Does your company have an internal knowledge base that can be accessed by all employees?
If so, are you using it to the full?
(If you don’t have a knowledge base at all … you might want to brush up on why knowledge sharing is so crucial, and convince management to get on board.)
Whether your knowledge base is big or small, here are six important ways you can use it to the full:
1. To Store Forms Used with Applicants, New Hires, and Contractors
Whenever your company interviews someone new, that likely generates a lot of paperwork before they’re even hired. If hiring managers have to come to you (or one of your team) to get the right documents, that can slow everything right down.
Help the process to run as smoothly as possible by keeping all the necessary recruitment forms in your knowledge base. That might include things like:
- A standard contract for new employees
- NDA for new employees or contractors to sign
- Independent contractor agreement
2. To Record and Maintain Common Procedures and Policies
You might find yourself answering the same questions over and over again – things like “How do I reclaim expenses?” or “How do I request time off?”
By having a step by step guides to common procedures in your knowledge base, you’ll cut down on a lot of these queries (and if anyone does phone or email to ask you what to do, you can simply point them toward the knowledge base). The same goes for key policies.
3. To Answer Common Questions
Beyond set procedures and policies, you might find that you get asked the same questions over and over again. These could be little things (“who should I call when the printer jams?”) to huge ones (“what do we legally need to do before firing an employee?”)
You might find that it helps to create a “Frequently Asked Questions” page in the knowledge base to address questions that tend to crop up a lot.
If there are loads of them, create different categories of questions – potentially aimed at different levels of employees (e.g. new starters vs senior management).
4. To Provide a Company Style Guide
Are the documents produced by employees consistent in terms of style and formatting? Even in the unlikely event that all documents are only used internally, rather than ever being sent to clients, it’s still good practice to ensure that all documents are produced to a reasonable level of quality and consistency.
A style guide can go beyond covering all the little details (like whether or not you use the serial comma) to help employees with their professional writing skills. This can be particularly useful when you’re taking on new hires who may not have written anything in a business context before.
5. To Train New Employees
Do new employees get bombarded with information during onboarding … only to end up coming to you with lots of questions later, because they’ve forgotten everything? Are managers and other employees frustrated with having to spend a lot of time going through the basics over and over again with each new hire?
Your knowledge base can come in handy here if you create a training portal for employees. As up docs explain:
The employee onboarding process can be tedious for management and the new members of your company.
Creating training portals via a knowledge base and providing online training manuals will make the process faster and more efficient, and will help your team get to work with the information they need.
6. To Capture Knowledge before Employees Leave
When an employee hands in their notice, you want to be ready to capture any knowledge they have that hasn’t yet been documented. This could include almost anything from the process for segmenting clients in the mailing software to the best way to fix the photocopier when it jams.
While you may not want to let employees add content straight into the knowledge base themselves, it’s definitely a good idea to capture and share content swiftly once you know an employee is leaving – even if that means fitting in an extra meeting or two before they go.
Tips for Ensuring Your Knowledge Base Is as Valuable as Possible
Is your knowledge base working as efficiently as it should? Or is it rarely updated and often ignored by employees?
Here are three key tips for making sure that your knowledge base offers as much value as possible:
1. Keep It up to Date
If your knowledge base consists of articles that were mainly written years ago by the previous HR manager (or even the one before that), then they almost certainly need updating.
Even minor changes in procedures should be recorded … because there’s no point sending someone to a knowledge base article and telling them “oh, but it’s a different form layout now, and you’ll need to contact Adam, not Sarah”.
Employees will quickly learn not to trust the knowledge base – and will start directing all their queries to you instead.
2. Categorize Content Logically and Consistently
Whatever knowledge base software you use – and there are lots of options out there – it’s important that you have a sensible hierarchy of content.
How exactly that looks is very much dependent on your organization and your employees’ needs.
You might find it helps to include “portals” that link to key information on specific topics (e.g. you might have a portal for new employees, plus one for managers).
3. Encourage Employees to Request New Content
Finally, while you’re hopefully adding new content to the knowledge base as soon as you recognize a need for it, there may well be questions or omissions that you’re not aware of.
Encourage all employees to request new content any time they come across something they need and can’t find, even if it’s something small like “how do I create a drop-down in Excel?”
(If you get frequent requests for content that’s already in the knowledge base, that’s probably a sign that you need to categorize it differently to help people navigate it better).
You might find that including a form in the knowledge base for “new content requests” helps, or you might want to ask employees more proactively whether there’s anything new they’d like to see in there.
Whether your company (and your knowledge base) is enormous or relatively modest, it’s important to use it to the full. Is there a particular area in which you could go further with your knowledge base? For instance, if it’s used primarily as a repository for useful documents, could you add in a “Frequently Asked Questions” page as well?
Make sure it’s as easy as possible for employees at all levels – from new hires up to senior management – to find and use the content in the knowledge base, too. Keep it up to date and keep in mind that layout and organization can make a huge difference to how easy people find it to dig in and find what they’re looking for.