10 tips to improve knowledge management
Catherine Heath | August 24, 2021
If your company is like any other typical company, you likely have vast stores of information available to you that seem inaccessible or are undocumented. Employees are running into trouble when they try to search for this information, and are spending hours of the working week looking for answers to common questions.
This is where knowledge management comes into the picture. Being able to quickly retrieve information frees up employees for more productive activities. A KM strategy helps to address the pain points of an organization when it comes to information-sharing. A KM strategy should be made up of people, processes and technology.
Any strategy that you formulate should be molded to the needs of your employees and therefore be utterly unique.
What is knowledge management?
“Knowledge Management is the process of capturing, distributing, and effectively using knowledge.” – Thomas Davenport
Every organization must have some form of knowledge management process in order to prevent valuable knowledge from leaking away or getting lost as employees move around. It’s not enough for knowledge to reside in the heads of employees or languish in email chains or Slack conversations.
The main goal of knowledge management is to make the organization more efficient and to save knowledge that would otherwise be lost. It is a cycle of creating, sharing, structuring and auditing knowledge in order to maximize the efficiency of the organization’s knowledge.
There are three main areas of knowledge management to focus on:
1. Creating knowledge
2. Storing knowledge
3. Sharing knowledge
A healthy knowledge management culture encourages employees to learn and share knowledge, fostering better collaboration and teamwork.
What are the benefits of knowledge management?
Knowledge management has multiple benefits for your organization and its employees.
Make it easier to access knowledge and information – employees are made more efficient as they have better access to the information they need to do their jobs. Employees can work faster and they don’t wait around for answers from fellow coworkers, rendering them more productive.
Enhance customer service – companies that give their employees access to information make it quicker to serve customers since agents don’t have to hunt around to find answers to customer questions. Having standout customer service is a key differentiator that will win you new customers and retain older customers.
Avoid duplicated effort – when the results of projects are shared internally and employees have access to work that has been done before, they can learn from the past mistakes and make themselves more productive. This saves your organization money and stimulates innovation.
Make better decisions – when employees have access to the knowledge of the entire organization this allows them to make better decisions. When making decisions, they can take into account the viewpoints and opinions of much more diverse stakeholders, adding a fresher perspective to the choices made.
Optimize employee training and onboarding – when new hires join the company they have access to a wealth of information that means they’re brought up to speed more quickly. They don’t have to spend as much time communicating with coworkers about vital company information
10 tips to improve your knowledge management
Now it’s time to dive into the tips for improving your Knowledge Management.
1. Invest in the right software
By no means the only aspect of knowledge management, investing in the right software is the starting point to creating your strategy. You need somewhere to store the knowledge your organization possesses and for this you want an internal knowledge base.
An internal knowledge base is a place where you can centralize your organization’s knowledge for easier retrieval by employees. You can make your knowledge base private and only accessible by users with a login.
KnowledgeOwl is the perfect solution for your internal knowledge base. It comes with a simple User Interface that you can use to create articles and put them through a review process. It’s easy to upload images and videos and format your articles with lists, sections, tables and call-outs.
2. Organize your content into categories
One of the worst things about a knowledge management solution is when your content is a disorganized, jumbled mess. Employees have a hard time finding the information they need and they won’t use your knowledge management solution.
The right knowledge management solution enables you to create sections for projects, teams or other groups of documentation. Employees will more easily be able to find the information they need, when they need it, and avoid overwhelm.
Your categories should reflect priorities that are meaningful to your team and encourage users to browse content.
3. Involve others in your content creation
A knowledge management effort is not something to undertake alone. You should involve employees from every team in the creation of content – it makes sense, as they are subject matter experts and they are the closest to your documentation.
When you let employees across the organization contribute to your knowledge management efforts, you go a long way to creating a knowledge-sharing culture and promoting learning and development. You empower employees by giving them a more impactful role in knowledge creation.
Work closely with your subject matter experts to document vital processes and ensure your knowledge base has a healthy stream of content that is directly beneficial to other employees.
