A good knowledge base isn’t just a place for your company to store content and information: it’s a strategic advantage. The benefits of a knowledge base are far-reaching, ranging from enabling employees to work from anywhere to keeping teams aligned around shared goals. Other benefits include improving productivity, increasing employee engagement, preventing knowledge loss, and upleveling the customer experience.
All the benefits of a knowledge base stem from its ability to centralize company knowledge, make everything searchable, and enable employees (or in some cases, customers) to surface the right information at the right time. Readily available and relevant information helps teams make more informed decisions: Customer Service can resolve problems faster, Marketing can produce more useful content, Sales can close deals faster, and Insights teams can distribute their research more effectively.
Sounds pretty great, right?
If you’re new to the world of knowledge management and are just starting to consider a knowledge base for your organization, we’ve got you covered. Below, we’re explaining what a knowledge base is and going over ten of the biggest benefits of implementing one so that you can start building your business case.
Already starting to look at knowledge bases for your business?
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 knowledge through a wide range 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.
Interested in learning more about using Bloomfire as your knowledge base?
Key Benefits of a Knowledge Base
1. Improved Productivity
According to McKinsey & Company, employees spend 20% 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 employee each week. And less time spent searching for information means more time accomplishing meaningful work.
2. Reduced Training Time
People want to keep learning at work. In fact, 94% of respondents to LinkedIn’s Workforce Learning Report said they would stay at their company longer if it invested more in helping them learn. But training sessions can also be time-consuming, and employees still need enough time in the day to get their work done.
A knowledge base can help organizations deliver on-demand training, which can be a more efficient and impactful way for people to learn. While training managers may still lead some training sessions in real time, they can upload all materials (including video recordings of the session and related resources) to the company knowledge base so employees can revisit them at any time. When all materials in the knowledge base are searchable, employees can jump straight to the information that is most relevant to them. This enables people to learn–and reinforce what they have learned–in the flow of work, as time allows.
3. 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.
4. Knowledge Preservation
As employees leave the organization for various reasons (retirement, job change, or even temporarily for a vacation or parental leave), you risk losing all of the valuable knowledge that they 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.
5. Consistency in Communication
Imagine a customer who speaks to a sales rep before making a purchase and learns that they can use a product to solve a specific problem. When the product doesn’t work as expected, they call the company’s customer service number and speak to a representative who tells them to try a certain fix. They try the fix, but it doesn’t work, so they call the customer service number again, feeling more and more frustrated. They speak to a different representative who gives them a completely different answer.
This inconsistent, disjointed customer experience often occurs when different departments or teams are operating in silos and relying on different sources of information. Not only can it leave a bad taste in customers’ mouths, but it can harm your company’s reputation and cause you to lose customers to competitors.
A knowledge base gives companies one central source of truth that all teams and departments can access. This means everyone is referring to the same information and knows how other teams are communicating with customers and prospects, leading to a more consistent, unified customer experience.
6. Empowered Remote Employees
Modern collaboration doesn’t always take place in an office between the hours of 9 and 5. Before 2020, 70% 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.
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 hybrid or 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.
7. Better Cross-Functional Collaboration
In a study by 451 Research, leaders in Marketing, Sales, and Customer Service all reported that improving cross-functional collaboration was one of their top three priorities. But improving cross-functional collaboration is easier said than done. From decentralized workforces to different sources of record for different teams, there are plenty of obstacles to collaborating across teams.
A knowledge base can help your organization start tackling these obstacles by giving employees across departments one digital location where everyone can come together and share information. Each team gets better visibility into what other teams are working on and can even comment or ask questions about the information shared in the knowledge base, leading to greater collaboration and bringing in perspectives that might have otherwise been missing.
8. 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.
9. Faster and Better Informed Decision-Making
Your organization likely possesses a wealth of data and insights–but can everyone access them? In many cases, insights and research reports are shared with a limited audience through presentations or emails and then forgotten about or buried. When decision-makers have a specific research question, they have to dig through their inbox or track down a subject matter expert who can help them find the information they need. This slows down their decision-making process–or worse, leads them to make more decisions based on assumptions rather than available data.
With a knowledge base, internal stakeholders can search for and surface answers to their research questions in seconds, empowering them to make faster and better informed business decisions.
10. Revenue Generation
That’s right–a knowledge base can contribute to revenue generation and company growth. When employees spend less time searching for knowledge and more time acting on it, they are more productive and contribute higher-quality work. They can also decrease duplicate or redundant work because they have a better understanding of what everyone across teams is working on.
Having a centralized source for knowledge sharing also contributes to innovation, because employees can build upon one another’s knowledge and connect information in new ways. This becomes a competitive advantage for your business, leading to revenue and company growth.
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.
This post was originally published in August 2017. It was most recently expanded and updated in April 2022.