Food Security and Nutrition Network

What do you look for in a Knowledge Manager?

What do you look for in a Knowledge Manager?

Posted by ejanoch on 9 Jan 2017

These days, I get a ton of questions about what it means to do knowledge management, and how to hire knowledge managers.  People often stuff so many responsibilities into the JD of your average knowledge manager that it's almost impossible to get someone who can do it all.

I find that credentials on paper only help me so much.  In a Knowledge Manager, I'm looking for someone with really strong skills in critical thinking, synthesis, and problem solving who is willing to take a customer-service oriented approach. I've more or less figured out what to look for in people that I work with regularly to see who'd be a good fit.

  • Curiosity: People have to want to find out more, and always be looking for new information that they can apply to problems.  Look for people whose reflex is to ask “Who else has done something like this?”, “How did it work?” or “How can I learn more?”  Those people are more likely to start building on strengths and existing ideas, rather than re-inventing the wheel.

  • Sociability: A key part of knowledge management is the network of people we exist in. Being able to tap into what they know, and share what we know with others who need it is critical to making KM systems work.  Look for people who want to share ideas.  The ones who ask “who else needs to know about this?” are a good place to start.

  • Citizenship: A lot of people think they’re trading off between KM and “real work”.  The return on often comes outside of the team who generates the original idea, so there’s not always an incentive to take the time.  But we all need information from others to do our jobs. Everyone needs to be putting what they’ve learned into the learning universe of the organization (this is where a well ordered platform is critical) so that everyone benefits.  An attitude of organizational citizenship helps tremendously here.

  • Adaptiveness: Having information doesn’t do us much good if we don’t act on it.  Look for people are willing to make changes based on new information.  “What does this mean for my work?”, “How can I do this better?”, and “What do we change?” are the kinds of questions to look for.

But how do you identify those skills in an interview?  I've started giving people writing tests where they take an evaluation and boil it down to an executive summary, key tags, and a list of audiences they would share it with.  I've found that people who interview really well often struggle with this task, so it helps me winnow out candidates who don't have a good sense of audiences and priorties.  But I'm anxious to hear other people's suggestions. What do you do to get the very best knowledge managers?

Behavioral interviewing

Posted by Shelia Jackson on 11 Jan 2017

Hi Emily,

Thank you for submitting this post.

One of my favorite tools for finding knowledge managers is using a process known as behavioral interviewing. This technique is comprised of questions that help the interviewer assess how a candidate will respond in various situations. Behavioral interview questions ask the respondent to describe a time when he/she had to take action to move something forward or resolve an issue. The answers given provide insight into a candidate’s work ethic, enthusiasm, (un)willingness to change, communication preferences and style, resiliency and adaptability.

When I am hiring, the first interview is the behavioral interview. I do not want to hear about one’s “hard skills” (I saw those on the resume). I want to find out how the candidate has adapted in the past to a changing environment, when did he/she look at a situation or process, see a way to improve it and then did so, etc. I can ask someone what does he/she think about working on a team. The inevitable response will be something along the lines of ‘I can work in a team’. But if I ask a candidate to describe a time when you needed to work closely with a team of 3 or more to accomplish a task, I get a lot more information as to whether or not the candidate has what I am looking for in a knowledge manager.



Behavioral interview overview:

Behavioral interview sample questions:

What do you need in a Knowledge Manager?

Posted by beth outterson on 11 Jan 2017

Although there are some basic skills a knowledge manager needs to know, I think a lot of the answer is "It depends." My organization does not currently have a knowledge Manager per se, and I agree that there is a lot of vagueness about what that term means anyway, But as my organization  moves forward with an agency restructuring and strategic planning process, we have realized the need to address issues related to how we collect, store, manage, document and share information we receive from the outside or generate ourselves (i.e., knowledge management!!!). However, the tasks that are needed to do these things come from many different departments rather than one person. So what my organization needs in terms of a knowledge manager is a listener and convener who can coordinate across the many departments in order to guide a KM framework that meets everyone’s needs. Because we are small, we will likely integrate those responsibilities within an existing position rather than hire a new person to do KM.

