Company Knowledge Bases - Why You Need One
A company knowledge base is a system created to store an organization’s important internal information. It is a resource that employees can browse, search, and learn from. A well-constructed company knowledge base should help employees access the information they need to do their jobs well.
Even if you work at a plucky startup, your company could benefit from having a knowledge base. In this article, we’ll see why.
What is a company knowledge base for?
Essentially, your company has a lot of information, and crucially, knowledge. So what’s the difference between information and knowledge? Information is data presented in a way that humans can understand. But knowledge includes relevant information that is gained through experience.
Unless you have a company knowledge base, it's likely that knowledge within your business is spread across the individual brains of its employees. Under such a system, if a new hire or a coworker from a different team needs to access certain information, they have to find the right person. But with a company knowledge base, all collective knowledge is stored in one accessible system.
So what might a company knowledge base contain?. Here are some examples of the type of information that a system could contain:
- Company information – addresses, websites
- Employee contact information
- Management structure
- Onboarding processes
- Internal processes
- Operations processes
- Employee benefits
- Company policies
- Product information
- Market information
- Marketing strategy
The knowledge required for a company’s system will vary from business to business, depending on size, sector, and leadership preferences. To function effectively, a company knowledge base system must have certain features.
What does company knowledge base need to be useful?
In order to be a useful resource to your business, there are five important attributes that a company knowledge base should possess.
The key feature of an effective company knowledge base is usability. Employees must be able to access the information they need easily. On top of that, it helps to connect related pieces of knowledge together, so that the system makes sense as a whole.
Ideally, your company knowledge base is actually enjoyable to use. If navigating through it feels like a chore, employees simply won’t use it as often and it will be rendered useless.
The right knowledge
This one is obvious, right? Well, maybe, but anyone who has experienced a dull and unhelpful onboarding process at a new job knows that companies do not necessarily get this one right.
Your knowledge base must contain the correct information to make it useful to workers. This should be determined by a feedback process. Ask both employees and management which parts are useful, and which aren’t, to ensure that the base’s content is providing real value.
As well as containing the right knowledge, a functional knowledge base should be updated frequently. Things move fast, especially at small businesses and startups, so information can go out of date pretty quickly.
Internal knowledge will make up the bulk of your knowledge base. But that does not mean you should exclude external resources.
What blogs do management read? Who are your favorite commentators on Twitter? Which industry newsletters do you read every morning?
Such resources are essential for keeping up to date with your industry. This is especially true in fast moving sectors like technology and communications. Make sure your workers know how to keep up to date.
Input from employees
Nobody understands a business better than the people who work there. As such, input from your employees is crucial for a functional knowledge base.
Moreover, your employees are – hopefully – learning and improving their skill sets all the time. These improvements should be reflected in your company knowledge base.
A company knowledge base is a powerful resource for your business. Building one up is a long-term investment in your company and your team – if well-executed.
A cleverly designed knowledge base brings all of the experience and understanding of your employees together in one place. Such a system promotes faster learning, more effective cooperation between teams, and efficient onboarding.
Such efficiency gains will make your teams more productive and can even end up reducing costs in the long run.