A company’s knowledge is the sum of what each of its employees knows and uses in their work. The larger the company, the more information revolves with it.
Hence, it’s crucial for large enterprises to properly manage that knowledge to coordinate employees even when they are not in the same location or time zone.
On the other hand, small and medium companies are often believed to be able to go with minimal investment in knowledge management (KM). They have fewer employees who can easily share information with each other as needed.
Yet, a small number of people means that each holds a substantial piece of knowledge. If a person decides to quit, their experience will be lost. That’s why, for a small company, it is even more important to have an effective knowledge management system.
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Knowledge management: definition
Knowledge management: definition
Knowledge management is the process by which knowledge is produced, organized, shared and used. The goal is to make knowledge sharing within your company more fluid while ensuring that the right person has access to the right information at the right time.
It's a way for your team to do their job better and be less exposed to the risks of leaving. When knowledge is well documented, the company becomes less dependent on the expertise of its employees.
Knowledge management can be done via an intranet, a library of procedures, a training platform, etc. The important thing is that the information is updated and easily accessible.
Factors that worsen knowledge sharing
Lack of trust
Sometimes reaching out to a coworker for information doesn't feel safe. Novice employees may be concerned about being perceived as incompetent or feel shy about contacting someone they have never seen, in the case of a remote team.
When employees are overwhelmed with the number of tasks, they may miss out on important information. Deadline stress also makes priorities unclear and deflates morale.
Lack of technology
Some businesses use email to spread company news and regular meetings to keep track of historical information. While one employee reports what they have done since the last meeting, others are checked out.
Lack of support
Team leaders should have the skills and technology to keep all members on the same page. If they fail to do so, employees may not be able to reach their maximal productivity.
Lack of knowledge sources
To get the relevant information, an employee should know who to ask. If they are not sure who is responsible for what, getting special knowledge gets problematic and the quality of work drops.
In a multicultural team, people may have different expectations for how the knowledge can be shared. There also can be language barriers which make reaching out with questions even more complicated.
Tips to improve your knowledge management system
1. Keep all information in one place
The Nintex study claims that 49% of employees have trouble finding the necessary documents at work. This is distracting and affects productivity. At the same time, a centralized internal library provides instant access to information, thus cutting the time spent on search.
An easy-to-use secure platform that stores all the company’s documents and provides access to authorized employees removes silos and communication gaps. If an employee is faced with an unknown term, they may look it up quickly in a company’s knowledge base and return to solving a problem.
Among other benefits of having a knowledge base are reduced onboarding costs and knowledge loss prevention. According to HRonboard, it costs $400 to onboard a new team member, since an average employee needs about 4 days to get started in a new role. Letting novice workers get acknowledged with the company’s policies on their own will cut the effort spent on their training.
Similarly, as an employee leaves after having worked years in a company, their knowledge doesn’t go out of the door but stays embedded in the company’s knowledge base.
2. Build a knowledge management framework
To build an effective knowledge base, you must ensure proper information documenting, sharing, and retaining. A structure that helps you in this task is called a knowledge management framework.
A BambooHR research has found that 23% of employees quit in the first six months because of the vague guidelines regarding their responsibilities.
Start by selecting key advocates to help build a knowledge management strategy and assign responsible people for updating and checking the information, and also those who will introduce new hires to the knowledge management system.
Next, you should decide what information you want to collect and how employees can access it. The rule of thumb is that a knowledge base should be accessible from anywhere, easy to search, and secure.
Finally, create a detailed process of information collection and publishing. Decide how it should be structured for readability. Schedule time-sensitive content to archive so that your knowledge base always contains relevant information.
3. Optimize search tool
Easy search is critical for good knowledge management.
Usually, users do not know which file contains the solution to their problem. That’s why the content should be answer-centric. It should clearly state the issue before offering a solution, so users can retrieve the answer by describing what they see.
According to statistics, an average search query is two words long. That’s why a knowledge management system should be optimized for keywords to avoid returning too many results for a short query. You should come up with a content weighing system that will decide what content is more relevant based on title, metadata, and most-read pieces.
Finally, by integrating your knowledge management system with other tools like Google Analytics, Google Chrome or your support desk, you can leverage a user’s location, search history, and profile elements to return personalized results.
4. Involve high-performing employees in content creation
Motivate your employees by showing them how sharing their knowledge can benefit their own performance. For instance, writing down an idea helps to structurize it, and telling other people about the idea can result in valuable feedback.
Acknowledge an employee’s contribution by encouraging them to put their name or department on their submitted content. Except for recognition, this will also let users know who to contact with additional questions and boost the credibility of the information.
To enhance the knowledge-sharing culture on the team level, encourage employees to share their best practices. This way, you’ll show them it’s OK to make mistakes and provide others with information on what to avoid.
Another thing to remember is that many people do not realize the value of the knowledge they hold. Educate your employees about frequently occurring issues so that they know about them and can share their solutions.
5. Choose metrics to monitor
You should be able to track your knowledge base performance to estimate its ROI.
One of the best ways to determine if employees use the knowledge management platform is to measure interactions. Determine which posts get the most views and comments (if applicable) to find possible knowledge gaps. Then find those who are supposed to be the most acknowledged about the topic and encourage them to share their experience more.
Pay attention to the content with the least interactions, too. It might be outdated, irrelevant or just poorly written.
Keep tabs on response times. When someone posts a question on the knowledge management platform, how soon does it get answered? If the response time is slow, the reason might be that people rarely check the platform, lack confidence or training overall.
Search activity is another important metric showing the most frequently met issues among your workforce. Also, if you see repeated searches, that might be the sign you need to optimize the content better or create more.
Sharing knowledge is a natural act among people (look at those influencers on social media). Yet, to ensure the information circulates properly and relevantly within your organization, you have to create certain conditions.
An effective knowledge management system clearly determines the characteristics of valuable data and the process of its registration. It makes the information easy to retrieve and access. And finally, it ensures that the documents are timely updated, replenished, and used for the company’s benefit.
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