If Gartner’s predictions were right, 51% of knowledge workers (and 32% of all workers) are now working remotely — up from 27% and 17%, respectively, in 2019. And dispersed teams need knowledge-sharing systems to communicate and collaborate effectively. Knowledge-sharing systems exist on a spectrum, each designed to support different types of knowledge transfer. These five types will help ensure your remote workers have access to the information they need to maintain their productivity and enable better decision-making this year, no matter where they’re located.
1. Learning management system
A learning management system (LMS) is a platform for creating, delivering, and managing online education. Remote teams need a learning management system for employee training in place of in-person instruction. Eduflow and 360Learning are two examples of this type of software.
Usually the domain of a company’s human resources (HR) or learning and development (L&D) team, a learning management system is an essential part of an effective remote onboarding program. According to a study by Bamboo HR, employees who rated their onboarding as “highly effective” were 18 times more likely to feel committed to their organization.
Today’s LMS platforms also track completion rates and provide analytics to L&D teams so they can measure the success of their onboarding programs.
This type of knowledge-sharing system is also used for up-skilling and re-skilling veteran employees, a top priority for 59% of L&D professionals this year, according to LinkedIn Learning’s 2021 Workplace Learning Report.
2. Instant messaging platform
An instant messaging (IM) platform allows two or more team members to communicate through text in real-time. For all the benefits of remote and hybrid work, one downside is that dispersed team members can’t just swivel around in their chairs to ask their office mates a question. An instant messaging platform like Slack, WhatsApp, or Microsoft Teams helps them to share explicit or tacit knowledge through their desktop or mobile devices.
More than 3 billion people already use mobile messaging apps in their personal life, and that number is expected to keep growing — so it makes sense that businesses would adopt this type of platform. They enable employees to chat quickly and informally to increase engagement and solve problems faster than they could with email. Instant messengers are also good forums for giving a voice to workers who are more introverted and don’t feel comfortable speaking up in a group setting.
Originally designed for text communications, modern IM platforms (also sometimes called messaging apps, social apps, or chat apps) offer more features to support employee collaboration, such as file sharing and video chat.
3. Real-time collaboration tools
Real-time collaboration platforms enable team members to work on the same projects simultaneously from different locations. Since dispersed teams can’t physically huddle around a whiteboard or colleague’s desk, remote collaboration tools make it possible to work together virtually.
There are all kinds of real-time remote collaboration tools, from document-sharing platforms like Google Workspace to virtual white-boarding software like MURAL to audio and video calling applications like Zoom — instant messengers can also fit into this category of knowledge-sharing system.
The type of remote collaboration tools your team needs will be determined by the type of work you do. For example, creative teams need a visual platform like MURAL, while Google Workspace may suffice for your finance department. But all of these tools empower teams to work together synchronously and seamlessly, rather than having to send documents back-and-forth, which wastes time and can create confusion with duplicate versions.
4. Asynchronous knowledge-sharing tools
Asynchronous (or async) knowledge-sharing tools are applications that enable remote teams to relay information at a time that’s convenient for them. They’re valuable for all sorts of teams — in-house, remote, or hybrid — and are a must-have for sharing explicit knowledge in organizations whose employees span multiple time zones.
Like real-time collaboration tools, there are different types of async collaboration tools. Email, for example, is an async platform that’s been around for decades. Instant messengers can fall into this category, too. More specialized software has been introduced in recent years, such as Scribe, which enables SMEs to effortlessly create step-by-step guides for sharing know-how without interrupting their workflow, and Soapbox, which allows users to record themselves and their screens to demonstrate business processes or active problem-solving.
As remote work becomes increasingly common, so does asynchronous work — and for good reason: Not only does it widen your company’s talent pool since you can hire people from anywhere in the world, but many of today’s workers demand it. In a survey conducted by FlexJobs and Mental Health America (MHA), 56% of respondents said having flexibility in the workplace was the top way their company could better support them.
The async working model is good for employers, too: Forty-three percent of respondents in the Gartner 2021 Digital Worker Experience Survey said flexible working hours made them more productive.
5. Knowledge-management system
A knowledge management system (sometimes called an internal knowledge base, document management system, or wiki) is a digital library of resources for employees to learn about the company and how to do their jobs. An effective knowledge management system enables workers to self-serve information, which frees up your experienced employees from having to answer the same questions again and again. A few examples of knowledge-base applications are Confluence,Tettra, and Guru.
Company information is often shared across multiple systems, which leaves workers shuffling through their email or Slack messages to find answers to their questions. These knowledge repositories serve as a single source of truth, where information — from benefits paperwork to customer support FAQs to standard operating procedures — is aggregated and kept up to date for easy access to anyone within the organization.
This kind of organizational knowledge-sharing system is invaluable for all kinds of teams, but is crucial for remote workforces where employees can’t simply walk into the HR office or tap on a coworker’s shoulder to ask for information.
Support your remote teams — and your company
Remote work isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. In a survey by Buffer of nearly 3,500 remote employees, 98 percent of respondents said they want to work remotely — at least some of the time — for the remainder of their careers.
The right knowledge-sharing systems will give your remote teams what they need to do their best work and help you retain your top talent in a competitive labor market. You’ll save your organization some dough, too: For every employee who works remotely half the time, employers can save $11,000 per year in real estate, electricity, productivity, absenteeism, and turnover costs.