Knowledge chaos: when your team needs an internal knowledge base

Catherine Heath | March 9, 2021

There may be a scenario in which your team doesn’t have an internal knowledge base. Perhaps you’re storing your information in - gasp! - print folders, on a shared drive somewhere, or perhaps not managing your knowledge at all.

You have difficulty communicating with your employees on a large scale and knowledge often gets lost. You dread certain team members going on holiday because there’s no one to answer those important questions. 

What is an internal knowledge base? 

An internal knowledge base is a centralized hub where you can store, maintain and share employee knowledge for the benefit of everyone on the team. Your stored information makes your employees more productive at their jobs by allowing them to easily retrieve information they need to form particular work tasks. 

Unlike external customer-facing knowledge bases which are usually accessible to anyone, internal knowledge bases are available only to your employees. They usually sit behind a login page, or perhaps are accessible only by certain IP addresses if your employees are on site. 

The benefits of an internal knowledge base

An internal knowledge base is useful because it allows you to store policies, handbooks, guidelines, and share information across departments. 

It saves your employees time when having to look for information and they don’t have to wait hours for a response from another team member, or spend hours working it out for themselves.  

It’s an efficient way to disseminate information throughout your company that employees will need to reference later, instead of sending company-wide emails that get lost in the inbox. When you want to share information about employee benefits, holiday schedules, or FAQs, you should turn to an internal knowledge base. 

An internal knowledge base promotes team collaboration. Without one, it’s hard to communicate across departments and stay abreast of what everyone is up to. An internal knowledge base allows your teams to share their experiments and findings with the entire company. Your support team might want to share support tickets and review customer pain points with other departments. 

Having information centralized is a crucial way to streamline operations and avoid time spent duplicating efforts. A single source of truth helps companies grow and scale. 

It’s never too late to be what you might have been and improve your operations with a knowledge base. 

Here’s how to know if your team needs a knowledge base. 

1. Repetitive questions being asked

No one likes to be the one bothering other staff members with repetitive questions. But when you need information, you have to find it and sometimes asking your coworkers is the only choice.  

If your team members are continually asking each other the same questions, you may need a knowledge base. Asking repeated questions slows down your staff members and it’s tedious for the person with the information. 

It’s particularly harmful if these questions are related to basic operational procedures or information about your products. Morale is lowered as your procedures often break down when staff members leave and new people replace them. 

2. Steep learning curve for new staff members

It takes a long time for new staff members to learn how to do their jobs, and when you check in with them, they say they’re worried about asking their colleagues too many questions. 

The cost of training new staff can also be prohibitive and it means your existing team has to take more time away from their work. 

If your business and services are very complex, it often takes new members more than a few weeks to adjust to your processes. This reduces staff satisfaction and makes it more likely that they will leave if they feel less than able to do a good job.

If you had documented your company’s knowledge then these new hires could have simply consulted your knowledge base. This would get them up to speed quicker and reduce the burden on existing staff to train this new person.  

3. You dread staff going on holiday

We all have those team members who are gods and goddesses to your team and they seem to know everything. You know you need a knowledge base when you truly dread these people going on holiday and the team can’t function without them – or, even worse, them leaving the company forever. 

If you had a knowledge base, this would serve as a point of reference for your team members to find the information they need, under their own steam. You need to take the information from inside the heads of your employees and transfer it to your knowledge base, which functions as a single source of truth. 

You shouldn’t be suffering in terms of productivity when one of your team members takes a leave of absence. Document their knowledge so your other employees can easily search for it in a centralized knowledge base. 

4. Taking too long for customer support

If your employees are on the frontline helping customers, having to wait for a relevant answer from a team member slows down your service, and leads to angry and frustrated customers. Team members are constantly having to reinvent the wheel as information is not stored in a single place. 

Even quite basic customer support requests are taking far too long, requiring complicated email chains between different team members to locate the right information. 

This results in your customers being dissatisfied and reduces your team’s productivity. Your support agents could benefit from a knowledge base to reference when they’re dealing with customer queries, so they only need to bother other team members in the rarest of cases. 

What information should be included

Internal knowledge bases are usually used by companies who have an interest in improving how employees do their job. Therefore, anything work-related may find a place in your knowledge base. 

  • Company information – office addresses, press contacts, and websites

  • Benefits – Available perks, how and when to sign up, open enrollment periods

  • Onboarding – What new employees can expect in their first weeks, what technology they’ll be issued, how things work, and who they can approach with questions

  • Tech help – Fully-service and self-service IT information, basic device security

  • Protocols and procedures – Documentation covering core processes of your teams, such as how to solve a customer support ticket

  • Organizational structure – team org charts, chain of command, and escalation procedures

  • Compensation – how to access pay stubs and tax documents

  • Calendars – List of company holidays and important dates 

It’s up to you what you include in your internal knowledge base, but make sure it’s comprehensive and easy to access. Organize your content into sensible categories and link your content together with related articles. Make it easy for your employees to comment and give feedback on your documentation so you can continuously improve. 

Your turn!

Did you find yourself nodding along during the course of reading this article? If so, your team may need an internal knowledge base to improve operations. They can also help remote teams work more collaboratively

If your staff are finding it hard to cope when colleagues are on holiday, your new members are taking too long to learn the ropes, people complain about repetitive questions or your customer support isn’t how it should be, consider investing in some quality knowledge base software. 

KnowledgeOwl provides excellent software that is ideal for internal knowledge bases. Sign up today for a free trial

About the author
Catherine Heath
Catherine Heath

Catherine is the Community Builder for KnowledgeOwl. She is also a freelance writer based in Manchester. She writes blogs, social media, copy, and designs owl-based images. 

You can find out more about Catherine on her personal websites Away With Words and Catherine Heath Studios.

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