Why you need an internal knowledge base for your company
Catherine Heath | August 13, 2021
In every company, there is a wealth of information that needs to be recorded so it can be accessed by team members. Holding knowledge inside employees’ heads is not an effective long-term strategy, as employees have to waste a lot of time searching for information instead of getting on with their jobs.
Instead of allowing information to be indefinitely buried in emails or languishing on the shared drive, companies should think about implementing an internal knowledge base for the benefit of employees.
An internal knowledge base will improve the employee experience in a number of ways. But first – what is an internal knowledge base?
What is an internal knowledge base?
An internal knowledge base is defined as a knowledge base that is set up by a company which is only for internal use. It’s a centralized library of information and knowledge that helps your employees stay on top of what’s going on at the company.
It’s a place for storing documentation relating to company policies, projects, how-to guides, installation guides, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), troubleshooting articles, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), and more.
The different departments in your organization must collaborate to provide the knowledge for your internal knowledge base. Your knowledge base articles are usually created by Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) who are knowledgeable about different subjects and can range from IT policies, software specifications, to HR policies.
The benefits of an internal knowledge base
If your company isn’t taking advantage of an internal knowledge base then you’re missing out.
1. Enhance employee productivity
60% of employees report that it is difficult, very difficult, or nearly impossible to obtain information from their coworkers that is needed to do their job. On top of that, employees also spend 5.3 hours a week waiting for information. With an internal knowledge base, employees have all the information they need available in one place so although you won’t be able to eliminate all of that time waiting, there will be a significant reduction.
2. Prevent knowledge loss
What does your company do when key employees leave the business and take all of their tacit knowledge with them? If you don’t have a way to retain this knowledge, your company is at risk every time an employee retires, finds a new job, or goes on sick leave. If you encourage your employees to record their tacit knowledge as explicit knowledge in your knowledge base, you’ll improve knowledge transfer and mitigate the negative repercussions when an employee leaves.
3. Smoother onboarding and training
When new hires start with your company you need to have a process in place to onboard them. Without an internal knowledge base, employees will have to turn to coworkers to find out vital information necessary to do their jobs, and it will take them longer to get up to speed. If you fail to onboard your new hire properly, that can result in them looking for a new job and therefore increased recruitment costs for your company. Your internal knowledge base is the best resource for onboarding and training new hires.
4. Better document security
You’re playing with fire if your employees are storing important documents on USB sticks or laptops, which can easily be lost. It’s much better to store them in a secure cloud-based knowledge base which is accessible only through a login. If you choose the right knowledge base software then you can select different permissions for your knowledge base content so it’s only accessible by certain teams or people. You can decide for yourself whether a page is only available to the sales team, for example.
5. Improve collaboration and communication
When documents are only being shared in email chains this makes it hard to collaborate with each other. It makes it difficult to find documents and to check whether you have the latest version of the document. With an internal knowledge base, you can create articles that team members can collaborate on together and you can always be sure you’re looking at the latest version.
6. Faster customer service
You want to avoid your customer service reps frantically searching for answers while on a call with a customer. The longer it takes to get back to a customer, the more frustrated they get and will start considering your competitors. If you have an internal knowledge base with answers to common customer questions readily available, you can provide a better customer experience and this will result in more satisfied customers.
Structuring your internal knowledge base
It’s not a good strategy to just throw up your internal knowledge base and hope for the best. The more effort you put into creating content, the more value your team will reap from your knowledge base.
1. Think through what information you want to capture
First of all you need to create a plan for the knowledge you want to include in your knowledge base. You’ll need to include everything that your employees will need while avoiding inundating them with too much information.
Examine the workflows of your company to find procedures you can document, speak to as many employees you can about what would make their job easier, and try to identify common questions and issues that your employees repeatedly come up with to get ideas for content.
Narrow down your content ideas to only the most crucial information. You can come up with policies and procedures, best practices, and contact information as potential content. Some of this content may already exist in other places so you can simply repurpose it for your knowledge base.
2. Choose the right knowledge base software
There are a lot of options out there when it comes to knowledge base software so you might want to trial a few different ones. You can try out our very own KnowledgeOwl which is commonly used as an internal knowledge base software solution.
What’s most important to keep in mind is to use a dedicated software solution instead of trying to hack something together. You want an experience that is free of stress and access to the relevant functionality to help you get the most out of your knowledge base.
KnowledgeOwl comes with a prominent search bar that enables your users to search for information quickly and easily. You can organize content into categories with as many levels of depth as you like. The knowledge base is simple to customize to make it in line with your company branding. It comes with a commenting feature that allows your staff to give feedback on your knowledge base articles.
3. Organize content into an intuitive structure
The information architecture of your knowledge base is crucial to enabling employees to improve their productivity when using it. The best way to proceed is deciding on an internal structure before you start adding content, rather than adding content in a haphazard mess that requires sorting out later.
Brainstorm your knowledge base categories with your team to find out what makes sense. It could be good to organize it by department and then include further subcategories to make your content easy to browse.
KnowledgeOwl allows you to easily categorize your content in the CMS and then drag and drop to reorder whenever you feel like. You can also drag and drop content between categories in case you want to change where it’s located.
4. Offer a way for staff to give their feedback
Once you’ve published your internal knowledge base, you can’t simply turn your back and forget about it. No knowledge base is perfect, and you might have content that is missing or confusing.
Asking for and listening to employee feedback is the best way to improve your internal knowledge base. You can give your employees multiple ways to share their views. Make use of the user commenting feature on your knowledge base software to encourage employees to interact. Send out regular surveys to everyone who uses the knowledge base, and ask them about their experience as well as what they find useful or confusing.
Keeping the flow of knowledge streaming through your organization is key to maintaining your employees’ productivity and happiness. You’ll save time on employees searching for information, growing frustrated and giving up – and perhaps even considering leaving the organization.
Your knowledge base is only as good as the effort you put into it. Make sure you spend enough time planning and brainstorming content before embarking on your knowledge base project. Your employees will thank you for it in the long run.