Creating an internal knowledge base for your company isn’t just about gathering policies, best practices, and workflows in one place.
It’s more like building a library for your organization that showcases the knowledge, wisdom, and expertise that help employees learn the ropes quickly and succeed in their everyday work endeavors.
Creating such a library may seem like a huge undertaking, considering all of the pieces that need to be in place and the people that need to be involved in making sure it is a relevant source of information.
That’s why we gathered the five best tips that will help you create a winning knowledge library in no time. So let’s get started!
Create Content Around the Most Common Issues
The easiest way to create a knowledge base that will resonate with your employees is to talk about the most common issues they encounter in their work.
Everyone who has ever worked in a company knows that there are problems that regularly arise in the workplace. Also, whenever new hires come into the organization, there’s a need to get them up to speed and familiarize them with all company processes and policies.
But before you dive deep into creating your knowledge library, it would be a good idea to come up with a list of topics to cover, and decide how in-depth you want to go while explaining them.
To make this process easier, asking yourself the following questions can be of great help:
- What do the employees need help with?
- What knowledge do they already possess?
- Do they have knowledge gaps?
Answering these questions will enable you to determine your employees’ weak spots and help you decide on the content you want to cover.
You can also conduct a quick survey and ask your staff to name the problems they’ve faced due to a lack of information. You may be surprised by the results.
For example, studies show that some employees struggle even with the most basic IT tasks. And it might not be the group you would expect.
Additionally, your knowledge base should, naturally, never be without the key information about the company. Contact lists, employee handbooks, and workflows also fall in this category.
Other files you can include are onboarding materials and description of the process, legal and software documentation, troubleshooting instructions, information about products, and FAQs.
You can also incorporate a brand book with the company’s logo, design guidelines, and color codes, as this is widely used across departments.
These are just some suggestions. You should tailor your knowledge base to your company’s needs, as we can see in IBM’s Business conduct guidelines.
As it’s apparent from the picture, trust is one of their primary values. They use it to explain their rules and regulations regarding IBM assets, the confidentiality of information, protecting intellectual property, abiding by law requirements, and other restrictions.
It goes without saying that these are all important matters for companies such as IBM, because a breach of any of these laws or regulations can seriously damage their business and reputation.
So they’ve created guidelines that emphasize them in a way that is well thought out and to the point, so that everyone can understand it.
IBM is a classic example of how you should determine the content of your knowledge base according to your company’s particular needs. At the same time, it shows us just how important it can be not just for your employees but also for protecting your business.
Set Up Content Templates
When you start creating your knowledge base, it might look intimidating at first as it seems like a lot of work to craft all the articles, posts, procedures, tutorials, and strategies.
But this challenging task can become much easier if you use templates to create and write them.
Although creating the templates themselves from scratch may take some thought and effort, once you set them up, they can cut your writing time in half.
Keeping in mind that the most commonly used articles will be the ones containing text and images, you can use this fact as a starting point for creating your first template.
For instance, let’s say you want to create a template for how-to tutorials as you plan to have a series of articles on the subject.
You can state that the article will consist of these three elements:
- A brief introduction that describes the problem
- A detailed description of how to solve the problem with screenshots
- The final result after the problem has been solved.
You can use this template for as many articles as you want.
For example, you may want to write articles on one of these subjects: How to set up your home office, How to use Canva to create a corporate newsletter, or How to check in and out in the workplace. All you’ll have to do is choose your template and fill in the necessary information.
Of course, this is just an idea, and we’re sure you’ve already had a handful of those on your own. And if you are wondering how templates look in practice, Pronto Marketing provides a very good example.
As you can see, their template consists of three sections. The first section is a headline with some text, the second section has a list with checkmarks, and the third section focuses on examples divided into three categories: good, bad, and overdoing-it.
This structure repeats across their knowledge base and clearly shows that they used a template to create these short posts. Whenever they wanted to cover a new topic, they just had to fill in the blanks in the template with new information.
So if you plan to write a lot of articles, setting up content templates beforehand is a good way to go about it.
Even if writing is not your area of expertise, with the help of carefully structured templates, you can create genuinely good articles for your knowledge base in no time.
Also, templates will ensure that there’s a uniform and consistent look and feel to all the content in the knowledge base, regardless of how many different staff members are involved in creating it.
Be Generous With Additional Resources
It goes without saying that the quality of your knowledge base largely depends on the quality of the content and the additional resources you use to support that content.
There are many ways you can enrich your knowledge base articles, and we'll name just a few of them to point you in the right direction.
Most people are visual learners, and the very idea of having to trawl through the textual knowledge base can discourage them from using it at all.
But if you add in your content resources in other formats, they'll feel motivated to use your knowledge base regularly and think of it as a valuable source of information.
It may seem simple, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not effective. On the contrary, just take one look into your reading habits, and you’ll notice that the visuals are the ones that invite us to get familiar with the content.
