How to Create an Effective Internal Knowledge Base: Best Practices

How to Create an Effective Internal Knowledge Base: Best Practices

6 Dec 2023

Picture the past when a new team member stepping into a company was partnered with a seasoned colleague, an "onboarding buddy," to guide them through the initial phases. These mentors provided personalized support and answers to navigate the corporate landscape. However, in today's swiftly evolving business realm, the concept of an onboarding buddy has become somewhat obsolete. With organizations expanding exponentially and information evolving as the cornerstone of success, the traditional approach no longer suffices.

According to McKinsey & Company, employees spend approximately 20% of their workweek sifting through internal information or seeking expertise. This striking statistic underscores the crucial need for a more sophisticated solution—an internal knowledge base, a centralized hub that not only aids new hires but also serves as an information epicenter, benefiting every individual within the organization.

Let's explore how the advent of internal knowledge bases is redefining information accessibility and catalyzing transformative shifts in organizational dynamics.

What is an Internal Knowledge Base

An internal knowledge base is the bedrock of an organization's information management strategy. It's a centralized repository—a digital reservoir that houses a wealth of structured information, training modules, company policies and guidelines, troubleshooting guides, documents, FAQs, tutorials, and more. This repository isn't merely a storage facility; it's a dynamic platform designed to organize, catalog, and retrieve information efficiently.

An internal knowledge base is a reliable solution that tackles the common hurdles faced when searching for crucial information within a company. Unlike the maze of traditional file-sharing systems or disorganized intranet pages, an internal knowledge base is built around making information accessible, easy to use, and adaptable to the needs of employees.

Such platforms are meticulously structured, featuring intuitive navigation, robust search functionalities, and categorization methods that streamline information retrieval. Whether it's a new employee searching for onboarding documents or a seasoned professional seeking the latest company policies, an internal knowledge base ensures that information is easily accessible at the point of need.

Moreover, these platforms often incorporate collaborative features, allowing employees to contribute, update, and refine information collaboratively. From creating detailed how-to guides to curating troubleshooting manuals, the internal knowledge base encourages a culture of collective wisdom and continuous improvement.

Benefits of Using an Internal Knowledge Base

1. Enhanced Information Accessibility and Efficiency

Employees no longer waste valuable time searching through disparate systems or contacting multiple colleagues for information. Instead, they can swiftly locate relevant resources, documents, or insights with a few clicks, boosting overall operational efficiency.

2. Facilitates Onboarding and Continuous Learning

For new hires, an internal knowledge base becomes their guiding compass. It expedites the onboarding process by offering structured training materials, company policies, and resources necessary to assimilate into their roles swiftly. Furthermore, it supports continuous learning for existing employees by providing up-to-date information, industry trends, and skill development resources.

3. Fosters Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing

By encouraging collaborative contributions and updates, an internal knowledge base cultivates a culture of knowledge sharing. Team members can share expertise, best practices, and innovative ideas, fostering a collaborative environment that transcends departmental boundaries. This collaborative spirit promotes a sense of belonging and collective ownership of organizational knowledge.

4. Mitigates Information Silos and Reduces Redundancy

Information silos are a common hurdle within organizations, hindering effective communication and decision-making. An internal knowledge base breaks down these silos by consolidating information across various departments into a single, easily accessible platform. It minimizes redundancy by ensuring everyone can access the most recent and accurate information.

5. Empowers Informed Decision-Making

With accurate and readily available information at their fingertips, employees can make informed decisions swiftly. Whether for strategic planning, problem-solving, or customer interactions, access to reliable information equips individuals with the necessary insights to make better decisions, thus driving the organization toward success.

6. Improves Customer Service and Satisfaction

A well-structured internal knowledge base benefits internal operations and extends its advantages to external interactions. Customer-facing teams can access comprehensive product information, troubleshooting guides, and FAQs, providing prompt and accurate customer support and enhancing satisfaction.

What are Internal Knowledge Bases Used For?

