Your team produces and manages a ton of information every day. But you cannot make this information more accessible across the org to members from different departments. This also centralizes critical business knowledge among a few employees—increasing employees' dependence on these select few individuals.
What if there was a workaround to minimize the wastage of crucial employee hours and make information more easily accessible to everyone? The good news: there is a solution.
An internal knowledge base (IKB) compiles all the company info into a single platform and empowers your team to work more productively and independently. It’s a centralized repository that functions as a knowledge-sharing portal.
Learn more about the concept of an internal knowledge base and why you need one in this article. We’ll also cover seven best practices to design a solid IKB. Let’s get into it!
What is an internal knowledge base?
An internal knowledge base is an org-wide database of resources and training material only for employees. It's a self-service, centralized knowledge-sharing platform containing documents for all processes and policies that an employee would need.
An IKB—also known as an internal wiki—simplifies the process of storing and sharing knowledge across the organization. Instead of restricting knowledge to a few people, a knowledge base makes learning more collaborative and accessible. So, employees don’t have to dedicate close to 2 hours in their daily routines to find relevant information and answers.
Twine perfectly exemplifies what an internal knowledge base looks like. These snippets from the brand’s IKB show how it conveys information clearly and concisely.
What to include in your IKB?
Knowing what to include in your internal wiki is a great way to get the ball rolling for your knowledge management strategy. The best part about this step is that you don’t have to follow any rules about including this or that.
Your IKB is quite literally your own because you want to deliver the most specific and relevant information to your employees. A knowledge base has to shorten the process of finding answers—so the more crisp and concise your wiki is, the easier it gets for employees to answer their questions.
Here are a few common resources that companies generally include in their IKBs:
- Troubleshooting help.
- Office code of conduct.
- Frequently asked questions.
- Department-specific details.
- Announcements and updates.
- Company policies and calendar.
- Onboarding and training materials.
- Branding and marketing guidelines.
- Process documents and instructional videos.
- Organizational structure and employee directory.
Think of your company knowledge base as the single source of truth for your team. Add any crucial detail that can make your employees' lives easier!
5 reasons why you need an internal knowledge base
Still not convinced about building an internal wiki for your org? Read these five reasons to understand exactly how an IKB can benefit you and your team to change your opinion:
1. Enhance productivity
You’d be surprised to know that employees spend five hours on average every week waiting for coworkers to share the knowledge necessary for their job. This wait is a significant factor driving down their productivity and efficiency levels. Besides, many companies lack standardized documentation—making it even more challenging to find job-related answers.
A company-wide knowledge base centralizes every point of the necessary information and delivers it in a ready-to-consume format. So, you can minimize the number of wasted hours and ramp up employee productivity.
2. Save more costs
An internal knowledge base multiplies your cost savings by saving hours of wasted employee effort on finding answers and documents. This is especially true for medium and large-scale companies with a high employee count.
If your IKB eliminates the two hours that 49 percent of employees spend on tracking information daily, you'll save a considerable quantum of hours monthly and annually. This translates to greater output and even better employee satisfaction since fewer roadblocks exist.
3. Minimize knowledge loss
Picture this: a member from your upper management team leaves after 10+ years of work. With them goes all the knowledge they’d acquired of the workflows and operations in their department. As much as you’d like them to train their replacement, their contextual knowledge about the role will create a vacuum after their departure.
This is where building an internal wiki cuts down on the risk of losing employee knowledge. With a tool like Scribe, you can create interactive guides and how-to tutorials, storing all employee knowledge in a single dashboard to reduce any knowledge loss.
4. Increase collaboration
If you believe sharing vital information over emails is the best way to share knowledge, think again. 92 percent of employees show signs of distress—like an elevated heart rate—when dealing with many unread emails.
Replace emails and group messages with an internal knowledge base that works as a collaborative knowledge-sharing avenue. It allows employees to find and share quick answers for problems they’ve faced before—making it a team effort.
5. Seamless onboarding
A new employee can feel lost in the maze of Google documents and sheets if you don’t have a knowledge management framework to streamline their onboarding. A lousy employee onboarding experience can hurt the company's reputation.
With a well-designed company knowledge base, you can make employee onboarding much shorter and smoother. Consider it as giving them a company manual containing core resources with answers to every job-related question they have. It's an easy way to train and up-skill a new hire.
7 best practices to design and optimize a knowledge base
You know your team desperately needs an internal wiki to organize all documents and make them quickly accessible. After giving it a lot of thought, you’re now ready to commit to a centralized knowledge database. But where do you begin—and how?
If these questions hold you back, steal our seven best practices to design a flawless internal knowledge base. Let’s dive into it!
1. Review current status and define goals
Before you iron out the finer details of a knowledge management process, assess the status quo. How is your team getting along right now? Identify the biggest roadblocks for employees and understand how these issues hamper their performance.
A clear understanding of the current setup will define the scope of your knowledge base—the details you need to cover and to what extent.
Use this handy list of questions to carry out this initial assessment:
- In what ways does your team share information internally?
- What processes are a part of your employee training program?
- What are the consequences of the current ways of sharing knowledge?
- What are some flaws in your knowledge-sharing arrangement?
Make this assessment as extensive as possible. Dig deeper into each department to evaluate the current status and draw up your IKB plans.
2. Create a team to manage the knowledge base
One of the essential steps in building a knowledge base is appointing a team to manage it. Creating, maintaining, and updating this wiki is a continuous process. You need knowledge managers to plan and oversee the database.
This managerial team can decide:
- Areas and aspects to cover.
- Contributors from every department.
