Nov 7, 2022

Establishing a Knowledge Sharing Culture at the Public Revenue Office in North Macedonia

We were pleased to talk to colleagues at the Public Revenue Office (PRO) from North Macedonia to learn about their institutional learning needs and explore opportunities to jointly advance our cooperation. We are happy to share some of their thoughts about the benefits learning with us brings to the PRO staff.

It is in human nature to constantly learn something new – to develop, improve and specialize. The acquired knowledge is not only formal, the lessons learned, but also tacit, informal knowledge is gained through experience and skills. Knowledgeable employees are invaluable also for their institutions because they are the basic capital of an institution. With the increasing brain drain, emigration, the openness of the labor market, the retirement of experienced employees, higher salaries in the private sector, COVID-19 and related crises, state institutions are facing a shortage of capable and experienced employees with positive ideas for change. For that reason, the emphasis must be placed on the employees by creating a favorable working environment that helps them show their true potential, knowledge, and skills. They should be encouraged to learn and keep up with the latest work trends and policies, and innovative approaches. The development of the individual also improves the quality of the entire team and institution. The learning organization model paves the way for progress for public institutions because it implies investing in people and learning. This way, every individual, team and the whole organization are inspired – they progress, fulfill tasks and achieve results while learning culture is embedded in their daily work. With adequate leadership, learning culture is targeted toward employee advancement and it is closely related to knowledge sharing culture.

CEF’s role in the process of becoming a learning organization that encourages knowledge sharing culture

During “Knowledge management of public institution” and “Building Trust in Tax Administrations” events, the CEF staff and coordinators of trainings, workshops, and online events discussed the importance of systematic knowledge management that directly affects the capacity of institutions to fulfill their competencies and achieve better results faster.
Many employees of the PRO attended these events, where the CEF showed us how to build a knowledge sharing culture. This starts with developing a clear vision of how to share knowledge and approach continuous learning. Every employee should understand and identify themselves with the organization's strategy, and managers should encourage that by showing a personal example. Moreover, adequate procedures and resources should be established and good examples recognized and rewarded. Employees need recognition and credit for their work. It is equally important to share knowledge with other colleagues and encourage employees to do that. Creativity is another keyword, contributing to cooperation and innovation. Communication is the key that helps employees to adapt to the rules and strategies. All in all, it is vital to build a safe space and mutual trust to progress as an individual, team and institution.

How knowledge sharing culture is already implemented in PRO

Investing in the knowledge of employees and caring for their promotion, professional training and development is a permanent process to maintain and improve the quality of work and achievements of the PRO. The Tax Academy organizes and implements educational events for PRO employees in line with the expressed needs on topics that are significant for the improvement and advancement of knowledge and skills.

The Tax Academy identifies the educational needs through a questionnaire where PRO employees can express their needs for training or educational events. Based on these needs, the Tax Academy prepares an Annual Education Plan and Quarterly Education Programs for employees. For the most part, the educational events set out in the Annual Education Plan are organized by internal trainers – experts in their fields of competence. There is also mandatory education: acquisition of basic or advanced knowledge or improvement of skills related to the nature of the work tasks for newly employed officials, during redeployment of employees to new workplaces, and planning of successors of professional staff/management in the PRO.
The acquired knowledge in the PRO is transferred through:

  • Preparation of reports after attended trainings that are sent to the top management of the PRO and the Tax Academy
  • Preparation of texts and presentations that are uploaded in the Intranet and are available to all employees
  • Conducting trainings on various topics that the PRO sectors require to be included in the Annual Education Plan of the Tax Academy
  • Filling in a questionnaire, upon termination of an employment contract, by the immediate manager and the employee in the form of a "conversation upon leaving" on the topics and issues related to the employee’s scope of work
  • On-the-job trainings

How the CEF's activities have influenced our organization

We are at the beginning of formally implementing our knowledge management principles, and we have started recognizing and embracing the concept of Learning Organization. As described above, there are already some ways of knowledge transfer in place, but as we were able to see from other tax administrations’ experiences and the CEF events, they need to be upgraded to become more formalized and systematic.

In our sector for international cooperation, we are having team discussions and information sharing meetings (known as “knowledge café”) where people express and coordinate their thoughts and ideas, which are then designed into proposal documents and shared with the management.
After attending the CEF events, participants from our tax administration prepared reports to be sent to the top management and the Tax Academy, and also overviews that will be shared with all colleagues in the Intranet. The reports contain the main takeaways from the event and suggestions for their implementation in our organization.
We do believe that knowledge management tools help the PRO to enable the flow of knowledge between different departments and organizational units. This will strengthen the development of the institution's strategy, management processes, cooperation, knowledge sharing and learning among individuals, teams and the entire institution. The aim is to encourage people to learn together and from each other. 

Using the experiences and best practices of other tax administrations, within the region and beyond as well as international organizations, we can take over and adapt certain ideas, approaches and tools. We will try to incorporate them within the existing framework of the PRO or to make structural changes for their incorporation.
Employees will be encouraged to prepare internal knowledge sharing sessions, either as trainings or presentations on the acquired knowledge or even learning modules to be made available in the Intranet for self-paced learning.

What comes next

Inspired by the CEF, we are currently discussing the best ways to encourage our employees to learn and “upgrade” themselves, and to offer ideas how to improve and accelerate the process, so as to achieve good results. This includes:

  • Conducting trainings on the vision and mission of the PRO and how to successfully accomplish them at sectoral, departmental, team, and employee level
  • Giving even greater importance to team spirit, close cooperation between colleagues, mentoring and knowledge transfer
  • Further development of the system of non-financial rewards (e.g. appreciation, selection of the employee of the month/quarter at sectoral, departmental or directorate level) for good work performance
  • Formation of a network of licensed trainers from among the employees who specialize in certain areas of competence of the PRO 
  • Making use of various communication channels, including social networks, to promote the culture of knowledge sharing in the PRO
  • Adopting the goal of becoming a learning organization as a part of the PRO strategy would bring benefits at both the individual and the organizational levels

At the organizational level, the benefits could be perceived through improved work and organizational efficiency, better ability to define and achieve the desired goals, cost reduction, strengthening innovation, encouragement of organizational changes, etc. Consequently, this would have a beneficial effect on the employees themselves too. At the individual level, employees of an institution that is prone to learn would experience personal satisfaction by having more opportunities for personal and career development, fulfillment from work, and a desire for greater contribution and engagement in the institution.