We've already mentioned screenshots in the previous section, but it would be a good idea to also add pictures, infographics, pie charts, and especially videos.
Moreover, research tells us that video is a preferred way of consuming content among many and the information is more likely to stick with the employees if presented that way.
Therefore, adding videos will significantly enrich your knowledge base and prevent important content from being overlooked just because it doesn’t contain proper visuals.
Another excellent method you can use to further improve your articles is adding links that lead to content that further explains the topic.
Let's look at how Starbucks successfully solved this problem.
In the picture, you can clearly see how the use of a picture of one of their beverages made the content more engaging and dynamic.
What is more, in the text that deals with the conflict of interest, they incorporated the link to Ethics and Compliance for those who want to learn more about the subject. Plus, there is a drop-down menu with more information and a link to the FAQ under the text.
By linking to other resources, Starbucks actually demonstrates that it isn’t necessary to write posts that cover all the possible information at once.
You can briefly describe the issue and provide links for further reading and clarification. By doing so, your knowledge base will be more engaging for your staff members, who will be more inclined to use it in their day-to-day assignments.
Choose Software With Good Searchability Options
There is not much use in having a knowledge base in place if your team members can’t effortlessly search for keywords and find answers in seconds.
For example, a good structure with categories and tags will show your employees where and how to find the articles they want.
However, many people tend to completely avoid searching by categories and tags, as it can take time to find the topic they are interested in. Instead, they go right to the search bar, hoping to find the answers they need on the internet.
Therefore, when choosing software for your knowledge base, it's important to find a solution that supports categorization and tagging, and offers exceptional searchability.
Of course, many will turn to Google Docs first, because it is cheap, easy to use, and documents can quickly be shared with other team members.
But if your goal is to have a structured and organized knowledge base, we recommend opting for a more modern solution.
Google Drive has several disadvantages that will work against you in your effort to provide employees with the information they need quickly.
It can be hard to embed the content, the URLs lack consistency, and if you've ever tried to search your Google Drive, you'll agree that it needs improvement.
All of this should be taken into account when choosing software for your knowledge base.
Our own documentation software, Archbee, is a good option if you are looking for software that is user-friendly and has excellent search options.
As you can see on the left-hand side, the topics are organized by categories, and on the top of the page is an advanced search bar that allows you to go through the entire knowledge base or only specific folders.
The searchability is further enhanced by the table of contents on the right-hand side that you can create for each document.
That way, all your team members can see what the document is about at a glance, and jump to the part they want to read more about with just one click of the mouse.
Software with intuitive searchability features like Archbee can be of immense help in making your knowledge base easy to search.
As this saves a lot of employees’ time and consequently a lot of money for the company, it’s worth investing in quality software that makes work so much easier.
Keep Updating Your Knowledge Base
You just created a killer knowledge base and incorporated everything into it, from policies and regulations to project strategies and how-to tutorials.
Does this mean you can rest easy in the knowledge that you’ve done your part?
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
Your work with a knowledge base will never be over as it needs constant changes, adjustments, updates, and improvements.
The knowledge base should be reviewed regularly, so that employees can use it to stay on top of things. This means you have to ensure that the content is accurate and useful.
You have to keep in mind that the laws change often, and those changes have to be reflected in your policies and legal documents to protect the company from litigation.
There will also be times when you will need to incorporate new content, as has been the case on previous occasions when companies have had to devise addendums to their health and safety policies in order to incorporate the COVID-19 regulations.
Other issues can arise with your knowledge base as well. For example, links can get broken or inactive, screenshots can easily become outdated, obsolete content can quickly clutter your knowledge repository, and over time some information won’t be as accurate anymore.
For example, if a person on your contact list leaves the company and you hire a new replacement, you will have to change the contact section in your knowledge library.
An excellent example of a knowledge base that is regularly getting updated and added new content comes from GitLab: the DevOps platform.
A quick glance at their website will leave you amazed by the extent of the knowledge covered by the articles presented there.
With over 3,000 pages and growing, it’s probably the largest remote work knowledge base in the world. It’s entirely focused on discussing remote work topics and covers almost any possible subject you can think of.
GitLab’s example shows us that a winning knowledge base is a work in progress, not a one-time activity. This is the only way to ensure that your knowledge library is always on point, accurate, and relevant to your staff.
As this usually takes a lot of work, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to appoint one employee to audit your knowledge base every two or three months to be sure that it maintains its relevance for everyone who uses it.
Having a quality knowledge base is fundamental in running a successful company–and that means that it has to contain content that is up-to-date and solves issues. It’s supposed to serve the entire organization as a reference they can turn to in their search for valuable information and expert advice.
As it takes a lot of work to build such a library, in this article, we compiled some of the best tips that will streamline this process and ensure that it goes without a hitch.
Hopefully, these tips will also serve you as a source of inspiration and motivate you to build such a knowledge library for your company, as the benefits can be huge.