Employee knowledge – what are the challenges and benefits for organizations?

Digital technology will allow us to provide responses to identified needs, and to analyse (in-depth) the impact of HR actions resulting in more perspective and better continuous improvement.

Employee knowledge is the HR counterpart of customer knowledge. In an era of shared focus, employee knowledge should make it possible to optimize what a company knows and understands about its employees in order to provide them with personalized support.

Knowing an employee beyond the present moment

Today, companies’ knowledge of their employees is often static. While they may know an employee relatively well at a certain moment in his/her career, knowledge about the employee before and after this time is rarely taken into account.

In many companies, it is a real challenge to reach this level. Yet if companies wish to harness the full potential of their employees, they must go a little further.

This means knowing and understanding their employees:

  • who are they? what are their personality traits and motivations?
  • why are they in this job, have they found what they were looking for?
  • what did they achieve in the past, what were the key factors for their success/failure?
  • what do they know, what are their skills, desires, what do they actually do today?
  • how do they learn? how quickly do they learn?
  • what will they be capable of doing tomorrow?
  • which management methods will best help them move forward?
  • in what type of environment do they perform best?

Effective employee knowledge coupled with a real business plan results in more efficient HR development processes in the long run in terms of the organisation and its strategy. And for employees: training programmes and methods adapted to what the employee needs to learn, more relevant talent management in terms of assessing potential and identifying areas that encourage the development of this potential, a more granular forecast of jobs and competencies, etc.

The three factors to obtain this knowledge: managers, HR and digital technology

Employee knowledge relies on a triangulation between managers, HR and digital technology. The HR and managerial positions will have to change in order to integrate this new way of considering employees and the support offered to them. We will probably see these two groups improve their ability to identify key information, create appropriate bridges between a range of different elements, as well as give overall meaning to this. Manager/HR coaches will also help employees to get to know each other better and give meaning to their choices and career paths.

Digital technology is also an important factor not only in terms of managing the generated information but also in assessing managers’ impressions and intuitions more objectively. Why digital technology?

A less ‘top down’ digital approach i.e. from the employee to the company and vice versa. The employee must be able to share information, and possibly feelings about the company, outside the constraints of infrequent individual interviews.

More connected digital applications: in many companies, applications do not really communicate with each other, which makes the work of analysing and communicating with employees more complex.

Analytical features which suggest correlations can complement those put forward by HR and managers, as well as being able to anticipate certain behaviours and consequences. However, this is not easy and the current tools are still in their infancy.

Digital technology will allow us to provide responses to identified needs, and to analyse (in-depth) the impact of HR actions resulting in more perspective and better continuous improvement. Ideally, this will be done in an holistic manner i.e. analysing the combined impact of several actions rather than looking at things in a piecemeal fashion.

Employee knowledge is a great way for companies to capitalise on their employees in order to feed their HR and business strategy by tailoring their responses to employees whether it be about career paths, training programmes of developing talents. Obviously, this implies a change in managerial and HR skills and the tools used. It also implies greater organisational flexibility, without which personalisation will remain difficult to achieve. It will also be necessary to come up with ways to address employees’ fears and the feelings of intrusion that this new approach may cause.


Aurélie Tobola