Here is your practical guide to creating an internal knowledge base that your employees will value and use.
Table of contents
- Internal Knowledge Base Definition
- Why Your Business Needs an Internal Knowledge Base
- Nine Benefits of an Internal Knowledge Base
- How To Choose the Right Internal Knowledge Base Software
- Where Does My Internal Knowledge Base Live?
- What Should My Internal Knowledge Base Include?
- How To Write an Internal Knowledge Base Article in 8 Steps
Employees need solutions to problems fast.
An internal knowledge base, correctly set up and managed, can quickly deliver the precise answers workers need to reduce frustration and boost productivity. Internal knowledge bases eliminate hours spent sifting through old emails and obscure articles for information.
This practical guide on how to create an internal knowledge base will get yours up and running quickly. Your employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and productivity can all improve dramatically.
Internal Knowledge Base Definition
An internal knowledge base is a single source of truth collected in a central information hub accessible by an organization’s members.
The knowledge base’s digital library enables storing, maintaining, and sharing documentation that’s instantly available for employees to solve their problems and find answers to customer inquiries.
Your internal knowledge base needs to be comprehensive, yet user-friendly and easy to navigate. Employees must be empowered to quickly find the precise information they need, minimizing search time.
Customers don’t want to wait for answers, and employees, too, can become frustrated if they have to ask busy colleagues for help or dig for solutions to problems so they can complete a task.
Why Your Business Needs an Internal Knowledge Base
Employee frustration, low retention rates, lost time, lost productivity, delayed projects, compromised bottom line — there’s nearly no end to the list of painful issues resulting from internal information being scattered about, lost, or inaccessible.
These statistics from a joint Panopto/YouGov study speak for themselves:
- Employees wait 5.3 hours a week for information, which causes project delays. Two-thirds of those delays will last up a week.
- 60% of employees say getting answers from colleagues is difficult or impossible.
- 81% of employees experience frustration when they can’t get the information needed to perform their work efficiently.
There are several reasons why the information employees need to perform their roles effectively may not be readily available.
Your Organization Is Growing Fast
As as business grows, so does its complexity. Information and best practices become scattered or fragmented. Employees spend what would otherwise be productive time tracking down internal information or hunting for a helpful colleague.
There’s No Single Source of Truth
Employees cannot act cohesively when processes and best practices are not uniform or they encounter outdated or inconsistent information from different sources. Having no single source of truth results in different employees presenting different answers to external parties, creating a poor brand image.
Training and Onboarding Processes Are Not Standardized
To create a cohesive company culture, all new employees should experience standard training and onboarding processes. After general training, they can receive department-specific modules. It helps to have all of your learning and development materials stored in a central library.
Collaboration Is Challenging
Information barriers between teams obstruct knowledge sharing and productive collaboration. The rise of remote work has increased the difficulties. Although some information may need to be restricted, an internal knowledge base can have permission levels while making commonly used data accessible to everyone.
An internal knowledge base can solve these knowledge management challenges and benefit your business.
Nine Benefits of an Internal Knowledge Base
“Using social tools to enhance communications, knowledge sharing, and collaboration within and across enterprises… companies have an opportunity to raise the productivity of interaction workers — high-skill knowledge workers, including managers and professionals — by 20% to 25%.”McKinsey Global Institute
Internal knowledge bases facilitate communications, knowledge sharing, and collaboration — the exact benefits McKinsey singled out to measure. The multi-use nature of internal knowledge bases spreads the benefits throughout your entire organization.
A well-designed and maintained internal knowledge base will improve many areas of your business, all of which translate into a better bottom line because employee productivity increases while wasted efforts decrease. Here are nine benefits you can enjoy when you use an internal knowledge base:
1. Enhance Collaboration and Communication
You foster a culture of sharing, learning, and feedback when you facilitate the transfer of knowledge and expertise across teams and departments. Enabling employees to contribute, add, and edit to improve knowledge base content empowers them and increases employee engagement. The knowledge base can also help avoid duplication and inconsistency in information across the organization.
Read more about How to Create & Execute a Successful Knowledge Transfer Plan
2. Improve Efficiency and Productivity
An internal knowledge base helps employees find answers quickly and easily without relying on other sources or colleagues. They can save time and reduce errors and frustration. Employees can also learn new skills and improve their performance independently. As a result, you’ll see engagement and retention improve.
