If your company isn’t using an internal knowledge base, it may be hurting employee efficiency. Research shows that employees can spend as much as 19% of their week searching for internal information that can be easily stored within an internal knowledge base. Too often data can be siloed within your company functions, or get buried under old and inaccurate documents.
“A lot of the knowledge about how to work on certain processes or supporting business applications resides with an individual,” says Yvonne Van Horn, Business Systems Analyst at AMERIND. Implementing an internal knowledge base as a single source of truth can enable employees to get access to the right information in a quick and easy manner.
A well-thought out and organized internal knowledge base can help remove frustrations, eliminate data silos, and improve overall efficiency. “A knowledge base allows you to provide a consistent set of services and enables you to continuously improve upon delivering those services,” says Chris Backus, Business Systems Architect at Datadog. However, it is not enough to just create an internal knowledge base—you have to set your system up for success and wide-adoption.
Here are four guidelines to help successfully implement your internal knowledge base:
Determine your documentation strategy
First thing’s first: Determine what type of documentation should reside within your knowledge base and what type of information can be excluded. Sensitive and confidential information should not be stored in your knowledge base for security reasons, and you should generally avoid including drafts of documents in order to ensure that people are receiving accurate and complete information. A good rule of thumb is to assess what types of questions employees are asking and determine the most highly-requested resources. Prioritize getting that information into your knowledge base so employees can search it in your centralized system instead of reaching out to colleagues—or you. Be sure to tag information and use keywords in your documents in order to make it easier for people to search for what they are looking for. What resides in your internal knowledge base will will ultimately be unique to your organization, but some common documentation might include:
- Onboarding resources
- Company policies like vacation time, available sick days, and tool requisitions
- Organizational charts
- Process documentation
- Compensation frameworks
- Evergreen playbooks for various teams
Identify content owners
It would be impossible to expect one person to maintain and curate all of your organization’s content, so you need to identify content owners to ensure that your information is as accurate and consistent as possible. “It’s important that the people don’t question whether or not they can rely on the knowledge base to be accurate and relatively complete,” Backus emphasizes. One way to split up ownership is to have one manager for each organization within your company—identify someone from sales, customer success, business technology, and marketing to own all of the content related to their team. Within these parameters, you can also establish levels of permissions for team members to post, edit, and move content. After determining ownership, it’s important to also delegate the responsibility of updating and verifying information consistently. Backus recommends establishing a review cycle to ensure the accuracy of the information.
“Implementing a knowledge base is a big initiative,” states Backus, but “you don’t need to boil the ocean.” Start small and identify the most cogent use-cases. Instituting a comprehensive knowledge base is no small feat—don’t get bogged down by trying to document every single useful thing that could potentially be included.
“To effectively use a knowledge base, it’s really important to cater to your end-users,” asserts Van Horn.“Your knowledge base is only as effective as it is adopted by users and by how it fits into their workflows.” Cater to your employees—include the most helpful information to inspire adoption of the base, and once you have proved the value, you can add more information and build out the base from there.
After you get your internal knowledge base up and running, the next crucial step is to gain buy-in from your company. Without them, the knowledge base can’t flourish. Building a lasting impact can be difficult, but McKinsey offers four things that can increase the adoption and engagement of your internal knowledge base:
- Create understanding
You need to stress the importance of your internal knowledge base—make the benefits of adoption clear to the company. From saving time to improving employee well-being, there are myriad benefits. Sell them!
- Model behavior
Start by identifying the primary agents of change and those who you anticipate will make the greatest fuss when it comes to adopting a new system. Engage both the evangelists and the resistors early on in the process to get their insights and hopefully get ahead of potential issues. You should also encourage buy-in through the top down effect—have your executives and team leaders actively use your knowledge base to model behavior.
- Foster skills
Implementing a knowledge base and just hoping people will just use it is wishful thinking. Encourage employees to use your knowledge base by arming them with the skills to successfully navigate the system. Host training sessions and create guides to help employees throughout the entire journey of maintaining your new knowledge base, not just at the beginning of the implementation. If your employees feel as if they have the skills to use the system, they will be more willing to adopt it.
- Positive reinforcement
One way to encourage employees to use your knowledge base is to recognize participation and engagement. You can give shout outs to top contributors, identify key users with a leaderboard, and showcase statistics of highly viewed documents.
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