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 designed to help you map, create, distribute, scale, and optimize your company’s knowledge and knowledge resources. The framework supports everything from the information you might find in an employee handbook and step-by-step instructions for using various software programs to responses to customers’ frequently asked questions and market research necessary for high-stakes decision-making.
A knowledge management framework typically includes four key components:
What Makes a Knowledge Management Framework So Effective?
Imagine this scenario: after a long and tedious search, you’ve finally found and hired a new employee for a highly technical and difficult-to-fill role. This new hire has all the skills and experience necessary to perform this complicated job, and they’re excited to join your team. But just a few months into their time with you, the new employee turns in their two-week notice—meaning you have to begin the search all over again.
While this is a frustrating situation, it’s not uncommon. According to HR Partner, 31% of employees quit in the first six months, and 50% leave in the first two years.
But, what does a knowledge management framework have to do with employees quitting?
As it turns out, many of the reasons people leave their employers are problems a framework can help solve. For example, according to Indeed, 23% of employees who leave a job in the first six months say receiving clear guidelines of their responsibilities would have helped them stay, and 21% say more effective training would have incentivized them to stay. If you leverage a knowledge management framework to facilitate your knowledge management processes, you can mitigate these sorts of outcomes.
Knowledge management supports more comprehensive onboarding, which not only speeds up training time but can also help employees excel and feel more capable and confident in their positions.
But it’s not just new hires who benefit from effective knowledge sharing. When information is relevant, useful, easily accessible, and well-organized, people feel empowered to work more efficiently—which fosters better employee engagement and creates space for a healthier work-life balance.
A knowledge management framework provides you with a step-by-step process for wrangling all the information that currently exists across disparate systems and helps fill the knowledge gaps that cause problems for your workforce.
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
Next, you need to determine how you’ll compile and publish knowledge. It’s important to create as detailed a process as possible, so all knowledge assets are consistent. For example, it’s useful to decide on a taxonomy and naming conventions. Additionally, remember to structure information so it’s easily scannable and digestible. If your knowledge management platform supports thumbnails, including a key visual can help employees quickly identify relevant content from a search results page.
You also want to make sure you’re scheduling time-sensitive content for review or archival after 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.
It’s also a good idea to designate someone to review and approve content to ensure it’s relevant and meets company guidelines.
Strategy: Bringing It All Together
The final component is your strategy. Even the most talented employees, best technology, and highest-quality content won’t be able to sustain success without a clear, business-aligned strategy.
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) to track and measure success. Helpful metrics might include employee time saved, customer success ratings, call resolution time, employee satisfaction, and new hire retention. By tracking these KPIs, you can prove a clear return on investment for knowledge management.
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.