3. Document Processes
Documenting the standard operating procedures and workflows for tasks and projects in a single source of truth ensures consistency and quality across your company. When employees have clear, detailed descriptions of how to perform a task or activity, they can:
- Become self-learners
- Reduce errors, inconsistencies, and waste
- Understand roles, responsibilities, and expectations
- Adhere to policies, regulations, and best practices
- Continually improve and innovate through feedback, evaluation, and optimization of processes
4. Boost Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty
With an internal knowledge base, the quality and consistency of the service or product that you provide to customers improves. Your support team members can provide better customer service when they can easily access the information needed to resolve issues faster and more effectively and anticipate customer needs and expectations.
Your business builds customer trust and credibility because they experience your knowledgeability and professionalism.
5. Provide Relevant and Up-To-Date Information
Information changes fast. New document versions need to be available organization-wide to keep up with new products and changes in various topics like:
- Best practices
Internal knowledge bases assist you with keeping track of the latest changes and updates in regulations and compliance requirements. You’ll be better positioned to inform employees of their rights and responsibilities and thereby remove sources of confusion and potential disputes.
🧠 Did You Know?
With Connecteam’s Updates feature, you can quickly send out engaging updates to your entire staff to let them know a certain piece of critical information was updated. You’ll know exactly who read the update and send a reminder to those who haven’t.
6. Support Remote Work
Because remote workers don’t have face-to-face contact with coworkers, they may gain unique benefits from an internal knowledge base. They can reduce communication gaps and enjoy enhanced teamwork easier when they can access the same information and resources as onsite colleagues.
Your remote employees can get feedback and recognition for their expertise and insights as the knowledge base captures and enables sharing of their tacit knowledge, which would be lost when they leave the organization or change roles. Remote workers will feel more connected and involved with their team and organization by contributing to and learning from the knowledge base, increasing employee participation and reducing turnover.
7. Preserve Organizational Knowledge
It’s easy to lose hard-won wisdom when it’s scattered across departments, buried in old emails, and hidden in unorganized repositories. You can prevent knowledge loss by documenting best practices, policies, procedures, and lessons learned in your internal knowledge base.
8. Improve and Streamline Onboarding
All new employees, even experienced ones, need an orientation and employee onboarding process in place. You can seamlessly incorporate new hires into your company culture using an internal knowledge base. Newbies will get up and running faster with a comprehensive, adaptable, and consistent training program covering company values, policies, procedures, and expectations.
Your HR team will avoid the hassle of sending repetitive emails to each hire, and newcomers can access the necessary onboarding information at their own pace.
💡 Pro Tip:
A well-integrated dedicated onboarding app will significantly reduce the time it takes to get new hires up and running. Employee employee training software like Connecteam comes with a powerful admin dashboard, so monitoring app activity and training progress is a no-brainer.
9. Reduce Customer Service and Support Team Workloads
Finding the correct information fast to answer questions correctly reduces repetitive queries from employees or customers. Employee productivity increases because they spend less time searching for solutions and answering repetitive questions. Each team member can serve more people and focus on the more complex and challenging cases.
How To Choose the Right Internal Knowledge Base Software
Get Set Up for Success
These preliminary actions will make your internal knowledge base project go faster and run more smoothly:
- Project team: Assemble a project team with at least one member from each company department.
- Poll users: Implementing your knowledge base software should be easy if you choose an application your entire company is comfortable with. Polling managers and employees about their needs will help you select a knowledge management tool that will make everyone more likely to use your internal knowledge base.
- Budget: You must budget for software, hardware, cloud support, and setup and maintenance costs.
- Timeline: Who will be responsible for doing what and when? You may need project management software to track progress.
💡 Pro Tip:
Using an internal knowledge base team to help select, set up, and manage your software will spread the workload, give you access to fresh insights, and help everyone get the software they need.
Choose the Right Internal Knowledge Base Software
Knowledge base tools come in different packages and price points. There are critical factors to consider to find the right one that fits your organizational needs.
- Intuitive or familiar interface: You’ll get easier employee acceptance, higher usage rates, and faster interactions with a user-friendly interface.
- Excellent search engine: Useful features include multiple keyword and keyphrase searches, search suggestions, and contextual learning.
- Labeling and classification: Are tags, internal links, and related content suggestions supported?
- Multimedia: Does it support audio and video clips?
- Collaboration: Highlight, comment, edit, share, and send are useful for collaboration.
- Document upload: Do you need to scan documents straight into the knowledge base or use bulk uploads?
