The Confluence of Human Resource and Knowledge Management


I will be speaking to a group of HR professionals on the confluence of KM and HR (webpage). I am interested in the intersections of both business disciplines, and how one might support the other in better managing their organisation’s human capital. The choice of topic is motivated by a frequent realisation in KM projects that success is often dependent on engaging - and having engaged - HR colleagues. There are several areas where I think HR and KM can work together.

In job interviews they identify candidates who demonstrate a propensity to share rather than hoard what they know. They look for candidates who maintain strong external professional networks that can be tapped into for knowledge and information.

In onboarding, they provide a map of what knowledge is critical to their business and where they can be found. Where tacit knowledge is concerned, they broker the necessary connections. They emphasise the employees’ role in updating staff profile and directory. By the same token they also stress “quality in, quality out” for information repositories.

That knowledge management is a line manager’s responsibility is promulgated through job descriptions. That knowledge sharing is an important competency is reinforced through competency frameworks.

In succession planning they help identify what knowledge the next cadre of leaders should possess, and figure out ways to bridge the knowledge gaps. They do this by reducing the responsibilities of would-be retirees and by tasking them to be mentors or coaches to their successors – with the blessing of top management of course.

How else do you think HR and KM can work together?

8 Comments so far

Ian Fry

Edgar, You are taking a very narrow view of HR. HR is all about Organisational Development (OD) which is exactly what most of us are trying to achieve with our KM.
Mentoring, Lessons Learned, Trust Levels, SNA etc are all HR related components of everyday KM.

Posted on January 31, 2012 at 07:02 PM | Comment permalink

Jens Ojvind Nielsen

Tom and I held participated in en HR conference in copenhagen talking abouit HR and KM.
Here is our presentation focusing on
Knowledge and performance

Posted on January 31, 2012 at 09:08 PM | Comment permalink


A few other thoughts:
1. Training and staff development is often (although not always) part of HR developing people’s skills in knowledge management/knowledge sharing is therefore also a critical role for HR.
2. Another area would be where KM is useful to HR i.e using KM to improve the practice of HR such as by documenting good practices in HR management, creating a community of practice to support HR practitioners, building a good knowledge base of state of the art HR practice from inside and outside the organization.
3. On my organizational intranets the most popular pages are on job opportunities, staff entitlements and learning opportunities. KM can be helpful in designing user-friendly intranets and online tools to support this so that staff can find what they need, and get support from HR professionals when they need it.

Posted on February 01, 2012 at 01:40 AM | Comment permalink

Tim Wieringa

KM has definitely many aspects which can be strongly supported by KM; though, in general, there are many other functions with the same needs.

The question, when we talk about confluence, is how can HR help KM. What we do on our side is during onboarding of new employees we ask HR to provide information about knowledge sharing tools and activities in our company; it’s not really comparable with other introduction presentation because we try to give them access to all the other topics plus convey a new (?) behaviour towards knowledge sharing.

Another topic is change; KM very often requires a change process to allow people to adopt to new behaviours and processes. Not seldom, within the HR department you have a number of people that are very familiar with change management due to organisational changes.

And, as Ian mentioned, training and organisational development is a huge topic very closely related to HR; how can employees learn? today that’s not in classroom or e-training modules but rather with communities, etc.

I would go so far to merge KM into HR, as there are many topics that or not related to HR; how to collaborate better? how to leverage manufacturing performance improvements across the globe? how to work together on new marketing strategy concepts with community members across functions and countries? These are topics that go far beyond the scope of HR.

Posted on February 01, 2012 at 04:08 AM | Comment permalink


From your comments, it appears to me that the HR function is constituted differently in different contexts. In Singapore, for instance, the OD function seldom comes under HR’s purview but is usually housed under a dedicated OD or OE (Organisation Excellence) department. BTW, we are seeing more and more KM departments being subsumed under OD/OE.

Thank you for reminding me that in talking about HR I should not just focus on HRManagement, ie the part that handles recruitment, remuneration, promotion, talent management, etc. I should also consider HRDevelopment, which is the arm that can work with KM on identifying and addressing knowledge gaps.

Posted on February 01, 2012 at 11:19 AM | Comment permalink

Hi All

It is also about keeping the organisational knowledge.How to capture knowledge/experiences of those who are leaving the organisation.
How to retain people with knowledge/experience in the organisation.

Posted on February 03, 2012 at 05:49 AM | Comment permalink

Joitske Hulsebosch

Interestingly - I see both and potentially responsible for informal learning and stimulating learning processes. In some organisations one department embraces this, in others no. It is a problem of siloing and being stuck with a historically grown type of department i guess.

Posted on February 09, 2012 at 04:34 PM | Comment permalink

Stephen Byrne

I agree with all of the above about how HR is responsible for the employee lifecycle (recruitment, selection, induction, development, succession etc) and the knowledge awareness that goes with this. However there is a key area not mentioned and generally the most import which is the role of change and culture in an organisation, and what role HR play in helping senior management build awareness and take responsibility for culture that supports information and knowledge exchange (trust, personal responsibility, freedom within boundaries ect) - this is an aspect of KM that is less often tackled - perhaps because it is the most difficult ...?

Posted on February 29, 2012 at 05:25 PM | Comment permalink

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