TAKING CARE OF EXPERTS After the initial pride of being recognized as an expert wears off, being…
TAKING CARE OF EXPERTS
After the initial pride of being recognized as an expert wears off, being on call to an entire company may not seem very attractive to busy professionals. “Many experts’ greatest concern about Yellow Pages and other locator software is that they will be swamped with basic questions,” says Richard McDermott, a knowledge management consultant in Boulder, Colorado. “So, they often hide out.”
An effective knowledge-sharing system should give experts safe, efficient, and pleasant ways to help their coworkers. Knowledge leaders must show these experts how their participation will help their own colleagues, so they don’t see it “as some sort of headquarters deal,” says Reid Smith, vice president of knowledge management for Schlumberger Ltd. in Sugar Land, Texas. “Explain why you’re doing this and what you’re trying to achieve.”
Recognizing that experts may want to control their availability, some software applications conceal the expert’s identity, leaving it up to the expert to participate or communicate directly with an individual once a query is made.
It makes sense for companies to reinforce appreciation of the value of experts’ contributions. Peer recognition is a good way to do this, according to Smith. “We implemented a recognition program where engineers vote for the best of the best practices,” he says. More tangible incentives can help, too. Some companies, including Schlumberger, offer prizes for sharing and create point systems for collaborative efforts.
Experts also find that they like sharing what they know. “Occasionally, a worker’s job changes so much that providing expertise becomes as significant a part of the job as the tasks in the original job description,” says Susan Hanley, director of content and collaboration management at Plural, Inc., in Bethesda, Maryland. Some even change careers so they can do it more.