- Rollback: Does it save previous versions?
- Integrations: Does it integrate easily with the applications you’re currently using?
- Scalability: How challenging and expensive is it to scale with evolving needs?
- Security features: What security features do you need?
- Accessibility levels: Do you need to limit accessibility for some content?
After selecting the best internal knowledge base software for your needs, you must decide where it will live.
Where Does My Internal Knowledge Base Live?
💡 Pro Tip:
Consider your organization’s current size, expected growth, and budget as you decide on software deployment.
Three Deployment Options
You have three main options for deploying your internal knowledge base software: onsite, cloud, and hybrid.
- Onsite means installing the software on your own servers and managing it internally.
- Cloud means using a third-party storage provider like Google Cloud, OneDrive, or Amazon to host the software and access it via the internet.
- Hybrid means the software uses a combination of on-premise and cloud-based solutions. You can have the best of onsite and cloud deployment, but you add complexity and cost.
Five Crucial Considerations
Both onsite and cloud options have advantages and disadvantages depending on your needs, budget, and preferences. Five factors to consider when choosing between onsite and cloud deployment are:
- Cost: Onsite internal knowledge bases usually have higher upfront costs for hardware, installation, and maintenance but lower ongoing subscription fees and updates. Cloud deployment usually has lower upfront costs but higher costs for fees and updates.
- Security: Onsite deployment gives your organization more control over the security of your data and regulation compliance, but it also requires more resources and expertise to maintain. Cloud deployment relies on the provider’s security measures and compliance standards. These may vary between providers and the service level agreement.
- Scalability: Onsite deployment may require upgrades in storage capacity and server performance as you grow. Cloud deployment offers instant flexibility and scalability because the provider can adjust the resources according to your demand and usage.
- Customization: Onsite deployment allows you to customize the software according to your specific needs and preferences. However, your team will require more technical skills and support. In comparison, cloud deployment offers fewer customization options, standard features, and integrations with other applications.
- Reliability: Onsite deployment relies on your infrastructure and backup systems, which you’ll need to protect from power outages, natural disasters, and human errors. If you host your knowledge base in the cloud, your provider is responsible for troubleshooting your shared environment’s network issues, service disruptions, and cyberattacks.
After you’ve deployed your internal knowledge base software, you’re ready to add content.
What Should My Internal Knowledge Base Include?
Because knowledge base content contains proprietary company information, your knowledge base may require access and permission safeguards for departments or teams to guarantee security.
This is where having a member of each department on your project team becomes particularly valuable because they’ll know what content their department needs.
General Company Information
All employees need access to relevant and helpful information like:
- Core principles that guide your organization’s culture, goals, and decisions. Understanding your mission, vision, and values helps employees coordinate their efforts with the purpose and direction of your business.
- Organizational structure and roles: knowing the hierarchy and division of company responsibilities enables employees to know whom to report to, collaborate with, and contact for specific issues or tasks.
- Policies and procedures are the rules and guidelines that govern company operations, like attendance, dress code, performance evaluation, code of conduct, and more.
- Employee benefits and perks like health insurance, retirement plan, vacation days, and performance bonuses motivate employees by showing that you appreciate the value of their work.
- Training and development resources and opportunities are critical benefits your company can provide to boost employee engagement. Workers want to enhance their skills, knowledge, and career growth to improve their performance and productivity.
- Company reports: access to annual or quarterly reports, sales forecasts, and ESG reports is helpful for many uses.
Some teams may need department-based content specific to their activities.