- Schedule to post and update resources.
Besides these core responsibilities, the team can also coordinate with all employees to produce accurate content for the knowledge base. They are also expected to finalize a good IKB software and upload the content on the tool.
3. Research and find a knowledge management tool
The choice of the platform hosting your IKB is equally important as its content. However, this choice isn't easy, with so many knowledge management tools saturating the market.
Shortlist tools that match your requirements and perform thorough research for every tool to weigh its pros and cons. Read user reviews, compare features and perform pricing analysis before finalizing your decision.
Here are a few features to test in your research:
- Interface: User-friendly interface and interactive dashboard.
- Search: Offers ease of search to look for any content in a few seconds.
- Uploads: Effortless document upload capacity with scanning and bulk upload options.
- Integrations: Allows easy integration with any tools to avoid disrupting current workflows.
- Authoring: Facilitates collaboration with teammates through commenting and versioning features.
Now that you know exactly what to look for, let’s look at the four most popular software to design an internal knowledge base.
- Zendesk: Zendesk's suite of products comes with knowledge management software to create information-packed IKBs with rich formatting, proper structure and 40+ native languages.
- Scribe: Scribe is a user-friendly tool to automate knowledge-sharing with easy document creation capabilities for multiple purposes. You can embed Scribe files into almost any platform and present critical info in easily digestible formats.
- Bloomfire: Bloomfire is a searchable knowledge management platform with crowd-sourced FAQs and AI-enabled search capabilities. You also get reporting and branding functions to customize your internal wiki.
- Guru: Guru is another knowledge management solution sorting contextually relevant information with AI-powered recommendations. It lets users build a community of members alongside content categorization options.
The bottom line: your choice of a knowledge base platform will depend on your organizational needs—in the present and future. So, ideate and identify your organisation's knowledge-sharing needs to make the right call.
4. Establish a user-friendly structure and guidelines
When deciding the structure and setup of your IKB, it helps to keep yourself in an employee’s shoes. Now, think of the best ways to make the knowledge base as frictionless and smooth as possible.
Create a solid structure for your wiki from the start. Here are three ways to structure a company knowledge base:
- By role: Ideal for small-to-midsize companies with employees in multiple designations, not necessarily in the same departments.
- By department: Suited for large enterprises with several departments or employees categorized in different segments.
- By offering: Best for companies offering various products/services with employees responsible for one product/service.
Another way to produce a seamless employee experience is standardizing your IKB content. Define consistent guidelines for every contribution to the knowledge base—brand voice, quality benchmarks, scannability and reading ease are some factors to consider.
Remember: the fewer tabs and articles you have to click to find answers, the better. So, find more ways to declutter your internal wiki and deliver information more instantly.
There are some common pitfalls that can undermine the success of a knowledge base. One pitfall is failing to properly design the knowledge base. A well-designed knowledge base should be based on a clear understanding of the organization's needs and goals. Another pitfall is failing to adequately maintain the knowledge base. Over time, the contents of a knowledge base can become outdated or inaccurate. To ensure that a knowledge base remains relevant and useful, it is important to regularly update and revise its contents. Finally, another common pitfall is failing to promote the use of the knowledge base. In many cases, people are reluctant to use a knowledge base because they are not aware of its existence or they do not understand how it can be used to help them in their work. To overcome this obstacle, it is important to effectively communicate the benefits of using the knowledge base. - Adam Stamer, Founder of My Package Tracking
5. Prioritize information based on importance
Designing a knowledge base can mean a lot of work. You have to create a rough layout of the database, consider all possible subsections to cover for each category and reach out to the right people for contributions. This process can take weeks, if not months.
What's the more manageable, less time-consuming way to approach this situation? Easy—prioritizing the essential information.
Instead of covering a broader ground, focus more on the quality of information you share. Map priority levels to different points in your structure and start with the information relevant to all employees in your team.
A project calendar would come in handy to chalk out a timeline-based roadmap for building your IKB. Remember to create, publish, assess and repeat.
6. Outline a clear review and approval process
An internal knowledge base acts as the collective brain of your organization. It also reflects your company’s work environment and culture. So, the information put out in this base has to be aligned with your quality standards and brand values.
To ensure that you deliver a high-level experience for your IKB, design a solid review and approval process for the contributors.
- Clearly define who can contribute.
- Communicate expectations for every resource submission.
- Share resource benchmarks for contributors to reference.
- Create a strict process of review and quality checks.
Modify your guidelines review process based on employee feedback. This can ensure your team produces only the best quality content.
7. Collect and review employee feedback
You’ve picked a knowledge sharing tool, established a management team, published a decent number of resources—now what?
A company knowledge base is a live platform that evolves consistently with changes in organizational workflows and employee needs. So, it's vital to assess the impact of your resources regularly.
Create an iterative process to collect and analyze feedback, then implement it. Here are some potential areas to review your IKB:
- Are employees able to find relevant information easily and quickly?
- What challenges do employees face when accessing the knowledge base?
- How (un)helpful are the resources available for each department and org-wide?
- What articles/resources are the most popular in terms of views and responses?
Besides these questions, you can also set a feedback meter at the end of each resource. Employees can share their views in a couple of clicks and you can redo the articles based on poor feedback.
Knowledge management made easy
An internal knowledge base is the key to unlocking higher productivity, greater collaboration, faster onboarding and reduced frustration. It centralizes all your knowledge assets to simplify and shorten the process of finding solutions.
If you're looking to build an IKB scratch or revamp an existing one, this guide has all the answers. Follow the seven tried-and-tested practices in this guide to maximize your IKB's outputs.