1. Onboarding and Training

These platforms streamline onboarding by housing training materials, company policies, and procedural guidelines. They provide new hires easy access to essential resources, accelerating their integration into the company's culture and workflows.

2. Centralized Information Repository

Internal knowledge bases are centralized repositories for critical documents, manuals, SOPs, and FAQs. They organize information systematically, ensuring employees can access relevant and updated resources quickly.

3. Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration

These platforms foster a collaborative environment, enabling employees to share insights, best practices, and project-related information. They facilitate cross-departmental collaboration and innovation by leveraging collective knowledge.

4. Decision Support

Employees utilize internal knowledge bases to access reliable data and insights, aiding in informed decision-making at various organizational levels. These platforms empower individuals with essential information for strategizing and problem-solving.

5. Troubleshooting and Problem Resolution

They house troubleshooting guides, FAQs, and solutions for common operational issues, enabling quick problem resolution and reducing downtime.

6. Compliance and Regulatory Information

Internal knowledge bases serve as repositories for compliance-related information and updates for industries with stringent compliance needs, ensuring employees stay informed and compliant.

7. Continuous Improvement

Employees contribute updates and suggestions, fostering a culture of continuous improvement. These platforms facilitate ongoing refinement and innovation by allowing users to propose enhancements.

8. Project Management and Documentation

Internal knowledge bases support project management by storing project documentation, progress reports, and timelines, providing stakeholders easy access to project-related information.

Best Practices to Create an Internal Knowledge Base

1. Plan the Structure of Your Internal Knowledge Base

Before creating an internal knowledge base, it's crucial to lay a solid foundation by meticulously planning its structure. An effectively structured knowledge base not only enhances accessibility but also ensures that information is organized intuitively, enabling users to navigate and locate resources efficiently. Here's a breakdown of the first best practices.

  1. Define Clear Objectives and Goals: The first step in planning your knowledge base's structure is establishing clear objectives and goals. Determine the primary purpose of your knowledge base. Are you aiming for comprehensive onboarding support? Is it primarily for internal reference or compliance documentation? Understanding the intended use cases will help shape the structure.
  2. Understand User Needs: Conduct a thorough analysis of your audience—identify the different user groups, their roles, and the specific information they require to perform their tasks effectively. For instance, sales teams might need access to product knowledge and customer FAQs, while HR personnel might require documentation of company policies and procedures.
  3. Categorize Information: Organize information into categories or topics that align with your employees' needs and workflows. Consider implementing a logical hierarchy that reflects how they think or search for information.
  4. Consider Scalability: Anticipate future growth and changes within the organization. Ensure your knowledge base structure is scalable and adaptable to accommodate new information, departments, or evolving user needs.
  5. Prototype and Gather Feedback: Create a prototype structure and gather employee feedback. Iteratively refine the structure based on their insights, ensuring it aligns with their expectations and preferences.
  6. Document the Structure: Once finalized, document the structure comprehensively. Provide guidelines or documentation outlining the taxonomy, categories, and tagging conventions for consistent content organization.

2. Choose the Best Knowledge Base Platform

Building an internal knowledge base is a meticulous task demanding the right resources. Among these, a knowledge base software holds immense importance. It can simplify the process significantly if chosen wisely. When considering a knowledge base software, prioritize these crucial options:

