Within any organization, regardless the sector or industry, there’s bound to be staff attrition at some point and, more often than not, when an employee leaves or moves into a different role, the knowledge they’ve accrued goes with them.
“In a lot of cases it doesn't get written down, so when they leave… all of a sudden, the organization and their co-workers are left to scramble,” says Andrew Sinclair founder and CEO of totaliQ, a St. John’s-based software company in the process of developing an intelligent knowledge sharing solution.
Sinclair and product manager Jason Thorne took the fledgling company through the Genesis Centre’s evolution program earlier this year and in talking to dozens of potential customers, they were able to identify one common pain point: how to capture, share and leverage knowledge throughout their organization.
“Nothing's ever going to duplicate the one-on-one mentor-mentee relationship… but the knowledge that the experienced work force has, unless you happen to catch that person at the right time, just gets trapped.
“The biggest benefit is trying to minimize the impact of employee turnover and even when the employee is there, share that knowledge with other people who may not be able connect.”
Using the Lean startup methodology, totaliQ has created a minimum viable product and is looking to attract early adopters to partner with to help the product reach a more mature state. At present, the company has one early adopter in trajectorE, Sinclair’s consulting service that specializes in project management, commissioning and operational readiness. (While incorporated as separate entities, the two companies are intrinsically linked as trajectorE is also funding the development of totaliQ’s product.)
There are other knowledge sharing platforms on the market, but what will set totaliQ’s apart is its artificial intelligence (AI).
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Using an interface similar to social media applications like LinkedIn or Facebook, but contained within an organization’s intranet, an employee creates an account, tagging content that is most relevant to them and their position and submitting content of their own.
“Because we're taking a social media style approach, when you see someone's picture and their name, you're connecting with the person behind the content as much as you are the content itself. Whereas a searchable lessons-learned database, maybe there's a name of who put it in, but it's more geared around the content itself,” Sinclair explains.
“With a tool like this you get more of an inventory or you understand who you can connect with.”
Once the algorithms are beefed up, Sinclair says as employees engage with content, the AI will learn what’s most applicable to them and start feeding it their way.
“It learns not just what a mechanical engineer might like, but what you like or what would be most valuable to you.”
Another component being worked on for possible future integration includes a question and answer thread that can be captured and added to the content.
Of course, for the software to be effective it needs content and data, and acquiring that information isn’t a technology issue, suggests Sinclair, it’s a human behaviour issue.
“You naturally have a lot of knowledge in your head, but you know more than you necessarily say and you'll say more than you'll write down because what's going to motivate you to put content in there?”
The current product addresses that by assigning an expertise score to users whose content or submissions are deemed beneficial by fellow users. Within trajectorE, Sinclair’s team has initiated an employee rewards program.
“For me as a business owner, having this knowledge that's stuck in people's brains converted into an asset that I can use on other projects across different locations in future projects, that's got a monetary value,” he says.
“Some people are just going to be naturally altruistic and enjoy having other people benefit from their knowledge and experience, but not everyone is motivated that way so we're trying to build tools in there for to try to appeal to all of them.”
To learn more about totaliQ and to request a product demo, visit totaliq.ca.