I totally agree that the

Posted by ejanoch on 12 Jan 2017

I totally agree that the tasks that make up KM need to come from many different departments, and not just one person.  I like adding "listener" and "convener" to the list of skills needed, though.  That's really helpful, thanks.

Useful discussion as we work on KM Core Competencies guidance

Posted by ysongowilliams on 17 Jan 2017

Thanks so much everyone, for all your thoughts on this.

It’s a timely discussion for us at TOPS:  we’re in the process of developing  KM core competencies  guidance to provide information on the skills and knowledge technical staff are expected to have in order to be effective in their positions . So your thoughts and comments will be very useful; and we will reach out via KMTF meetings to get some feedback from you. And if you have any resources that you think might be useful references for us, do please share them here.

Many thanks, and watch this space!

The topic of competencies for KM

Posted by scrass on 31 Jan 2017

This is quite an interesting discussion!  I have found that this all depends on your "flavor" of KM.  World Vision's KM programme is about 9 years old.  While the backbone of our programme sits within our Communities of Practice, one of our key achievements in recent years is seeing a wider range of job descriptions incorporate responsibilities and skill sets for knowledge management. 

Have you ever heard about the Japanese Chicken Sexers? Intuition is key!  I have found for CoP-heavy KM approaches... I don't care what credentials you might have, I can tell in a 10 minute conversation with you if you have the skills to be a Champion for CoP development and facilitation!

I know I know... we can't take a chicken sexer approach to hiring KM staff... so WV has started deveoping a competency set for Knowledge Management within Job Descriptions - be it a KM titled role or one for a nutrition facilitator or manager.  We started with our general field staff person and managers. We have completed 2 KM Competency profiles:

  1. KM001: Utilize Knowledge Assets to Improve Programmatic Outcomes
  2. KM101: Support Networked and Community Learning

@Ejanoch - it looks like you were outlining elements we wrote into our "Enabling Attitudes" Section:

  • Aware of the knowledge and information relevant to their roles and the value this brings to the organisation
  • Committed to a learning process
  • Committed to continuous learning
  • Curiosity
  • Motivated to improve work performance
  • Desire to achieve shared goals
  • Willing to learn from other people
  • Supportive of others learning

We have even gone as far as putting together a multiple-choice self-assessment on our Competency profiles.

But my 9-years of KM wisdom says that you will rarely find a candidate that fits the competency profile completely - no matter how brilliant an interview tool you have!  Perhaps they have the enabling attitudes down pat but don't have any experience on your chosen KM platforms or tools - or worse... they are 10 years behind in technology use!  E gad! The key is how quickly can you assess these competency gaps (because we all have them!) and how prepared are you and equipped to build capacity around those competencies - and how motivated are they to get up to speed?

Do certain competencies count for more?

Posted by ysongowilliams on 9 Feb 2017

Thanks so much for this Sarah, (I liked the lesson behind the Japanese Chicken Sexers story :)

Question for you. I know this will largely depend on the specific requirements of any given position, but in general, do you attach more weight to certain competencies?  Given the reality you mention that a candidate rarely fits the competency profile completely.

Also, would you mind sharing the two KM Competency profiles and self-assessment tool, or are those proprietary?

KM Competencies from World Vision

Posted by scrass on 1 Mar 2017

Hi folks,  here are the World Vision KM Competencies I mentioned in the earlier post.  These are two that were written to fit within an overall Health and Nutrition technical specialist profile.  This is not intended to be for a KM professional... that would be a level higher than these two... those KM professional competencies are in development.

Let me know if you have questios!

So useful!

Posted by ysongowilliams on 20 Mar 2017

Thanks Sarah! We're working on developing core competencies for KM professionals, will keep you posted.

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