Big US businesses lose $47M in productivity each year due to poor knowledge management. And while small businesses don’t lose nearly as much, their loss is a higher percentage of their already tight margins.
That’s because workers waste roughly 5.3 hours every week searching for the information they need to do their job. And when they can’t find the information, they take their best guess (which often leads to costly mistakes).
But by putting everything your team needs to know in one place (AKA managing your company knowledge), you can increase productivity – and stop losing money. Here’s how:
👉 Spoiler: Trusted by thousands of growing businesses in 170+ countries, Trainual is the top-rated knowledge management tool for remote teams. Try for free.
What is knowledge management?
Knowledge management is simply a way to organize your company’s knowledge by putting it in one central place (AKA a knowledge management system or knowledge base). That way, everyone on your team can easily access it.
Every day, you and your teammates generate tons of knowledge – everything from facts and data to on-the-job experience and intuition. You learn new things, put them into practice, and maybe Slack some hot tips to a teammate. But unless you collect all the knowledge somewhere, you’re going to lose it. That’s where your knowledge management tool comes in.
Your knowledge management tool helps you collect and store all the key information needed to run your business. Meaning, it gives you a quick snapshot of what you know and what you need to know. And keeps your best plays and practices from walking out the door when someone offboards.
And don’t worry – you won’t have to write a binder-sized manual to make this happen. Not only are those OG binders somewhat unwieldy to get through, but they also contain only static info (AKA quickly outdated info). Meaning, they’re a useless long-term knowledge management solution.
And they pretty much go against everything knowledge management is about: collecting, organizing, and sharing your living, breathing day-to-day of your company. This includes the processes and procedures that your company currently uses. Plus, any related personal experience, historical context, and insights that might be helpful.
So, the best way to manage your company’s knowledge is to go digital (call us biased – but we love Trainual for this). That way, you and your team can drop what you know into the knowledge base at any time. And anyone on your team can access it when they need it.
Benefits of knowledge management
Perhaps the most obvious benefit of knowledge management is that it keeps you from wasting time hunting for info or recreating the wheel. Which, in turn, saves you money!
But in addition to boosting your bottom line, it can be an asset to every job you have to do – from onboarding new hires to creating more productive teams. Here are the top benefits of knowledge management you’ll see:
- Better and faster decision-making. There’s nothing like unorganized information and knowledge gaps to slow you down. By organizing all your relevant information and resources in one place, knowledge management makes it easy to find the information you need. That way, everyone (from managers to key stakeholders) can make informed decisions faster.
- Faster onboarding and training. With everything documented, knowledge management ensures all your new hires are trained the same way. And that they have everything they need. This includes all the tools, templates, and techniques your company relies on. So, your team members get up to speed in a fraction of the time. And they come out of training ready to hit the ground running.
- More aligned and productive teams. When your company knowledge is accessible, it’s easy to get everyone aligned. Because they all have the same answers to run with. Meaning, everyone works toward the same goal with the same information, so there’s less room for mistakes or miscommunication.
- Keep knowledge in your company. People leave (it happens). And they can take a lot of your company experience and knowledge with them. But by documenting your company knowledge, your best plays don’t walk out the door when your top player leaves. And your team can easily take over their role until you find their replacement.
- Encourage continuous improvement. Creating a knowledge base does more than just streamline your operations. It also keeps your team leveling up. Because every time your team has a question or is curious about another part of the company, they can simply look it up. That way, they’re constantly learning more about your company, what you do, or how you do it – making them better contributors in the long run!
The different types of knowledge
When you’re building out your knowledge management system, there are 3 types of knowledge you’ll want to focus on:
- Explicit knowledge. Or the most basic form of knowledge. This is any information that is easy to write down, talk about, and share (think: spreadsheets, policies, and reports).
- Implicit knowledge. Such as any learned skills or know-how. If explicit knowledge is a book on making a sales call, implicit knowledge is actually dialing the phone and putting your best practices into play.
- Tacit knowledge. AKA knowledge gained from experience. Going back to the sales call example, this is where you apply the lessons you’ve learned – even if they’re not “by the book.”
In other words, explicit knowledge provides the context. Implicit knowledge explains how to put that context into practice. And tacit knowledge adds a layer of how your company does it differently (AKA your competitive edge).
And generally speaking, you need all 3 types of knowledge to really capture how your business operates. That way, anyone can look at what you have documented and put that knowledge into play.
👉 If you’re unsure of the best way to capture all of this knowledge, we got you covered! Grab the free step-by-step guide.
