Knowledge management is one of the most critical elements of any organization. Without effectively documenting, sharing, and retaining the knowledge within your business, it’s nearly impossible to create a positive and productive culture, hold onto top talent, and deliver a top-quality experience to your customers. But how can you gather, publish, and disseminate all the knowledge circulating within your organization’s various departments and teams? Where do you even begin?
It all starts with a knowledge management framework. We’re delving into the fundamentals of this framework so you can begin creating your own knowledge management processes, or optimize existing methods to better support your organization.
What Is a Knowledge Management Framework?
A knowledge management framework is a structure or system designed to create, manage, and distribute different forms of organizational knowledge and resources. This framework encompasses the technology an organization uses to facilitate knowledge sharing, the leaders supporting it, and the processes it develops to manage knowledge assets.
A knowledge management framework supports everything knowledge-related, including:
- Information found in an employee handbook
- Step-by-step instructions for using different software programs
- Responses to customers’ FAQs
- Market research important to high-stakes decision-making in the organization
What Makes a Knowledge Management Framework So Effective?
An effective knowledge management system should be easy to navigate and tailored to fulfill different needs, ultimately contributing to a positive employee experience.
One of the main challenges organizations face is increased employee turnover rates within the first year. According to HR Partner, 31% of employees quit in the first six months, and 50% leave in the first two years.
A common reason is due to a poor digital onboarding process— 23% of employees quitting their jobs within the first six months would have likely stayed if they had received clear instructions about their responsibilities.
An effective knowledge management framework can address such concerns. It supports comprehensive onboarding, which speeds up training and helps employees to excel and feel more capable and confident performing their roles.
In addition, an effective knowledge management framework empowers employees to work more efficiently and productively. This fosters healthy employee engagement and creates an environment for a better work-life balance.
The main elements of a knowledge management system are the key pillars to ensure the framework’s effectiveness. Optimizing these elements allows you to create a practical knowledge management framework that fills any existing knowledge gap.
A proper knowledge management system comprises five main elements, namely:
People: Putting the Right Players in the Right Places
For your knowledge management framework to work, you need to make sure it is properly executed—and that means selecting the right leaders and champions. That’s why the first step in your process is identifying the people who will be responsible for helping build and implement your knowledge management strategy.
Start by identifying senior leaders for whom knowledge management would be a big win—such as the heads of departments like HR, IT, sales, marketing, customer insights, and customer service. (Of course, every team will benefit from effective knowledge management, but it’s best to start with a few key advocates.) These senior stakeholders will not only help you roll out your knowledge management efforts and identify areas for improvement, but they will also help champion the cause across the organization.
As your knowledge management matures, you’ll also want to select someone from each department or team to ensure all the information you share is accurate and up-to-date. These stakeholders should also ensure tacit knowledge is retained when veteran employees change roles or move on from the organization. Additionally, you’ll need to determine who is responsible for introducing new hires to the knowledge management process and how to access the information they need.
Process: Optimizing the Flow of Information
The second component of the framework is the process—that is, how you collect, share, and manage knowledge. This element is critical to your success because the easier you make it to access information, the more likely your workforce is to use it.
First, you need to decide what sorts of information you want to make available. Keep in mind you can scale your knowledge management strategy as much as you need. Sometimes it’s helpful to start with just a few teams or business units as a pilot to iron out any kinks in the process before you bring the entire organization aboard.
Next, you need to determine how people can access this information. The best way to ensure success is by investing in a knowledge management solution, and particularly one that has the following characteristics:
- Accessible from anywhere: Look for a solution that’s cloud-based and mobile-friendly. This is especially critical for organizations with employees that travel often, work remotely, or follow a hybrid model. Every member of your workforce should be able to access information from anywhere and at any time.
- User-friendly: The software you use should be easy to use and include useful features like search functionality and rich publishing so you can add charts, videos, and more.
- Secure: Some of the information you’re adding will be sensitive and confidential, so it’s vital you select technology that’s highly secure.
Content: Documenting Your Knowledge
Content is any kind of documented knowledge in the context of knowledge management. You need to determine how you will compile and document it.
Ensure you create a detailed process to guarantee consistent knowledge assets. For example, it’s useful to decide on a taxonomy and naming conventions.
The content should also be scannable and easy to understand. If your knowledge management platform supports thumbnails, including a key visual can help employees quickly identify relevant content from a search results page.
Additionally, ensure you schedule time-sensitive content to be reviewed or archived once it goes out of date. Otherwise, your knowledge base can become cluttered, and it will be more challenging for people to find what they need.
Finally, if your knowledge base contains a lot of formal documentation, consider designating moderators to review and approve content before it’s published. This will help you ensure everything that goes live in the platform is accurate and in compliance with your organization’s standards.
Technology: Choosing the Right Knowledge Management Tool
The right knowledge management technology will support your framework and make it easy for employees to tap into your company’s knowledge whenever they need to. Helpful features include:
- An AI-powered search engine
- Content engagement analytics
- Configurable content feeds
- The ability to assign roles and permissions
- Automated content scheduling and unpublishing
Ensure you evaluate each feature based on its value to your organization. Most importantly, consider how you will integrate the knowledge management solution with existing IT infrastructure and applications.
Building and implementing a knowledge management system can be hectic, especially for enterprises with a large volume of information. Fortunately, leveraging a knowledge management framework can help you foster better knowledge-sharing practices. It can also ensure every team member can access the information they need.
Strategy: Bringing It All Together
Your strategy is the final piece of the puzzle for effective knowledge management. Without a clear, business-aligned strategy, sustaining success can be challenging, even with the best tech, the most talented workforce, and top-notch content.
Take time to document each of the above components—from the people and roles you need to meet your knowledge management goals and the content you’ll develop to the technology and solutions you’ll use to execute processes.
It’s also good to create a value proposition for your knowledge management efforts and set key performance indicators (KPIs), such as:
- Employee time saved
- Employee satisfaction
- Reduction in errors or duplicate work
- Reduction in onboarding time
Tracking these KPIs can also help you calculate the ROI of your knowledge management framework.
Building and executing a knowledge management strategy can be complicated—especially for larger companies with a wealth of information siloed within teams. But by leveraging a knowledge management framework, you can help cultivate better knowledge sharing habits, ensure everyone has access to the information they need, and overcome some of your organization’s biggest challenges.
This blog post was first published in May 2021. It was most recently updated and expanded in January 2023.