All employees will benefit from easy access to your important HR initiatives, including:
- Policies and procedures for hiring, training, evaluation, and termination
- Onboarding modules for new hires containing general company information and role-specific training and familiarization
- Benefits and compensation packages for different levels of seniority and roles
- Employee code of conduct and ethical standards
- Supported diversity and inclusion initiatives and programs
- Health and safety regulations and guidelines
- Available wellness activities and resources
- Contact details and roles of the HR staff and managers
- Feedback and grievance mechanisms they can use to voice their concerns or complaints
Setting out clear guidance for your marketing team will help build consistent brand messaging and a unique brand image across all company activities. You may benefit from:
- Clearly stating your company’s mission, vision, values, and goals
- Describing your target market, customer personas, buyer journey, and value proposition
- Keeping an updated, comprehensive list of products or services, including their features, benefits, pricing, and competitive advantages
- Your best case studies, testimonials, reviews, and success stories
- Your brand’s assets like logos, fonts, colors, images, videos, infographics, and templates
- A repository of past marketing campaigns, strategies, plans, budgets, metrics, and reports
- Your marketing guidelines, policies, procedures, and best practices for creating and distributing content
- A directory of your business’s marketing tools, platforms, channels, partners, and resources
Your sales teams will likely want access to:
- A sales playbook outlining best practices, processes, and strategies for each stage of the customer journey
- A product or service catalog
- FAQs that answer common questions and objections from prospects
- Proposal templates to create customized and compelling proposals
- Presentation deck for engaging and persuasive presentations
- Contract templates to finalize deals and close sales quickly
Customer Service Team Content
Your customer service team needs to know how to respond and find answers fast. These knowledge base resources will help:
- Glossary of terms and acronyms
- Best practices and tips for handling common customer issues
- Documents, templates, scripts, and other resources
- Feedback mechanism to suggest knowledge base improvements and report errors or gaps
Your legal team may receive many repetitive questions and document requests. A legal FAQ section and document templates will reduce their workload and speed processes.
Media and Press Files
Your business should present a consistent voice to the outside world. Having templates and standard answers for press releases, contact lists, and press images will help ensure a consistent brand message across all channels.
Although video and audio can be useful, most of the content in your internal knowledge base will be in text format because it’s searchable, skimmable, and easy to consume.
How To Write an Internal Knowledge Base Article in 8 Steps
As you build out your internal knowledge base, you’ll likely include different content types like video, audio, and slide decks. Optimized content such as FAQs, how-tos, and step-by-step articles are particularly useful because search engines (and, therefore, your employees) can parse text to find information quickly.
Internal knowledge base articles need to deliver specific information clearly and concisely. The article should be easy to find using keywords and skimmable so the reader can go directly to the information they need.
Consider using these steps to create a helpful internal knowledge base article:
1. Determine the Problem the Article Solves
Employees turn to knowledge bases when they have a problem they need to solve or a question they need to answer. Keep this top of mind as you build out your resources. Stick to solving a single problem in each article, both to optimize it for searches and to simplify the content creation process.
2. Identify Your Audience
Are you writing for customer support, new hires, or seasoned C-suite executives? Each of these audiences will have different levels of understanding about your topic and may need a different tone and approach.
3. Research Your Topic
You may be an expert on the topic, but getting other points of view can spark new ideas. You can examine existing sources like manuals, reports, websites, or other internal documents to determine what existing knowledge is currently available. For greater insight and a new perspective, it helps to interview subject matter experts.
You may also want to consider surveying your employees to better understand their knowledge gaps. Use this information to drive your response.
4. Choose the Best Article Structure
Organize your information into a clear and logical structure. The type of problem you’re solving and the audience’s preferred method of receiving the information will determine the best format and structure.
Headings and subheadings containing keyword phrases make the article skimmable so that search and the reader can go directly to the section containing the needed information.
Use summaries or highlights to emphasize the main points. Bullet points, numbered lists, tables, charts, or diagrams all help present the information in a way that is easy to follow and understand.
5. Write Clearly
Use short, concise sentences organized in a logical way that guides the reader through solving the problem.
Avoid jargon, slang, or acronyms that may confuse or alienate your readers. You should also use an active voice, a positive tone, and consistent tense and style throughout the article.
6. Edit Thoroughly
If time permits, it helps to step back from your article before you edit it. If you wait a day before returning to your work, it will be easier to spot changes you need to make to improve flow and understanding. Edit for clarity, accuracy, and completeness. Ensure the information is relevant, up-to-date, and consistent with other internal documents.
Be sure you eliminate all spelling, grammar, punctuation, and formatting errors because they make your writing less believable. Asking another person to proofread or using Grammarly can help spot mistakes.
7. Publish Your Masterpiece
Before you hit that “Publish” button, be sure to do a last read-through for errors because it’s common for formatting mistakes to appear after copying and pasting.
8. Inform Your Audience
You can use internal messaging, email, chat, or social media to notify and invite your readers to access the article. It’s particularly critical to inform employees of changes to regulations, policies, or procedures affecting their work.
A robust internal knowledge base can be critical to your company’s performance, bringing teams together to work toward common goals using proven procedures.
Not only will your staff be able to find real-time answers, but your knowledge base will also guide future growth and direction by giving employees a place to share knowledge, feedback, and ideas.