There are many benefits of having a searchable knowledge base within your organization, including:
- Improving productivity
- Increasing employee engagement
- Preventing knowledge loss
- Enabling employees to work from anywhere
- Overcoming the limitations of email and other siloed communication channels
As your organization grows, employees need a space to connect with each other and with the information that allows them to do their jobs well. Information that is readily available helps teams make more informed decisions: customer support can resolve problems faster, marketing can produce more useful content, sales can close deals faster, and insights teams can distribute their research more effectively.
The key to making the knowledge that’s spread across your company readily available to the people who need it is to put it in a knowledge base.
What is a Knowledge Base?
A knowledge base lets employees across your organization share content to a central, searchable hub. In many cases, a knowledge base is part of a knowledge management software solution. For example, Bloomfire’s knowledge engagement platform allows users to create a dynamic knowledge base containing the documentation, FAQs, and individual expertise that exists across their organization. Users can share different types of files and media, post content directly to the platform, search the platform for information, and ask questions of their co-workers.
A knowledge base can also be used internally (by employees) or externally (by customers). For instance, businesses might set up an internal knowledge base to centralize their institutional knowledge and the collective intelligence of their employees while they might set up an external knowledge base to give customers easy access to how-to guides, best practices, and FAQs. (Note: Bloomfire’s Help Center is an example of an external knowledge base.)
There are benefits to both internal and external knowledge bases (and many companies use both), but for the purposes of this article, we’re going to focus on some of the biggest benefits of an internal knowledge base.
Key Benefits of a Knowledge Base
1. Improved Productivity
According to McKinsey, employees spend 20 percent of their time at work searching for information they need in cluttered inboxes, unorganized repositories, and the brains of co-workers. A knowledge base centralizes all of the knowledge living in those spaces and makes it accessible and searchable to all employees.
No more scrolling through old Slack messages, combing through thousands of emails for a single attachment, or desperately trying to chase down an expert before they go to lunch. A knowledge base can reclaim up to a full workday for each of your employees each week. And less time spent searching for information means more time accomplishing meaningful work.
2. Increased Employee Engagement
Employees who feel engaged with their work stay at one company longer, have lower rates of absenteeism, and produce higher quality work than their disengaged peers. One way to help keep employees engaged is to give them access to a company knowledge base.
Making all company knowledge available through a knowledge base shows that your organization values transparency, which in turn fosters trust. Employees appreciate feeling that they are being kept in the loop, and they will likely feel more invested in the organization’s overall success when they’re able to see what different teams and departments are working on and how their own work supports larger business goals.
When employees trust their organization, they’re more willing to share what they know, and a knowledge base gives them a space to do this. In a modern knowledge base with collaboration features, employees can comment on documents or posts, “like” them (similar to social media), ask questions, tag others, follow topics and contributors, and more.
Whether employees are sitting next to each other at their desks or are on the other side of the world, they can always collaborate on content and products, share ideas, and feel that they are a valued voice within the organization.
3. Knowledge Preservation
As employees leave the organization for various reasons (retirement, job change, or even temporarily for a vacation or maternity/paternity leave), you risk losing all of the valuable knowledge that employee acquired in their time with the organization. And that creates problems for the people who are tasked with picking up the pieces.
To avoid this loss, you need a proper system in place to handle knowledge transfer.
A knowledge base empowers employees to thoroughly document every project they complete, piece of content they write, question they answer, and protocol they develop so that transferring tasks and information from one employee to another is straightforward. Additionally, a platform that lets users share content in many different formats (images, audio, video, etc.) makes it easy for subject matter experts to share and preserve their knowledge in the way that’s most convenient for them.
4. Empowered Remote Employees
Modern collaboration doesn’t always take place in an office between the hours of 9 and 5. Before 2020, 70 percent of professionals worked from home at least once a week—and working remotely has become even more common in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. One Stanford study found that by June 2020, 42 percent of U.S. employees were working from home full-time.
No matter where employees are working, they need to be able to access the information required to do their jobs.
A cloud-based and mobile-friendly knowledge base means that remote employees have access to company knowledge from anywhere, at any time. In organizations that adopt a flex work model, which allows employees to work when and where they’re most productive, a knowledge base empowers employees to access knowledge the moment they need it (without having to worry about disrupting a co-worker who might be offline).
A knowledge base is crucial when employees need to access time-sensitive company information (e.g. when a sales rep is conducting a product demo, or a remote customer service rep is helping a customer with a return policy question). When a company’s reputation depends on serving customers and prospects in a timely manner, employees must be able to find the answers they need to resolve questions and issues quickly.
5. Reduced Reliance on Email for Knowledge Sharing
Organizations should encourage employees to use a knowledge base to share information that might be helpful to a larger group, or to future employees. When employees get in the habit of posting to a knowledge base any time they have information that may be useful to multiple people, they’ll prevent knowledge from becoming walled off in emails, and subject matter experts won’t have to respond to the same question more than once.
Sharing content through a knowledge base also eliminates one of the biggest problems with sharing content over email: version control. When you share a document over email and your recipient edits it, they have to resend the most up-to-date version. At times, multiple people may be working on the same document, resulting in multiple versions floating around the company. There may also be multiple one-to-one conversations about the document occurring over email, with important information about the content becoming siloed.
By using a modern knowledge base with version control, you can ensure that all employees can find the most up-to-date content while also viewing changes made to the document over time. This helps eliminate duplicate efforts and keeps everyone aligned around the same knowledge.
The Long-Term Benefits of a Knowledge Base
Reports show organizations that have implemented a knowledge base see increases in productivity, collaboration, and employee engagement. Those benefits of a knowledge base have far-reaching effects. When employees are empowered to do their jobs faster and more efficiently, your company’s customers and partners benefit as well.
Want to see some real-world examples of the benefits of a knowledge base? Check out our customer success stories.
This post was originally published in August 2017. It was expanded and updated in October 2020 to reflect best practices.