in an organisation? What are the different KM contributions by HR at the foundation stage and yield stage? How is management theory evolving after its short one-century history as compared to millions of years of human cognitive and social development?


Join us again on the third Wednesday of any month in Bangalore for discussions on the knowledge movement; sign up at for updates and alerts! Suggestions for speakers, topics, activities, hosts and sponsors always welcome…        :-)



Quotable Quotes


“There is so much talent out there it is shocking.” – Pavan Soni


“Social inputs are as important as managerial inputs in skills and competence databases.” – Nirmala Palaniappan


“A key trait for knowledge champions is to understand the difference between influence and control.” – Bhanu Potta


“Managers need to learn how to handle people outside their cultural framework and not hire only stereotypes.” – Kotappa Mulugu


“Creating not-only-for-profit companies that plug people’s individual talents into a larger purpose becomes very important, particularly for baby boomers.” – Daniel Pink



Panelist bios:


Bhanu Potta is Global Product Manager, Learning & Knowledge Services in Mobile Phone Services at Nokia. He spearheads design & deployment of Societal Knowledge Services through Nokia Ovi Life Tools and related ecosystem development in Emerging Market Countries across the world. He has 15 years of experience in knowledge management, human performance & OD initiatives. He was previously leading KM function at Perot Systems (now DELL Services) and earlier lead KM consultancy teams at NIIT & Informatics Group. Bhanu is the guest faculty for Enterprise Knowledge & Content Management, an M.Tech course at International School for Information Management, Mysore. He can be followed on Twitter at @bhanupotta


Nirmala Palaniappan is Senior Manager for KM at Oracle. She leads KM for Oracle’s APAC business. She has almost eleven years of experience in KM and has had the opportunity to lead KM initiatives in multiple organisations. She led an Intranet initiative from scratch at a small organisation, has been a KM evangelist for the second largest business unit at one of the top three IT service organizations in India, has been the lead KM consultant to a utility company in the UK, and now leads KM for Oracle’s APAC region. She has conceived, designed and rolled out an innovative E2.0 application that fits into the Oracle environment. She was awarded a patent for her work on a KM framework, methodology and toolkit by the US patent office earlier this year.


Pavan Soni is an Innovation Evangelist at Wipro. He has trained at a three-day Blue Ocean Strategy workshop conducted by INSEAD, and conducted Innovation Workshops for Tata Steel, Titan, Tanishq, Future Group, Glaxo SmithKline, TotalGaz, TVS Motor Company, Cyro Save, Mahindra & Mahindra, and Ericsson. He pioneered the concept of Innovation Bazaar and Story Book on Innovation at Wipro. He has published 21 articles and papers. Pavan is an advisor to the Karnataka Knowledge Commission and is a prolific blogger at


Kotappa Mulugu is Recruitment Director at Unisys. He is an electrical engineer by education. He did M.Tech Electrical Engineering from IIT Kanpur and has 28 years of industry experience. He has worked at Syntel, Philips and Sony and has established world class test and repair facilities for computers assemblies, peripherals at Bangalore. He joined Unisys in 2004, and specialises in high volume and specialist recruiting for the IT product and services industry.


Moderator: Dr. Madanmohan Rao, K-Community co-founder, and editor of five books series, including “The KM Chronicles” ( 



See previous K-Community blogposts at:


KM and Innovation: Converging or Complementary Practices?

“Case Study: Knowledge Management at Titan Industries”

“Knowledge Management Strategies: Formulation and Evolution”

“Embedding KM in Organisational Workflow and Culture”

“Conversational Flows for Knowledge Sharing”

“Open Content and Access in the Knowledge Society”



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