4. Track metrics to measure success
The right knowledge management software will give you access to important analytics that tell you how your knowledge base is performing. It’s worthwhile to track some metrics once you implement your knowledge management strategy to measure success.
Track the search terms your employees are searching for to find out where content may be missing – if a search term yields no results then it might be time to create a new knowledge article. If an existing article is getting a high number of searches then you could surface it on the homepage of your knowledge base to make it easier to access.
If you have certain articles that never receive any views, then you could consider removing them from your knowledge base.
Keep an eye on article ratings to see whether the content has solved your employee’s problem or answered their question. If an article gets a few negative ratings, think about improving this article to make it more helpful.
5. Appoint a knowledge champion
There needs to be someone in your company that has ultimate responsibility for your knowledge management strategy. They should be in charge of managing your knowledge management system and ensuring a regular flow of new content, as well as updating or removing existing content.
It should be easy for your knowledge champion to manage articles, including one-click publishing and unpublishing, updating articles, and so on. The right knowledge management system makes this easy.
They will also be responsible for reviewing the content that is submitted for your knowledge base, which we will talk about in the next section.
6. Implement a review process for each new article
If you request three articles from three different people, you will be likely to have three totally different approaches and content that lacks consistency. First and foremost, make sure you have a style guide for your knowledge contributors so they know how they should write articles, which will make the review process easier.
Ensure you have enough time to review the content for accuracy and completeness. This should be the first round of edits, then once you have a complete article you can then review for grammatical errors and typos.
7. Make the most of search
Invest in a knowledge management solution that has a powerful search function, to help employees discover content when they know exactly what they’re looking for. Being able to make the most of search will save employees time and enhance their productivity.
When you write your knowledge base articles, make sure you write it in a way that matches the terms your employees will actually be using to find content. Your titles and body content should contain keywords that make sense to employees.
KnowledgeOwl’s powerful search predicts what users will search for as they type, and automatically suggests relevant articles, making search much quicker. You can create synonyms for your official terminology to help readers using a variation of the same term to get to the right content.
8. Write articles in plain, readable language
This one goes without saying – you shouldn’t be writing articles like a robot or someone from your legal team. You should be using completely plain language and a conversational tone to write your documentation. Avoid the use of jargon unless absolutely necessary, and if you have to use a technical term make sure to define it in your article.
Using tools like Hemingway or Grammarly can help make sure you’re writing articles pitched at the right level. Your content should be easily understandable and allow your employees to skim through to find the information they’re looking for.
Make sure to use a table of contents for long articles and split your article up into sections. Use call-outs to highlight important points that should not be missed.
9. Simplify your knowledge content
When building your knowledge management solution, it’s tempting to cover every possible scenario and to document absolutely everything. Articles become overly long as you try to cram in everything and suddenly your content is unmanageable.
Try to split long articles out into smaller articles. Interlink your articles where possible so you’re not repeating yourself.
10. Put effort into creating a knowledge-sharing culture
All your efforts in knowledge management come to nothing if employees are not actively consuming or sharing knowledge. You need to make knowledge-sharing part of your company’s DNA if you want knowledge management to be effective.
Teams should be encouraged to collaborate and share knowledge. Make knowledge-sharing part of performance assessments and recognize those employees who share their knowledge with tangible rewards.
Promote your knowledge base at every opportunity and highlight new content in team collaboration tools or company newsletters. Share the success of your knowledge management initiatives with the whole company and publicly thank knowledge contributors for their efforts.
Knowledge management is well-worth the time and investment for every organization. Your employees will be happier and more productive if they have access to essential knowledge, and not to mention your company will save time and money by documenting knowledge.
A knowledge management strategy should be backed by senior leadership and evolve over time as your company changes. Continual effort should be put into building a culture of knowledge-sharing and making sure employees are using your content.
Keeping track of metrics for your knowledge base is an important way to assess the success of your strategy. Proactively review, update and delete content based on your findings to keep the knowledge base fresh and relevant.
If you like to try out KnowledgeOwl, you can take our knowledge base software for a free spin.