Questions are powerful. According to Harvard Business Review, questions can unlock value in organizations. They lead to knowledge sharing, improved workplace performance, and stronger rapport between team members.
However, the traditional method of asking questions — face to face — can have an unintended effect: a drop in productivity. Employees spend valuable time tracking down the right subject matter expert (SME) to answer their questions, and answering those questions takes SMEs away from higher-priority work. And because those conversations happen in a one-on-one environment, other employees miss out on that valuable knowledge.
A question-and-answer (Q&A) tool, often within a knowledge management platform, can provide a better way to share knowledge. A Q&A tool allows your employees to post questions that your subject matter experts (SMEs) can then answer. If multiple SMEs answer the question, you simply select the correct answer to appear first. Employees can search the tool and get answers regarding their role, the company, and best practices.
Using the power of questions, a Q&A tool can give your company the ability to:
1. Grow a Powerful Internal Knowledge Base
A Q&A tool isn’t static; you and your employees can continually add to it. As your employees ask and answer more questions, your internal knowledge base will grow. Eventually, you will develop a comprehensive source of information that covers nearly every question that an employee may ask. When employees have a question, you can direct them to this source first to see if it has already been asked.
2. Preserve Institutional Knowledge
Eight in 10 organizations lose institutional knowledge when an experienced worker retires or moves on from the company. With an internal knowledge base of questions and answers, you can preserve your SMEs’ knowledge for years to come — and add to or modify those answers as current employees develop new processes or best practices.
3. Keep Employees Focused on High-Priority Tasks
Your employees are busy. A StressPulseSM survey revealed that nearly 60 percent of employees report being highly stressed — and nearly 40 percent of those workers attribute that to their workload. With so much on their plates, your employees don’t have much time to ask or answer questions.
Rather than encouraging employees to seek out and interrupt SMEs to ask a question, you can save time for both employees with a Q&A tool. Employees can simply search for their question and get the answer without leaving their desks. This enables new and senior employees to get the information they need without distracting their co-workers from their high-priority tasks.
4. Provide a Safe Place for Asking Questions
No matter how often you insist, “There’s no such thing as a stupid question,” there will always be employees who hesitate to ask questions. One study revealed that in an academic setting, women were two and a half times less likely to ask questions than men. Respondents also revealed the reasons why they didn’t ask a question even if they had one, including “not feeling clever enough” and “the speaker was too intimidating.”
If your employees experience those fears and hesitate to ask questions, they will likely not be able to perform their jobs at the highest level. When your knowledge management platform includes a Q&A tool, your employees won’t have to experience the feelings of insecurity. And the more questions and answers they search for, the better they’ll be able to perform their role.
5. Encourage Complete, Detailed Answers
When employees ask an SME the same question over and over again, the SME’s answer often — and understandably — gets shorter and shorter. The SME has priorities of his or her own, and often can’t spare time to provide a detailed answer every time he or she is asked the same question.
With a Q&A tool, you can provide the SME with the opportunity to answer the question once, and then never again. That will likely incentivize the SME to provide a complete, comprehensive answer. Once that answer is housed within the Q&A tool, you can send employees there, rather than to the SME, every time the question comes up.
6. Identify Areas of Confusion and Opportunities For Training
Analyzing the questions that employees add to your Q&A tool can reveal areas where your training may be lacking. If your knowledge management platform has built-in analytics, you can easily identify the keywords and questions that users are searching for most frequently. When you notice a high volume of questions and searches around a particular topic, you can adjust your onboarding curriculum for new hires or offer a supplemental training for employees.
With a comprehensive knowledge base of questions and answers, your employees will always know where to find up-to-date information to help them succeed in their roles. It can break down knowledge silos, enhance teamwork, and ultimately, build value for your organization.