  1. Identify Key Features: Consider search functionality, customization options, collaboration tools, security features, accessibility, analytics, and integration capabilities. Additionally, differentiate between textual knowledge base and knowledge base videos based on your knowledge base's content strategy.
  2. Consider User-Friendliness: Evaluate the platform's user interface and accessibility. An intuitive and user-friendly interface is critical for widespread adoption within the organization.
  3. Scalability and Customization: Ensure the platform can scale alongside your organization's growth. Look for customization options that tailor the knowledge base to match organizational needs and branding.
  4. Security Measures: Prioritize knowledge base platforms with robust security measures to safeguard sensitive information. Assess encryption methods, access controls, and compliance with industry standards like GDPR or HIPAA, depending on your organization's requirements.
  5. Integration Capabilities: Consider the knowledge base platform's ability to integrate with existing software and tools used within the organization. Seamless integration enhances workflow and reduces the learning curve for employees.
  6. Trial and Demo: Opt for a trial or demo version of the platform whenever possible. This hands-on experience allows you to assess its functionalities and suitability firsthand, gaining insights into its usability and performance.
  7. Cost and Support: Evaluate the platform's cost structure, including initial setup, subscription fees, or additional charges for advanced features. Also, assess the level of customer support the knowledge base platform provides, ensuring prompt assistance when needed.

3. Start Creating Content

Whether your strategy leans towards textual content, video content, or a fusion of both, the groundwork is set. You've structured your knowledge base and selected the appropriate knowledge base software tailored to your needs. Now, it's time to embark on the knowledge base content creation journey. As you dive into this phase, keep these fundamental practices at the forefront:

  1. Identify Priority Content: Identify critical content that should be included in your internal knowledge base. This may involve onboarding materials, FAQs, company policies, best practices, or any information crucial for daily operations.
  2. Collaborate and Curate: Encourage collaboration among subject matter experts and various departments to contribute relevant content. Curate existing resources, ensuring accuracy, relevance, and consistency in information.
  3. Structure Content Effectively: Organize content hierarchically or categorically based on employees' needs. Use clear titles, tags, or labels to aid navigation and ensure easy access.
  4. Create Engaging Formats: Present information in diverse formats—text, images, videos, infographics—to cater to different learning preferences. Engaging formats enhance user experience and comprehension.
  5. Implement Review Mechanisms: Establish review processes to verify accuracy and relevance. Regularly update and maintain content to ensure it remains current and useful.
  6. Train Content Contributors: Provide training or guidelines to content contributors, ensuring uniformity in style, tone, and quality across all materials added to the knowledge base.
  7. Solicit Feedback: Encourage users to provide feedback on the content's usefulness and relevance. Iterate based on user input to continually improve the knowledge base.

Additional helpful tips

  1. Content Roadmap: Develop a roadmap outlining what content is needed, who will create it, and when. This roadmap provides a structured approach to content creation and ensures timely completion.
  2. Quality Assurance: Implement quality control measures to maintain high-quality content. Use style guides, templates, and editorial standards to uphold consistency.
  3. User-Centric Approach: Focus on addressing user pain points and needs. Tailor content to solve specific challenges or provide solutions that users commonly seek.
  4. Engagement Strategies: Implement strategies to encourage user engagement with the knowledge base, such as gamification, incentives for content creation, or acknowledgment systems for contributors.

4. Establish a Clear Hierarchy

Organizing information within your internal knowledge base in a structured and logical manner is paramount. A clear hierarchy ensures that users can navigate the knowledge base easily, finding the information they need without unnecessary complexity or confusion.

  1. Main Categories Identification: Start by outlining primary categories that represent core aspects of your organization. For example, "Policies & Procedures," "Product Information," "Training Materials," or "Company Resources."
  2. Subcategorization: Within each main category, create subcategories for detailed segmentation. For instance, under "Product Information," subcategories could include "Product Manuals," "Technical Specifications," or "FAQs."
  3. Reflect Organizational Structure: Align the hierarchy with your company's organizational structure for intuitive navigation. If applicable, mirror departments or teams within the hierarchy to map to users' daily operations.
  4. Standardized Naming Conventions: Maintain consistency in naming and labeling across categories and subcategories. Precise and uniform titles assist users in quickly grasping the content's context.
  5. Prioritize Key Information: Place high-priority or frequently accessed information nearer the top level of the hierarchy to streamline access.
  6. Example-Based Hierarchy: For instance, under "Policies & Procedures," further divisions might include "HR Policies," "IT Guidelines," or "Financial Procedures.

