Between the recent work-from-home boom and the potential of an upcoming recession, we’ve had a lot of changes in the workplace.
In December 2022 alone, roughly 4.1 million Americans quit their jobs, taking with them the knowledge and understanding of their work that was never documented.
It’s this information that a knowledge manager is responsible for collecting and maintaining. But what does a knowledge manager do?
In this guide, we’ll go over why you’ve been hearing more about knowledge managers, what kind of person fits the role, what tools they need and what some of their responsibilities are.
Here’s what you’ll learn:
- Why knowledge managers are so important
- What does a knowledge manager do?
- Who makes a good knowledge manager?
- Knowledge manager responsibilities
- Final thoughts: What is a knowledge manager & how to make the most of yours
Why knowledge managers are so important
In 2022, the median American employee had been with their company for barely over four years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), this number has remained relatively stable for decades, but it reminds employers that workers don’t hang around forever.
Employees who have been with a company for years tend to have a lot of undocumented organizational knowledge. Some of this is institutional knowledge related to corporate policies and workflows, while their other tacit knowledge may be related to using different software or which person to ask a specific question.
The problem most companies run into is when employees with this unwritten knowledge management framework leave, taking their intellectual capital with them.
Deloitte’s research shows 75 percent of companies surveyed know creating and preserving knowledge is important, but only 9 percent are prepared to do something about it.
This is where the knowledge manager comes in.
Knowledge managers not only document your company knowledge, they evaluate how you document it and make changes as needed. They may identify problems in a current business process or find outdated practices.
The role is typically a “friendly” one that involves communicating with almost every department. This not only gives the knowledge worker a unique overview of your organization, but it also helps them share knowledge with others.
Since many employees learn on the job, they benefit from this more open system of knowledge sharing rather than keeping everything bottled up in one person’s brain.
And that not only benefits the company and its stakeholders either — it helps employees too.
McKinsey data suggests that up to 40 percent of workers in developed countries will need to learn new skills by 2030. By accessing all the documentation a knowledge manager can provide, they’ll be better prepared for their future careers.
What does a knowledge manager do?
A knowledge manager is the person in charge of collecting, organizing and distributing all of the institutional knowledge in your department. They know what each person does and can help new employees figure out their responsibilities.
The knowledge manager might be the person with the decision-making power to choose which database your team uses to organize this information. They probably have a preferred way of sharing this information, whether it’s in writing, video or something that can combine the two, like Scribe.
Scribe helps you create step-by-step instructions for apps or software you use in your company. You just click record and work through the process and Scribe handles the rest.
For example, here’s a Scribe that shows how to create a sub-item in Notion:
A good knowledge manager also often has a background that involves knowing a lot about how your company runs already. For example, they might be someone from IT, human resources (HR) or operations.
You might have multiple knowledge managers to help cover different departments. Using multiple people can also help divide the workload by specialization. They don’t have to know everything that goes on in your company, but they probably know who to go to for help.
They’ll follow the best practices of knowledge management. They’re also responsible for creating, storing and sharing the documented knowledge in a way that everyone can access it — typically in a knowledge base.
Who makes a good knowledge manager?
So we’ve gone over the essential knowledge manager job description, but who actually makes a good knowledge manager?
It isn’t just about assigning more responsibility to senior management. Finding the right person for the role can be tricky.
Part of the knowledge management process is taking all the implicit, unsaid information about a company and turning it into explicit knowledge. The knowledge manager works to identify what they know about a process and figures out what parts of that task might not be so obvious to a new employee.
But knowledge workers don’t just write down pages and pages of company knowledge. They know how to prioritize. They use a knowledge management strategy to help them decide what to document, which processes they need to document first and how to help the most people with the least amount of work.
In addition to these very clear, efficient skills, they need to have good communication skills, be empathetic and be willing to take time to help others understand concepts.
They can’t be frustrated because their sales staff don’t immediately understand a new software update. They know it might take a few tries before everyone is on the same page.
A good knowledge manager can document and share knowledge easily. For example, can you imagine explaining how to perform a specific task in Salesforce without visuals to help? Probably not.
That’s why a knowledge manager opts for a training method that includes images or videos to make understanding a very visual task easier.
