Gen Y: the new face of knowledge management (kmers beware)

Gen y has triggered off a new set of concerns regarding knowledge management.

Right now we are still at a crossroad where culture is a high priority issue but on the other hand we have a young group of professionals also known as gen-y who have revolutionized communication methods and made social networks a catalyst for knowledge generation and sharing. For some this translates into an uncontrolable grapevine that’s time wasting and doesn’t generate value. However, social media has already redefined many things. Like it or not, it’s here to stay.

Trust is no longer an issue. Gen Y wants to be heard. They want a place in center stage. Empathy , sharing and co creation are the new values of Gen Y.

For KM this means that we have to start thinking differently. A new generation of KM is already on the way and it’s not just about adopting social media. We have to learn to listen and understand how Gen Y interacts.

Some new aspects regarding the new age of knowledge management are:

Communication competencies (both online and offline): engaging gen y will depend on our ability to adapt and construct learning environments that suit their communications styles and are readily available to them. We will have to work on developing a new set of competencies in order to strengthen knowledge sharing in such a manner that context and critical knowledge is not sacrificed as conversations become largely digital than face to face. In fact kmers might have to start thinking seriously about becoming digital analysts.

Content quality: turning digital may prove to be difficult if we let conversations take their own course. We will need to start thinking about developing community managers who will have the role to steer conversations towards business objectives and facilitate critical knowledge capture through social media. He will have to ensure quality in order to avoid missing important elements that will guarantee that a knowledge artefact will be fit to be reused at some point in the future.

Culture: we will not longer be concerned about shaping culture as “sharing becomes the new code”. co creation is an essential ingredient in Gen Y interaction and we will have to focus on providing them with the right tools and mechanisms in order to promote knowledge transfer. In this sense we have to ensure that the company reflects an open environment and promotes a sense of trust at all levels. A good way to start is to analyze what companies are doing right now in order to promote open innovation. I think there are many lessons learned that will be usefull and will guide us towards shaping the right culture for Gen Y.

Communicate value preposition: we need to start looking at KM as if it were a new product that’s about to come out in the market. Gen Y love to hear what’s good about a brand and how it will shape their lives. How did Apple find a place in the heart of millennials? Why does somebody choose an iPhone over a galaxy?

Unfortunately I think many kmers have locked away their marketing chip and failed to express value in due time. This hurts the KM program as people don’t feel that they connect with it and express their feelings through comments such as “what’s in it for me”

Social media combined with a clear business strategy and communication methods that engage Gen Y will spark off a new wave of knowledge generation . We can’t look backwards now. The future is being shaped as we speak and social media is revolutionizing knowledge transfer everyday. Social media alone cannot do the job and that’s the main reasons why kmers must stand up to the challenge and position social media as the new learning catalyst.

© Jose Carlos Tenorio Favero

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17 responses to “Gen Y: the new face of knowledge management (kmers beware)

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  2. José,

    Excellent article, you have captured the present challenge not only for knowledge management but all enterprise platforms. The generational transformation is a product of the technology enriched environment now pervasive in everyone’s lives. Yet many tools continue to persist in antiquated models and methodologies.

    Your last statement is crucial: “Social media alone cannot do the job…” There are too many who don’t understand this nuance, hence the recent proliferation of social platforms grafted into the enterprise with little consideration for long term objective value. The innovations in social must be adapted to create entirely new innovations focused on the differing priorities of the business landscape.

  3. Thank you @Edward and @ Howard; im still amazed by the pace social media has been keeping up in business nowadays. In terms of #KM we still need to study the field in order to propose a viable business strategy which will not only help us to generate a new source of competitive advantage but which will also ease Gen Y transition in the work place.

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  6. Interesting read! We’ve tried to mix exactly what you describe “providing them with the right tools and mechanisms in order to promote knowledge transfer”, but not only them, also all the Non-Gen-Y’s within companies. At least for the next 20 years, we’ll be working allong side one-another, and although the one side seems more agile and flexible, they still lack experience. And the ones with experience, are often rusted into some form of culture….
    We embrace this status quo and try to help it a bit.
    Would love to show you ‘Sciomino’, a tool in which we’ve tried to solve some of these puzzles. Just let me know if you’re interested.

  7. I have a slightly different perspective about generation Y in the workplace…and generations in the workforce in general…bottom line is nothing really new here.

    I have always believed, and practice, that the objective of leveraging knowledge, its flow and use, is about capturing, adapting, transferring, and reusing what we know about what we do to improve performance at the individual, team, and organization level as a part of the way we work All things being equal, Gen Y leverages knowledge more effectively than other generations by using enabling technology more effectively and by making collaboration part of the way they work. They enter the workforce and workplace with the expectation that they can operate in the workplace the way they grew up operating. Organizations that recognize this, and also recognize the multi-generational nature of their workforce, will not only be more successful leveraging the knowledge (information + experience) of their organizations, but also retain their valued workforces…integration of cultures and workforce dynamics must be built in…again in my opinion, nothing new.

    I am glad to see t he above conversation as it is important to have this conversation across generations, workforces, and leaderships. “Good on ya…”

    • I’m increasingly of the “opinion” that it is not actually knowledge that Gen Y “leverages” more effectively than other generations. Instead, I increasingly believe that what Gen Y leverages more effectively is choice of information, which is quite different from knowledge. However, what I would say is that the standouts in Gen Y whose accomplishments have been very obviously knowledge driven also tend to show exceptional capabilities for using knowledge management techniques., and in our times these displays are very rapidly promoted as desirable practices to a huge audience compared to what we saw in our previous generations. So as you said, exactly, it is by using enabling technology that these outcomes occur. I don’t, however, think that there are actually substantially greater percentages of Gen Y who are superior “leveragers” than there have been the percentage of standouts in previous generations with the contemporaneous technologies…

      • @malcom I think it will be a shared commitment. I understand your perspective and I think what needs to be done is to leverage gen y competencies in order to pave the way for them to become the future K workers we’ve talked about in earlier posts. They have the missing component which is culture and a genuine desire to share. Organizations must commit themselves to provide a KM framework that steers gen y towards critical knowledge so that “conversations” are meaningful, add value to current processes and become learning points. Make conversations part of a formal evaluation scheme so that from day one everyone knows what to do and what not to do. Although social is often considered to be “free” since people have control, in organizations it still needs to function under basic rules and obligations. This isn’t contradictory to the social rule. It’s just a basic step before we can turn digital. As for gen y they will have to commit themselves to secure a genuine learning environment and develop competencies that will further enhance their capacity to acquire knowledge and become part of social learning. Advancements in the fields may be found in the context of personal knowledge management, an interesting field which is being currently developed by the American Knowledge Management Institute.

      • Hi Bill… thanks for your additional comments. Aside from the paper I provided you, I have another point of reference that makes this topic seem like a generally pretty straightforward problem/solution set. It is the experience of coaching, which involves training as well as directing, resulting in mutual commitment of players and staff. Because of recurring success at coaching, I tend to bring this up a lot, but not because I think the challenge is small. Instead, I think that we (including me) today have enormous enthusiasm for drilling into the details of our recognition of behaviors and codifying them, but those trees are not changing the forest, so to speak. Another analogy: I am wary of reinventing the wheel, and excited about improving the roll. The devil reall is in the details. Thanks again for your ongoing insights…

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