Democratized knowledge in the workplace refers to knowledge that is accessible to employees across an organization, regardless of their department or role. When you democratize knowledge, you’re putting everyone on a level playing field. Everyone is able to ask questions, share their ideas and experiences, and find the information they need to do their best work.
Sounds promising, right? But what does it actually look like in practice?
Examples of Democratized Knowledge at Work
Here are a few ways we’ve seen companies that we work with democratize knowledge:
- HR management company Insperity has more than 2,700 employees spread out across 60 offices. They use their knowledge sharing platform as a central hub where employees across their locations can ask and answer questions, share their expertise, and form connections around similar interests and job roles.
- Outdoor goods retailer Orvis used to store customer service knowledge in SharePoint and physical binders, making it difficult to keep information current and consistent. They now use a searchable knowledge sharing platform so that all contact center employees can easily find the same up-to-date information. This has allowed them to double their first call resolution rate.
- Dominion Energy used their knowledge sharing platform to democratize knowledge across their Power Delivery group (the electric side of their business). No matter where they are, all Dominion Energy field workers can find the information they need to stay safe on the job.
How to Democratize Knowledge Across Your Organization
It’s fun to talk about taking advantage of democratized knowledge, but what can you do if knowledge is spread out across your company, in Slack channels, inboxes, shared drives, collaboration apps, and the minds of individual employees? Where do you even begin when you need to bring so many disparate sources of knowledge into one accessible place?
Choose a Central Hub for Your Knowledge
Start by choosing a knowledge sharing platform that allows you to bring content and information from many different places into one central, searchable hub (shameless plug here: we recommend using Bloomfire). Your employees need to be able to access this platform at any time, from any location, so that knowledge is always available on demand.
Conduct a Knowledge Audit
As you prepare to launch your knowledge sharing platform, you should also perform a knowledge audit. This requires you to create an inventory of your existing knowledge assets, where they currently live, who has access to them, and how they’re being used. This audit should help you determine what you’ll need to upload to your knowledge sharing platform (as well as current gaps in your knowledge that you may need to fill with new content from subject matter experts).
Make It As Simple As Possible to Share Knowledge
Once you have seeded your content and launched the knowledge sharing platform to your end users, you and a team of platform champions will need to encourage everyone to start using it. Offer training sessions to show people how to use the platform and make it as easy as possible for users to share their knowledge. For example, give users multiple ways to share (such as recording a video of themselves going over best practices, uploading a document they already created, or answering a question that was posted in the platform) so that they can choose the option that works best for them.
Make Knowledge Sharing Part of Your Company Culture
You’ll also need to promote a culture of knowledge sharing from the top down. For example, you could:
- Have executive champions post a weekly update in your knowledge sharing platform
- Reward people when they share content that gets high levels of engagement
- Encourage employees to do a short write-up that they can post in your knowledge sharing platform after completing a project
Once employees get used to having a platform that acts as the single source of truth for knowledge across the company, it will become their go-to place for searching for and sharing information. And that leads to employees using democratized knowledge to enhance their work and make informed decisions.
What’s the ROI of Democratized Knowledge?
There are a lot of potential benefits to democratizing knowledge across your organization. One of the most obvious and immediate benefits is that employees don’t need to go through knowledge gatekeepers to find the information they need to do their jobs. They’re able to tap into self-service knowledge, which allows everyone to work more efficiently.
Below are a few other ways that democratizing knowledge across your company can help you achieve a positive return on investment.
Reduced Time Spent Searching
When you run into a question that you don’t have an answer for, what do you typically do? Tap a nearby co-worker on the shoulder to see if they know the answer? Send frantic Slack requests for information? Go on a scavenger hunt through your company’s SharePoint folders?
If knowledge isn’t easy to access across your organization, you and your co-workers will inevitably waste time looking for important information. In fact, you could end up spending close to 20 percent of your work time searching for information, according to a study from McKinsey.
Now think about the savings (in time and money) you would experience if you eliminated that unnecessary searching time. Let’s say that your company has 1000 employees with an average annual salary of $65,000. By allowing people to access information instantly, your company could save upwards of $200,000 per month.
Reduced Risk of Duplicated Work or Lost Knowledge
Imagine a scenario where someone on your marketing team is wondering whether anyone has conducted research on the channels through which Gen Z shoppers are most likely to buy your products. If they can’t find any existing research, they might commission a new study— only to discover after the fact that one of their team members already commissioned this research and that the results are buried within a subfolder on your shared drive.
By democratizing knowledge and making it searchable, your organization can reduce the risk of duplicated work (and the wasted time that goes with it). When employees know that all finalized content belongs in a centralized knowledge sharing platform, they can start by searching the platform for existing content before they try to reinvent the wheel.
Additionally, democratized knowledge can help prevent your company from losing valuable knowledge when an employee leaves the company or moves to a new department. Employees should be encouraged to share both explicit knowledge (such as process documents they’ve created) and tacit knowledge (such as videos they’ve recorded where they share best practices) to your knowledge sharing platform so that information is available to everyone who needs it, even when the person who originally provided that information can’t be reached.
Every company wants to maintain a competitive advantage by being innovative, but no one is going to achieve true innovation by sitting around and hoping that inspiration strikes. In reality, innovation occurs when someone takes an existing idea and looks at it from a new perspective— or takes several existing ideas and combines them in a new way.
By democratizing knowledge, your company is setting its employees up to innovate. When employees across your company can access the same information and share their ideas with co-workers across departments, you can bring together diverse perspectives and collaborate to create something new— allowing you to delight your customers and stay ahead of the competition.