An organization's knowledge management (KM) strategy is one of the pillars of its overall business strategy. And the person responsible for playing a major role in the development of this strategy and implementing it is the knowledge manager.
Knowledge managers are responsible for safeguarding organizational knowledge, capturing tacit knowledge and converting it into new knowledge, and creating a culture of knowledge sharing that ultimately has a positive impact on the business's bottom line.
In addition to qualifications, experience and attributes, knowledge managers also require certain skills to successfully do their jobs. In this article, we are going to focus on the essential knowledge manager skills.
Knowledge Manager Skills
A knowledge manager performs a multi-faceted role. And for this reason the knowledge manager needs a wide range of skills.
Each manager-level role has two aspects: the technical aspect and the non-technical aspect. For example, a Finance manager needs to have a strong background in corporate finance. Even though technical expertise forms the basis that allows a manager to function, it's not enough. For managers and more senior roles in the corporate hierarchy, there are other non-technical skills that are equally - or perhaps more - important than the technical skills.
This is also the case for knowledge managers. In addition to technical skills related to the discipline of knowledge management, a good knowledge manager requires multiple skills to function effectively.
Knowledge managers operate inside an organization. They work with stakeholders to identify knowledge management skills gaps and develop relevant services, training, advice or guidance proactively to meet business needs.
Knowledge managers lead their own team members and also influence members of other teams. Knowledge managers often lead multiple projects at the same time. They are responsible for creating a culture of knowledge sharing, and for implementing a shared vision of a knowledge-based organization.
Therefore knowing how to develop a shared vision, and knowing how to motivate and lead team members towards the achievement of that vision is one of the most essential skills for a knowledge manager.
The ability to influence is one of the most important components of leadership. Especially when project teams are comprised of members from different departments, the ability to indirectly influence team members for the achievement of project objectives is essential.
The ability to motivate others is another essential component of leadership. The requires the ability to understand other people's perspectives, interests and goals. Only then can a leader motivate them.
The ability to build effective teams is another key component of leadership. A single person cannot achieve anything significant in an organization. Only effective teams under effective leadership can achieve strategic goals and objectives.
As leaders, knowledge managers focus on high-level matters such as vision, culture and strategy. As managers, knowledge managers focus more on the technical details of their role.
Knowledge managers need to have a good understanding of knowledge management principles and best practices. Only then can they guide and direct other team members for the achievement of organizational goals.
Planning is an essential management skill. Knowing how to develop plans while keeping in view the available resources and business conditions, and how to modify plans due to changing conditions is essential for any manager.
Organizing is an essential management skill. Knowledge managers either set up or inherit a knowledge management department. They set up systems and structures so that the department operates in an organized manner. Knowledge managers develop and implement business processes and procedures that ensure that every departmental activity is carried out according to organizational policies.
Delegating is another important management skill. Knowledge managers get the work done through others. Therefore good knowledge managers need to delegate effectively.
Decision-making and problem-solving are essential management skills. Both of these require the ability to look at multiple options and analyze them from a number of different perspectives. Knowledge managers have to seek input, analyze information, consider alternatives, and then make good decisions.
Strategy and Business
Knowledge management is a business initiative and is implemented to help the business achieve its goals.
Therefore knowledge managers need an understanding of the need for knowledge management in the corporate environment, and how their role fits into the overall business strategy. Only then can they develop a knowledge management strategy that is aligned with business objectives.
In the world of business, execution counts for far more than ideas. Businesses that successfully execute often leave others far behind. In addition to developing a knowledge management strategy, knowledge managers also need the skills that are necessary for successfully implementing the strategy.
Communication is maybe the most important skill for any employee, regardless of position and domain of work.
Knowledge managers have to communicate on a regular basis with team members, key stakeholders, and customers. They have to act as facilitators for building a culture of knowledge sharing.
Therefore good communication skills are essential for knowledge managers. They need to be excellent at writing, speaking, presenting, and using a variety of communications vehicles.
Knowing "what" to communicate and "how" to communicate are both essential. The "what" pertains to the idea or information that one has to communicate. A person can't communicate effectively until the "what" is clear. The "how" pertains to the best way of getting the idea across and varies with the context:
- The best way to communicate with different individuals varies: how a manager communicates with an entry-level employee is markedly different from how a manager communicates with a director or the CEO.
- The best way to communicate with different groups also varies depending upon the interests, level of understanding and attitudes of the audience.
Different tools are used in organizations for communication such as e-mail, videoconferencing and other types of business communication platforms. Knowing the limits of each tool, and using it accordingly is also essential.
Organizations have their own dynamics. The best way to communicate in an organization can only be learned after working in an organization i.e. it comes with experience. That is why experience, and not only in the technical aspects of the job, is essential for knowledge workers who take on the role of a knowledge manager.
