Information is one of the most valuable resources within your organization.
However, between Slack channels and emails and one-on-one conversations, information is often difficult to find. As reported by McKinsey, a single employee “spends an estimated 28 percent of the workweek managing e-mail and nearly 20 percent looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks.”
Some good news, though? The same McKinsey report also found that “a searchable record of knowledge can reduce, by as much as 35 percent, the time employees spend searching for company information.”
A searchable record of knowledge is known by many names: internal knowledge base, private wiki, content management system, internal wiki, company wiki, knowledge management system or corporate wiki. No matter what you call it, it’s a way to organize information so it’s easy to find—which cuts down on repetitive questions, duplicate work or the sharing of misinformation.
An internal knowledge base can also streamline your onboarding process, helping recent hires to reach peak productivity faster.
Read on to find out how to create your own internal knowledge base, including how to choose the format for your corporate wiki, who should maintain your wiki and which type of information to include.
An internal knowledge base is a content repository for your company. It’s the single source of truth for branding, tone of voice, policies and updates.
If an employee needs to know the name of your official company font, do they know who to ask or where to find your branding guidelines?
Or if a new hire wants to learn about your mission, vision and values, who can point them to the relevant information?
An internal knowledge base is a place where you can document processes, such as how a project is briefed and assigned, meeting notes, design ideas and blue sky brainstorming sessions.
It’s where new employees can learn about your company culture and understand your workflows and the tools you use. Your internal wiki can also host your searchable company directory, to help new hires quickly put faces to names and understand who’s who within your organization.
For full transparency, you can use your company wiki to track performance on your OKRs, KPIs and other quarterly or annual goals. You can also add a section for personal updates from your company’s president, CEO or owner.
A significant amount of knowledge is lost when an employee quits, retires or unfortunately goes on short-term or long-term disability. This is particularly costly for director or executive roles, i.e. roles that are responsible for driving revenue.
Without knowledge sharing, a new hire’s ability to plan strategically is significantly hindered.
An internal knowledge base can help capture specific knowledge from, to borrow a scientific term, keystone individuals—individuals who have a disproportionately large effect on your organization and whose loss would leave a sizeable knowledge gap.
When asking employees to contribute to the wiki, be sure to distinguish between the two types of knowledge that can (and should) be captured: explicit knowledge and implicit knowledge.
Explicit knowledge is knowledge that’s easy to record. How-to guides, briefings and passwords are all examples of explicit knowledge.
Implicit knowledge is knowledge that comes from experience and context. This is the knowledge that’s often lost or hard to retrieve/recreate when someone moves on from your organization. When asking keystone individuals to contribute to your internal wiki, it’s important to emphasize that they should capture anything that comes to mind.
For example, any software they use that might not be in use company-wide such as a specific note-taking or proofreading software, or the names of individuals they rely on for certain tasks.
It can be difficult to know which piece of information will be useful to your organization, so follow the guiding principle of “more is more” when capturing knowledge.
Best is a relative term when it comes to internal knowledge base software. A search on Google for ‘best free knowledge base software yields plentiful results.
In truth, the best knowledge base software is the one that does what you need it to do. Some organizations may require a robust system that allows for significant edits and flexibility. Other organizations may want a simple, out-of-the-box system with few customizations.
Bring together a group of senior individuals within your organization to determine which knowledge management software (free or paid) is most suitable for you. By senior individuals, we mean both senior leadership and senior in experience.
Write down your must-haves and nice-to-haves and assign a champion who can research available software and put together recommendations.
Alternatively, you could investigate the possibility of creating an internal wiki from scratch. If your organization develops its own software and has coding specialists available, this may be the most cost effective and reliable solution available to you.
Your last decision regarding your internal wiki is choosing who should maintain it. Out-of-date information is rarely useful, so it’s important to commit to updating and expanding your company’s internal knowledge base as often as possible.
One option is having all employees contribute to the wiki, with a few trusted individuals approving and publishing the final edits. You could also have someone dedicated part-time to the wiki and funnel any updates through them.