By now, you have likely heard about the importance of knowledge sharing and knowledge management in your company. It seems pretty straightforward: placing more focus on the effective dissemination of knowledge throughout your company increases performance. 

The efficient flow of knowledge inside a team brings concrete benefits, whether it be increased sales or a boost to team morale. 

This time, we’ll look at procedural knowledge as a specific type of knowledge and what are its implications inside organisations. 


Procedural knowledge definition

According to Training Industry: ‘Procedural knowledge refers to the knowledge of how to perform a specific skill or task’. So, this type of knowledge could also be referred to as ‘practical knowledge or hands-on knowledge’. 

Procedural knowledge concentrates on the methodology required to perform specific tasks, use software or equipment, or follow guidelines. This type of knowledge can be learned through trial and error or by learning from somebody who already knows how to perform specific actions.

Procedural knowledge is often referred to as ‘difficult to explain’. Somebody who has been working in a role for a long time might struggle to break down their standard procedures to a new recruit, because they’ve become ‘muscle memory’ and are often performed without a second thought.

An everyday example of procedural knowledge would be tying your shoelaces. This is a relatively simple task that quickly becomes implicit knowledge after learning how to perform it. Note that ‘implicit knowledge’ does not refer to a different type of knowledge. It simply highlights the idea that procedural knowledge quickly becomes ingrained behaviour.

To improve procedural knowledge, it’s usually necessary to physically perform tasks yourself. Picking up procedural knowledge through studying the theory alone is difficult, but it can quickly become implicit knowledge once the task has been performed enough times.


Procedural knowledge examples

Some common examples of procedural knowledge in the workplace include the following:

  • Operating a content management system: Employees who have been working with an online system for a while will know it like the back of their hands. The effective transfer of this procedural knowledge to new employees is crucial to maintaining steady performance.
  • Intellectual property applications: IP rights are often dependent on submitting relevant procedural information. As well as details about the item itself, an IP license should include information about how to use the item.
  • Policies and procedures:  How do we do things around here? This is a question every employee should be able to respond to quickly. Following company policies and practices are crucial to ensuring that business activity runs steadily and safely. 


Procedural versus declarative knowledge

It is often said that there is more than one way to define intelligence. This is because there are different types of knowledge. Declarative knowledge is more centred on facts, figures, and raw information, whereas procedural knowledge is answers the question: “How do we do this?”

A simple way to differentiate between procedural knowledge and declarative knowledge is to consider the knowledge you need to get your driving license. Your theory test gauges your declarative knowledge. Do you know the meanings of different road signs? Are you equipped with all the facts you need to drive safely?

Your practical test involves demonstrating that you can drive a car safely. There is no examination of your declarative knowledge (facts and information). The practical test focuses entirely on your implicit procedural knowledge of how to drive a car.

Of course, sharing declarative knowledge is just as important as sharing procedural knowledge in the workplace: it’s vital to communicate important information and facts with other team members. Sharing declarative knowledge is also more straightforward since procedural knowledge cannot be as easily stored and sent in a document.


Why is harnessing procedural knowledge essential in the workplace?

Tapping into the effective transfer of procedural knowledge can help your company gain a competitive advantage. It reduces ‘brain drain’ (the loss of information when people leave the company) and ensures a higher proportion of the workforce becomes experts in essential tasks.

  • It can help in the development of tutorials. Sometimes, a specific task might elude new employees for a while. With a particular focus on improving the transfer of procedural knowledge, you can create quality tutorials about this task to show recruits.
  • It can reduce dependency on specific employees. It is not a good sign if one employee is known as the ‘expert’ on one particular task. If they leave the company, their implicit procedural knowledge is lost. It is better to encourage these employees to share their knowledge with others and exemplify how they can complete specific tasks. 
  • It can help restore harmony in a team. Similar to the point above, if employees feel that others are hoarding essential procedural knowledge, they may become resentful towards that person. Encourage the growth of all employees by focusing more on the spread of procedural knowledge.


Build up your company’s procedural knowledge 

Fortunately, storing your company’s knowledge and sharing it amongst team members has never been easier.

Elium is an online tool dedicated to saving your company time and money by making knowledge sharing intuitive and efficient. You can store all critical procedural knowledge and let employees search for it with one click. Moreover, you can ensure that this knowledge is always accurate by fixing a verification date, at which you will be notified. 

Request a demo or start a free trial of Elium’s knowledge management solution to learn more. 

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