Knowledge management is implemented through a variety of tools and processes. The tools used are typically Information Technology (IT) based. Examples of knowledge management tools include corporate intranets, content management systems, document management systems, databases, and wikis. Therefore knowledge managers need to be able to quickly learn and master a wide variety of tools and processes.
Knowledge managers need skills to know how to deploy information architecture in support of good knowledge management, e.g. by structuring knowledge bases or expertise directories, or deploying collaborative workplace software effectively.
A wide range of software applications and KM tools are available for developing knowledge bases and other types of databases that act as repositories of organizational information. In addition to being proficient with these tools and applications, knowledge managers have to set up a knowledge management system for the effective use of these tools. The system includes a set of processes and procedures for:
- Access control: different levels of access to ensure that knowledge workers access the information they need without compromising confidential data or information.
- Security: to protect sensitive information from unauthorized access.
- Disaster Recovery: to ensure that documents, knowledge bases and other repositories of information are protected against loss caused by man-made or natural disasters.
- Training: periodic training sessions to help employees keep up to date with new features and new tools.
How to Develop Your Knowledge Manager Skills?
There are a number of avenues that are available for knowledge manager candidates who want to improve their skills, and hence their value in the marketplace.
Most universities don't offer degrees in knowledge management. However, a degree in business administration or information technology is highly beneficial for those interested in taking on the role of a knowledge manager. A college degree carries a lot of credibility in the marketplace and can help you stand out from the competition. Candidates with advanced degrees also command higher levels of compensation.
A degree can help candidates learn many of the technical skills that are required for the knowledge manager role, such as IT, information architecture, information management, and project management.
A degree however can't help candidates with learning the non-technical skills that are required for the role.
Certifications are another way that candidates for the knowledge manager role can acquire technical skills and improve credibility in the marketplace. Below we highlight some of the valuable certifications for a knowledge manager.
Project Management Professional (PMP)
The Project Management Professional (PMP) is the world's leading project management certification. It now includes predictive, agile and hybrid approaches. The PMP designation demonstrates to current and potential employers that you have demonstrated a solid foundation of knowledge from which you can competently practice project management.
Certified Knowledge Manager (CKM®)
The Certified Knowledge Manager (CKM®) is the Flagship Certification course from the Knowledge Management Institute (KMI).
The CKM is ideal for a knowledge manager tasked to lead or improve a Knowledge Management initiative. Whether public or private sector, large or small – the CKM is the leading international standard for all knowledge management professionals and the top choice for anyone interested in gaining a solid grasp of common KM principles at an advanced level with actual "hands-on" experience performing KM. There are no prerequisites, and no technical background is required.
IT Information Library Foundations Certification (ITIL)
The ITIL Foundations Certification course is designed for all IT service and support staff members. It helps you gain a fundamental understanding of how IT service and support can be best organized to align IT with business needs, improve service quality, and reduce long-term costs.
The main benefits of this ITIL certification for a knowledge manager are
- Gain an understanding of the ITIL framework and its relationship with the 10 foundational processes and Service Desk function
- Learn how ITIL processes can be utilized in organizations of any size
- Promote a common vision and language within the IT infrastructure.
A knowledge manager candidate can also take online courses on knowledge management and related topics offered by leading MOOC providers such as edX, Coursera and Udemy. One of the major benefits of these online courses is that they are the most economical method of getting a comprehensive overview of the discipline of knowledge management.
A knowledge manager plays a key role in the development, protection and usage of an organization's intellectual capital.
The technical skills for the knowledge manager role can be acquired through education, certifications and other types of trainings and courses.
However, the non-technical skills required for the knowledge manager role can only be learned on the job. The awareness of these skills is only created in the proper environment i.e. in an organization. And these skills are acquired and developed in the proper environment.
Another factor that acts as a catalyst for non-technical skills are the colleagues, peers, and mentors who act as guides and share insights based on their own experiences.
Therefore the best way to develop these non-technical skills is to gain experience in a variety of organizations, working environments and industries. These non-technical skills easily carry over to other roles if you choose to transition to another domain such as project management or IT.
What is the average knowledge manager salary?
The knowledge manager salary range in the US, according to estimates from Glassdoor, is $41,000 to $224,000. According to salary estimates from Zippia, the national average salary for a knowledge manager has risen from $86,600 in 2014 to $111,000 in 2022. The salary estimates vary depending on a number of factors such as experience, location and industry.
Josh is the founder of Technical Writer HQ and Squibler, a writing software. He had his first job in technical writing for a video editing software company in 2014. Since then, he has written several books on software documentation, personal branding, and computer hacking. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.