The 3 sides of knowledge management
Similar to how there are 3 types of knowledge, there are also 3 key parts to knowledge management: accumulating, documenting, and sharing. And together, each part ensures that you don’t just capture the knowledge but make it accessible.
1. Accumulating knowledge
Everyone on your team brings their own set of knowledge. Such as, the trick to close a sale to the historical context learned from 10 years on the job.
But if you’re like most companies, most of this knowledge is tribal knowledge. Meaning, it isn’t written down anywhere. Because of this, only a few people at your company know these things. Even though many people might benefit from knowing it too.
Without a knowledge management system, it’s easy to fall into the tribal knowledge trap where just a few veteran employees know everything. Meanwhile, your new hires seem to learn slowly (and haphazardly) over time.
An easy way to check if you fall into this trap is to think through this past week. How often did you learn something through an impromptu interaction, such as a Slack or check-in call? Or, did you teach someone else using these methods? If you said once or more, you’ve got a knowledge management problem.
That’s because not only is tribal knowledge not accessible, it’s not standardized.
So, there’s a risk of someone getting inconsistent information. Or worse, losing the knowledge altogether when someone walks out the door. Either way, you’ll end up wasting a lot of time figuring out your company’s existing best practices.
So, how do you capture all of that tribal knowledge? Well, you need to document it!
2. Documenting knowledge
Think of documenting your business like your insurance policy against your best knowledge walking out the door. It’s how you can jot down everyone’s best practices, standard operating procedures (SOPs), and historical context. So, all your company’s knowledge isn’t stuck in one person’s brain.
But, what exactly should you be documenting? As a general rule: if you use the knowledge repeatedly, document it! No exceptions.
By writing step-by-step procedures, anyone can learn how to run a certain process and step in when needed. And your added insights ensure they’ll deliver consistent results – even if it’s their first time doing it.
This is a huge win! Because when you’re growing a business, consistency is key. You want what you do (everything from employee training to customer touchpoints) to be the same experience every time. No matter who does it. This allows you to see what’s working, what’s not and fix any inefficiencies.
But before you start sighing over the slough of SOPs you now have to write, remember that documenting can happen in other forms, too. For example, you can record quick videos, audio, or screenshots to share the process!
What matters most is that you take what’s in your brain and get it into your knowledge management system. That way, your team’s collective knowledge is all in one place, and everyone can know the same things.
3. Sharing knowledge
There’s the old cliche that a rising tide lifts all boats. And it’s especially true when it comes to knowledge sharing.
Sharing helps keep everyone on the same page and growing together. And it can fast track how your teammates learn something that you had to figure out the hard way. Not to mention, make your workplace a lot more collaborative!
For example, maybe you just finished an employee development course and took super-detailed notes. Or a tool your business relies on just updated, and you had to pivot how you use it. Drop what you learned in your company’s Wiki (like Trainual). That way, what you learned over a few hours, someone else can learn in a few minutes.
Or, if you’re still trying to figure out which of your knowledge is tribal knowledge, try creating work discussion groups for employees in similar roles. Meaning, if you’re on the sales team, host a short weekly meeting where everyone shares a hot tip from the previous week.
You can also extend this to skills you’ve learned outside of work with a monthly, company-wide lunch. That way, you can share a passion or hobby that you’re a low-key expert at, like making sourdough bread or houseplant care 101.
🔥 Tip: With Trainual, you can share your company’s knowledge with your team in a click of a button. Plus, you can check if they actually understand it by building tests. That way, you can be sure your team is always aligned with your company’s best practices. Try for free.
Knowledge management best practices
To help you avoid a few common pitfalls when managing your knowledge, here are some best practices and principles to keep in mind:
- Be intentional about what you capture. There’s a ton of information within your company. And capturing all of it can feel overwhelming (we get it). So, start with your high-level business functions. AKA what are the processes and pillars your company couldn’t run without? Start there.
- Keep the knowledge accessible. Anyone in your organization – from new hire to senior manager – should understand your documentation. So, break down ideas into their smallest parts, avoid jargon, and use visuals (like screenshots and videos) to reinforce ideas.
- Make knowledge collection collaborative. Knowledge management isn’t just for your company leaders to impart their wisdom. It’s for everyone! So, appoint “knowledge champions” and hold those team members accountable for documenting their roles, responsibilities, and expertise.
- Continuously improve your knowledge. Your organizational knowledge is constantly evolving. So, the moment you stop improving your knowledge base is the moment your organization stops improving. So, create a routine cadence where your knowledge champions update their documentation.
- Keep it in a knowledge management system (like Trainual). That way, it’s all in one place. So, your team can find the answers they need in seconds. And you can easily update your company knowledge base when your processes or best practices change.