There’s no denying organizations pour a large amount of time and resources into training new hires, but have you ever stopped to calculate just how much? According to Statista, organizations spend an average of $1,267 per employee for learning and development every year. Additionally, employees in midsize companies spend an average of 71 hours per year on training initiatives.
With this investment of time, money, and resources, it’s clear that companies consider training a top priority—and for good reason. However, to make the most of onboarding processes, a knowledge management and training strategy can help companies provide a centralized, referenceable source of information, rather than simply providing an initial firehose of knowledge that employees may soon forget.
What Is Knowledge Management?
Knowledge management is a framework centered around capturing, distributing, and preserving intellectual capital in a way that encourages knowledge sharing and collaboration in an organization. This type of learning makes a world of difference in employee training, allowing new hires to get up to speed quickly and immediately integrating them into your company culture.
That’s why better knowledge management is crucial. With the right knowledge management and training strategy—and a robust knowledge management system (KMS)—you can empower more effective onboarding in the following ways.
Easily Connect New Hires to Existing Knowledge
Asking a new employee to find a specific piece of information can be a bit like asking someone to find a vegetable peeler in a kitchen they’ve never been in before. They may find it eventually, but they will likely need to open every single drawer—wasting time that could have been spent peeling those carrots for your stir fry.
However, this challenge can be remedied by establishing one central source for company knowledge. Introduce new hires to your knowledge management platform early in their onboarding and make sure they understand what information lives in the platform and how to search for it. This will make it possible for new employees to quickly find the information they need the moment they need it—without having to track down a subject matter expert or go spelunking through different folders and repositories. Ultimately, this can shorten the onboarding process and reduce training costs—a win-win for everyone involved.
Benefits of Knowledge Sharing in the Workplace
The concept of connecting employees to company information is commonly known as knowledge sharing. In other words, it’s the process of exchanging information across the workplace. Shared information may be explicit, like best practices or documented company policies, or tacit, which includes knowledge that’s gained solely from experience and is often difficult to express.
By incorporating knowledge sharing as an element of your company culture, you can encourage employees to actively share what they know with others, rather than hoard that information until they are asked about it directly. This not only helps you build a skilled, knowledgeable workforce; it can also boost communication and collaboration, improve productivity, and help employees deliver a consistent and improved customer experience.
Capture FAQs (So They Don’t Have to Be as Frequently Asked)
Encourage new hires to turn to your knowledge management platform when they have a question so that your library of FAQs grows over time—and so your managers and subject matter experts don’t have to answer the same questions over and over again.
New hires can start by searching the platform to see if their question has been asked and answered before. If they have a question that has never been answered, encourage them to post it in the knowledge management platform so that they can crowdsource an answer from their department or the entire organization. When you have a KMS that captures questions and answers—and makes them searchable—new hires will go there to find what they need without having to rely on a more tenured employee.
Measure Engagement with Knowledge
Not only is it important for your employees to have access to information at their fingertips, but it’s also important to track which content is getting the most engagement, views, or likes. If your knowledge management platform has built-in engagement analytics, you can see what content new hires find most useful, what terms they are searching for, and which employees are reading and contributing.
The usefulness goes beyond new-hire onboarding, as well. Analytics can show you what information is most valuable to both new and veteran employees, what information is not being engaged with (and may need to be updated or archived), and what knowledge gaps currently exist, so you can work on adding the necessary information.
Increase Social Collaboration Across Teams
Think back to your first day on the job. Did you feel overwhelmed? For many, asking questions and speaking up can be quite intimidating in the initial weeks of a new position. By using your knowledge management system to create a group or community for new hires going through onboarding together, you provide a comfortable space for new hires to ask questions and share their knowledge with confidence, knowing they are all on the same learning track.
This adds an extra level of social collaboration and extends learning opportunities beyond the classroom. By setting a tone of psychological safety from the start, you encourage engagement and participation in the future.
Let Employees Self-Serve
Give new employees a sense of independence by empowering them to easily search through company knowledge and find what they need, including implicit, tacit, and explicit knowledge. A KMS that enables employees to help themselves benefits everyone. Look for the following features to help with this:
- Search engine: Having a search engine inside a central knowledge repository allows your new hires to search for any training material you want them to have access to. Look for a platform that deep indexes all content so that everything becomes searchable, including videos and attachments, allowing employees to find what they need even if they don’t know the exact file name or title.
- Configurable structure: Even when all content is searchable, it can still be helpful to use categories or filters to narrow down search results. Look for a platform that allows you to create custom categories that align with your organization and the ways people search for information so that everyone—including new and veteran employees—can find what they’re looking for.
- Accessibility on any device: In today’s digital world, mobile-friendliness is essential. On-the-go, 24/7 access to information allows for flexibility and more control for employees.
Using Knowledge Management to Improve Employee Training
Training and onboarding can be overwhelming for a new hire. An easy-to-use, well-organized knowledge management platform is necessary in order to foster collaboration for training and learning. A knowledge management system allows all employees to work at their full potential by tapping into the knowledge of their coworkers.
Tips for Developing a Knowledge Management System at your Organization
The benefits of adopting a knowledge management and training strategy are clear—but once you make the decision to move forward with a KMS, what are the next steps to take? Successful knowledge management implementation begins with the following:
- Educate your leaders: To develop knowledge management leaders in your organization—those who will champion the knowledge management cause and encourage employees to share information—consider taking advantage of knowledge management courses. Reputable courses (such as those offered by IMA International or the KM Institute) can help leaders develop effective knowledge management policies, create a company culture that prioritizes knowledge sharing, and understand how to use knowledge management to achieve organizational goals. These courses, which often also involve certification testing, are typically done completely online, making them convenient and accessible for your future leaders.
- Establish a knowledge management framework: Developing your leaders is an essential first step, but people are only part of a successful knowledge management framework. Once you have the right players in place, you can develop processes for how to collect, share, and manage knowledge, as well as guidelines for what type of content to capture.
- Integrate knowledge sharing into your culture: A critical piece of knowledge management success is creating a culture that encourages and promotes information sharing. This may include getting your leadership team involved, offering ongoing training and certification courses, and rewarding employees who actively participate in the initiative. Creating a deeply rooted culture of knowledge sharing will ensure that your efforts don’t die off after a month or two—but that you are able to capture a wealth of valuable information on a long-term, ongoing basis.
At the end of the day, people—and the skill and knowledge they possess—are your most valuable assets. It’s important to make employees feel they are a part of a solid and supportive community. Investing in a better knowledge management platform can deliver a solid ROI and help you meet some of your most important organizational goals. Ensuring that employees have access to quality training and onboarding materials from the start will save time and money by quickly turning new hires into productive and confident members of your team.
Note: We periodically update blogs to reflect the latest trends, research, and best practices in knowledge management. This blog was most recently updated and expanded in April 2023.