5. Regularly Update the Knowledge Base

To sustain the efficacy of your internal knowledge base, it's pivotal to evolve cautiously, adapting to emerging trends while ensuring accuracy and relevance. Consistent updates are vital to reflect the dynamic nature of your organization's developments.

  1. Scheduled Review Cycles: Establish regular review cycles for content verification. Assign responsible individuals or teams to oversee these cycles, ensuring content remains up-to-date.
  2. Content Verification Process: Implement a systematic process for content verification. Verify the accuracy of information, update outdated content, and remove obsolete or redundant data.
  3. Incorporating New Information: Include procedures to add new information promptly. For instance, after implementing a new process or policy, ensure it's documented and available in the knowledge base.
  4. Version Control Mechanism: Maintain version control for documents or guidelines. Clearly label updated versions and archive older ones to prevent confusion among users.
  5. User Contribution Channels: Encourage employees to contribute by providing feedback or submitting updates. Establish user-friendly channels or platforms for content suggestions, ensuring a collaborative approach to updates.
  6. Utilize Analytics for Insights: Analyze user engagement and content performance metrics. Identify less accessed or outdated sections to prioritize updates and enhancements.
  7. Training and Communication: Conduct periodic training sessions or communications to emphasize the importance of regular updates. Encourage a culture of knowledge sharing and continuous improvement.
  8. Compliance and Regulatory Updates: Keep abreast of industry changes, compliance regulations, or legal requirements. Ensure your internal knowledge base reflects any necessary updates in these areas.

6. Track and Monitor

Continuous tracking and monitoring of your internal knowledge base's performance and employee engagement are imperative for its optimization and ongoing enhancement. Start by tracking user engagement metrics, such as page views, search queries, time spent on pages, and feedback. Analyzing these metrics unveils popular content areas and spots needing improvement. Concurrently, focus on content performance analysis to identify high-performing content for replication strategies and enhancement of less-engaged materials based on user behavior patterns. Leveraging usage analytics tools aids in understanding employee interactions, allowing tailored adjustments to meet user preferences.

7. Encourage Feedback

Fostering an environment that actively seeks and values user feedback is crucial for optimizing your internal knowledge base. Start by establishing channels facilitating easy and frequent feedback submission encouraging employees to share their thoughts, suggestions, and concerns. Emphasize the importance of feedback in enhancing the knowledge base's usability and relevance. Employ various feedback mechanisms such as surveys, suggestion boxes, or dedicated forums to cater to diverse preferences.

Actively engage with the feedback received, acknowledging submissions, addressing concerns, and implementing feasible suggestions. Cultivate a culture that appreciates and acts upon user insights, demonstrating that their input contributes to meaningful improvements. Additionally, it provides clear communication on the outcomes of feedback implementation, ensuring transparency and showcasing the impact of user contributions.

By consistently encouraging and acting upon feedback, your organization enhances the knowledge base and reinforces a collaborative, user-centric culture that values continuous improvement.

Empower Productivity: Video-Based Internal Knowledge Made Simple with WowTo

Enhancing productivity through an internal knowledge base is a game-changer in today's fast-paced work environment. By systematically storing, categorizing, and organizing diverse information, you ensure that your employees no longer spend valuable time hunting for answers or making assumptions. This translates into heightened productivity and a workforce that's well-informed and empowered.

Starting with the basics is key for newcomers to this concept. Begin by structuring fundamental information and gradually expand upon it. As the knowledge base grows, so does its value in supporting employees across various tasks and challenges.

To create an engaging internal knowledge base, incorporating video-based content is a game changer. Videos not only capture attention but also offer an immersive learning experience. Enter WowTo – the ideal tool for constructing these informative videos effortlessly, even for those without technical expertise. WowTo empowers you to build engaging video content that simplifies complex concepts and guides employees effectively, thereby enriching your internal knowledge base and elevating your team's performance.

Build your internal knowledge base today!