Here’s an example of a Scribe that a knowledge worker might use to help employees:
Knowledge managers also know not everything works best as a Word doc. In fact, some gamification might be more their style. Early studies into gamification of corporate learning suggest it might even increase learning.
A knowledge manager knows which tools to use to share your company’s knowledge in an easy-to-understand fashion. They know when to go for an in-person meeting and when something makes more sense to share by email.
Knowledge manager responsibilities
A knowledge manager’s responsibilities are pretty broad. They include a lot of documentation and analysis but also good communication once they’ve prepared the material.
Here are a few key points to keep in mind.
A knowledge manager’s primary responsibility is to document internal knowledge. There are several ways they could gather it, including by using a corporate wiki to keep everything in one place.
They’ll probably ask for help with this as some departments may have already documented some of their processes or will know how to explain a tool better than they could. After all, they aren’t supposed to remember every single fact about your organization, but they should know how to find this information.
Knowledge workers also need to maintain this knowledge base and update it as policies change or processes are streamlined. It’s not something that’s done once and forgotten about.
Make it accessible
Once they’ve written some of this corporate knowledge down, the knowledge manager needs to make sure it’s not hidden away. They make sure that everything isn’t stored in a giant document on some desktop only they have access to.
Rather, they share knowledge with the entire team so everyone can access it.
Knowledge managers should keep in mind that some employees might not have easy computer access at times or that some team members won’t have time to read dozens of pages looking for a simple how-to.
Tools like Scribe help make information accessible to employees in an easy way. Scribes are responsive, so team members can view them on any device. Plus, you can use Scribe Pages to collect all of your Scribes in one place, making it easier for employees to find what they need.
Organize & distribute the info
The knowledge manager thinks about how to share information with as many people as possible. They not only write things down and create videos and Scribes, but they also organize these instructions in a way that makes sense.
They might opt for a corporate intranet for general knowledge and HR documents that don’t change too often. But they may find standard operating procedures (SOPs) require more organization. SOP distribution is often better organized by department, so employees don’t feel overwhelmed.
A knowledge manager is also responsible for emailing or messaging team members about changes to any policies relevant to them. Tools like Scribe make distribution even easier by updating a Scribe everywhere it lives when changes are made in one location.
Teach team members
A knowledge manager will actively seek to educate others on new technology, processes or methods. While this might involve some one-on-one time with others, they also need to provide asynchronous support when a team member needs help.
Dirk J., a small business owner, uses Scribe just for this.
“It's allowing me to train colleagues in our CRM quickly who don't have the time to learn on their own verbally over Skype, Facetime or Zoom,” Dirk says.
Knowledge managers can’t be everywhere at once, so finding ways to teach others at scale is vital to sharing this knowledge with the whole company.
Communicate these changes
Documenting your internal knowledge doesn’t do much good if no one knows where the information lives.
Your knowledge manager will spend a significant amount of time communicating with other departments about changes made and asking for feedback.
They know a knowledge base is never complete. They continue to update and add new knowledge as needed. But when important changes are made, they make sure to notify anyone who needs to know about the new steps.
Final thoughts: What is a knowledge manager & how to make the most of yours
A knowledge manager plays a key role in many companies using a knowledge management system. Knowledge workers need to wear many hats and change management styles depending on the topic they’re covering that day.
The role calls for someone to be part scholar, researcher, archivist, librarian and teacher.
They need to be effective communicators and good at problem-solving. Plus, they need to be good at listening and understanding which steps and information are the most important for a position or to describe a business process.
They should also be analytical and be able to look for ways to improve the way the knowledge transfer process as it’s currently organized. While they won’t know how to do everything in your company, they probably do know who has the answer.
They can’t do this work alone, though. Knowledge managers rely on software and other tools to help them make sure your information system is shared among your entire team.
Using a tool like Scribe can cut hours off their workload and help everyone understand different tasks no matter how they learn best.
For example, by creating a Scribe while setting up your content management system the way your organization uses it once, they can then share this Scribe with everyone. It will show step-by-step instructions for the procedure along with screen captures of the process.
If your knowledge manager is struggling with how to best collect and share all of the knowledge assets they’re responsible for, then why not give Scribe a try today and see how easy it is for yourself?