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No company knowledge is ever useless. But knowledge is a whole lot more valuable when it’s possessed by the whole team, rather than a single worker or team.
As they work, employees stumble on ways to get the job done efficiently. When they share those insights, everyone benefits. But to make knowledge-sharing a cultural expectation, communication has to be a whole-company priority.
Especially with so many companies working remotely, communicating knowledge well can be a challenge. Popping over to someone else’s cubicle is no longer an option when employees are stationed in their homes. Sharing knowledge remotely means setting up processes and organization systems that can work from anywhere.
What does that entail? These six steps are key for knowledge management:
1. Create a Safe Environment for Sharing Knowledge
How can employees share information if they don’t feel safe expressing themselves? The truth is, they can’t.
For knowledge-sharing to happen, your team needs to know their suggestions will be taken well. If employees don’t feel comfortable asking their co-workers a simple question, then no knowledge-sharing tool or process will make a difference.
While internal competition can be healthy, don’t let it become cutthroat. Make sure your culture is one where employees feel challenged but also supported.
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2. Start Your Own Wiki for Sharing Company Knowledge
You’ve used Wikipedia. Updated by and for users, the online encyclopedia has an entry on just about anything you could think to look up. Wouldn’t it be useful to have a corporate wiki or knowledge base that works the same way?
Your company may not need a 216-source page on Tupac Shakur, but think about all the other processes, clients, and partners your team needs to know about. And wouldn’t it be helpful to have product details and marketing campaigns at your fingertips?
Besides containing company information, your wiki should be searchable. That way, employees don’t have to spend time trying to find relevant documents.
To ensure the information in it is correct, be sure to update your company wiki frequently. Throw a monthly event on the calendar to encourage teams to review and revise pages that fall under their domain.
3. Know What to Share
Before creating a company wiki, it’s a good idea to define what information should be shared. Should every conversation an employee has with their clients be recorded, or is that too intrusive? Should they document success stories to inspire new hires, or is that too allusive?
Generally speaking, it’s better to over-share than to under-share. What if your top employee quits tomorrow? If her knowledge hasn’t been documented, it will leave with her.
You’ll also want to develop a knowledge review process. Who’s the strongest editor on your team? Ask that person to cull information from wiki entries that’s irrelevant, personal, or incorrect. Ideally, this person should be in a management role so they have a top-down view of what information matters most.
4. Push Toward Paperless
Going remote has a way of encouraging digital transformation. But what about all those old contracts and partnership agreements sitting in file cabinets?
Research shows the average person wastes almost five hours per week searching for paper. Not only does this negatively affect productivity, but it makes it tougher to serve customers and communicate with co-workers.
Say one of your salespeople is on the road. Before meeting up with a lead that’s back on his radar, he needs to know what proposals they’ve received previously. Without a digital documentation system, he could be shooting in the dark.
A paperless office makes exchanging information more efficient. Moreover, it also saves space, time, and the environment. Why not use the rise of remote work as an excuse to make that final push toward paperless work?
5. Choose Communication Tools Wisely
Most companies use several different tools to communicate internally. The trouble with that is, it’s not always clear which channel a given piece of information was shared through. No wonder the average employee spends two-and-a-half hours each day simply looking for information.
When investing in tools, it’s important to understand how your team works. For example, if your team is always on the go, you should insist on software that’s mobile-friendly. If everyone on your team uses a Mac, make sure any tool you choose works with Apple products.
The good news is, several knowledge management platforms allow you to hook up your tools. Does your team use Slack? What about Gmail? Before deciding on one, make sure it integrates with your team’s favorite communication tools.
6. Do a Walk-Through with Knowledge Management Tools
Just because your team has communication and knowledge management tools doesn’t mean they know how to put everything together. Give them a tutorial so they know what they need to share and how to share it.
Say your HR team puts together a new remote work policy. Who’s responsible for uploading it to the knowledge base? How should it be tagged and categorized? Should a notification email go out to everyone, or just certain members of the team?
Afterward, leave plenty of time for questions. Don’t get irritated when employees ask about what-if’s. There will always be exceptions and unique situations to talk through.
Most importantly, realize that knowledge-sharing is a process. Like any process, making it seamless will take some trial and error.
Remember the payoff, though: A more communicative, knowledgeable company is a more productive company. A more productive company is a stronger, more resilient company—and in a time like this, that’s worth however much time it takes to get it right.