By May 2020, Twitter made a bold decision by telling its remote workers that they could telecommute permanently. While your company may not be in a position to do likewise, you have likely begun to experiment with remote working recently due to pandemic-related shelter-in-place regulations. And until the threat of COVID-19 completely passes, at least some of your employees, some of the time, will measure their commutes by rooms walked instead of miles driven.
In this environment where teams are scattered, knowledge management is more critical than ever before. After all, if everyone can’t access the composite knowledge of the company, the company may suffer from anything from disappointing employee engagement levels to lowered reputation among customers. However, instituting improved knowledge management requires that you not only understand why it’s important, but put measures in place to make it happen.
Taking a 30,000-foot view of knowledge management
At its very heart, knowledge management involves putting all your organization’s brainpower and need-to-know items in a repository. As you can imagine, if any worker could find answers at their fingertips, they would instantly gain power. Plus, your time—and the time of other executives and managers—could be spent solving high-level issues, planning for next quarter, or bringing in potential clients.
How, then, do you get to a point of knowledge management across your workforce? First, you’ll want to invest in cloud-based software and a secure portal to protect the integrity and privacy of your comprehensive knowledge. Next, you’ll need to train personnel on how to best use their knowledge management platforms. You can start by helping team members understand the many ways they should utilize your new tool, whether they’re working from home or sitting in the office.
1. Teach staff to add all assets to the centralized database.
You can’t get to the point of having efficient knowledge management if workers hoard their information or refuse to save it in one location. Explain to your crew that they’ll need to begin transferring data they once kept to themselves into the knowledge management platform. This could mean writing sales notes in client files or even uploading itemized inventory bills into the database.
Making this type of behavior mandatory is essential. Otherwise, you’ll never reach the point of having people go to your knowledge management system before getting in touch with each other.
2. Keep sending employees to the knowledge management repository.
When a worker comes to you with a question that you know can be answered through your knowledge management portal, send them to the portal. Even if you have a response, your job is to urge personnel to start finding information on their own.
Of course, your worker may return empty-handed. In that case, you can look at the knowledge management system together. After all, the employee could have overlooked something. If neither of you can find the solution, you can figure it out offline. Then, you can put it into the knowledge management database so others have access to it.
3. Give customers access to a part of your knowledge management system.
A robust knowledge management portal will allow you to give limited access to anyone to certain facts and figures. Extend the option beyond workers to customers. As research from a Nuance survey indicates, 67% of people would choose self-service over speaking with a corporate representative.
Therefore, enable buyers to look up the last products they purchased, how much they paid, and what type of payment they have on file. Give them the ability to troubleshoot without necessitating a chat or initiating a phone call. Obviously, you’ll want to be careful and not allow your customers to gain too much insight. Nevertheless, empowering them can yield attractive and lucrative results.
4. Onboard and train all new hires to use the knowledge management process.
Once you have knowledge management protocols established among remote and in-house team members, make those protocols a priority in your job hiring onboarding procedures. For example, you may want to put training materials into a section of your knowledge management repository. That way, trainees will have to interact with the repository from day one.
You can also use your training materials to re-train workers if they start to fall back into old habits. Sometimes, employees may have a tendency to revert to behaviors that worked before. Gently but firmly explain the importance of the knowledge management system you’ve chosen for your company. Then, direct them to read through materials, watch videos, or take tests to emphasize that your knowledge management tool isn’t going anywhere.
5. Use the knowledge management portal for all essential communications.
Does marketing send out a monthly update? Have you launched a CEO weekly video series since all the telecommuting during the pandemic began? Utilize your knowledge management system as an internal distribution system. Instead of sending employees emails, simply put all messaging in the knowledge management portal or use one that integrates well with communication tools like Slack.
In time, your colleagues will naturally follow suit and begin to intuitively do likewise. When your workforce gets to that point, you’ll recognize that you’ve succeeded in making sure everyone has fewer barriers to do their best work.
You may not work side-by-side with your colleagues for a few more weeks, months, or perhaps ever. Consequently, you need an effective way to keep everyone on the same page and share the experience that everyone brings to the table. Investing in knowledge management will provide peace of mind, not to mention reduce problems and waste. And no one will ever complain that they feel left out because they’re working from a dining room table rather than a workstation.