More and more companies are investing in first-rate knowledge bases for their customers, but not as many recognize the immense value of creating internal knowledge bases for their own employees.
With the growing movement to place equal importance on both the employee experience and the customer experience, this is slowly changing. A high-quality internal knowledge base – made up of knowledge base articles that consistently adhere to the highest standards – goes a long way to maximize employee effectiveness, reduce the duplication of work, and increase productivity across the organization.
But to get the benefits of an internal knowledge base, you have to do it right. Every article should not only be informative, accurate, and up to date, but also crystal clear, engaging, and tailored to your employees’ unique needs.
What is an internal knowledge base and why should you have one?
A knowledge base centralizes all the different types of knowledge that exist across your organization – from files and documents to conversations and lived experience – in a single, easy-to-navigate, searchable place. It allows employees to find, share, and interact with information that’s essential to their daily work.
In our on-demand society, instant access to information is the norm. Few people are willing to make time-consuming phone calls or write emails to get what they need. A Forrester survey found 67% of consumers use web self-service to find answers to their questions. Why wouldn’t employees expect the same self-service model at work?
A knowledge base should be part of your overarching strategy to optimize knowledge management, which can enable your company to curate, store, and disseminate the wealth of information that often gets trapped in emails, information siloes, or tribal knowledge that gets lost when employees leave. Knowledge management software solutions can address common business challenges such as onboarding, brand governance, and policy management.
For organizations with extensive policies and operating procedures, delivering articles stored in a wiki creates a searchable digital storehouse. Instead of spending up to one-fifth of the average week searching for information, as reported in a McKinsey survey, employees can apply the extra time gained to drive more value for the organization.
Start with structure: Knowledge base article templates
No matter how thorough and accurate the information is in your knowledge base, it will lose credibility if the articles are written in different formats and styles. It looks sloppy and reduces readability and engagement.
Establish a style guide for your organization that covers preferred spellings and basic grammar as well as visual presentation for knowledge base articles, including fonts, type size, colors, and images. Then create a knowledge base article template to guide the structure. That way, every article will look and read the same way. A strong internal style guide is also a component of brand management.
Your template should follow these essential guidelines:
- Start with the most important information (usually the problem or topic)
- Provide the definition or actionable steps in chronological order
- Put the simplest steps first If there’s no chronological order
- Include FAQs and/or related articles
The Igloo customer knowledge base offers a good example of this formula. Almost every article follows this structure:
- What is it?
- Use cases and/or features and functionality
- “How to” instructions
- FAQs and/or tips and tricks
Knowledge base examples:
8 ways to create stellar knowledge base articles
Once you have a consistent layout and presentation nailed down, it’s time to write. A knowledge base is only as strong as its articles, and with these strategies you can start improving your existing knowledge base or build a great one from the ground up.
1. Know your audience
Write articles based on the pain points and commonly asked questions of your key audience. Consider how they work and what they need to know to accomplish their goals. It may seem labor intensive to write articles for every issue that pops up repeatedly, but it will save time and money in the long term. The content in an IT help desk is a perfect example of knowledge base articles that help users help themselves.
2. Choose simple article titles
When in doubt, consider which search terms employees would use for a topic. In other words, go for clarity over creativity. Use action words (such as “How to,” “Using,” and “Setting up”) or simply the name (such as “Vacation Policies” or “Logos”).
3. Keep it concise
The last thing a knowledge base article should do is unnecessarily interrupt workflows, so get to the point fast and say it in plain language. Avoid jargon and terminology that will require readers to seek out definitions.
4. Make it scannable
Employees should never confront a wall of text in a knowledge base article. Break it up with plenty of subheads, bulleted/numbered lists, callouts, and white space. If it’s a longer article, consider including a quick table of contents.
5. Use relevant visuals
Show, don’t tell, whenever possible. Screenshots (especially for how-to steps), infographics, charts, and images can replace text and accelerate a reader’s comprehension of the topic. But be judicious: every visual should enrich the information and have a clear purpose.
6. Add links
The right links in the right place can enhance a knowledge base article and lead users to a deeper or broader understanding. Ensure the information in every link is up to date, accessible to your audience, and directly relevant to the topic.
7. Incorporate feedback
Create a feedback loop by building in opportunities for users to leave comments or contribute their own insight to knowledge base articles. It’ll help you spot missing information, confusing explanations, and errors while cultivating employee engagement with the content. You’ll need to identify employees with specific expertise to act as gatekeepers for this interactivity.
8. Leverage metadata
Tagging systems can help improve article findability in search experiences. Think of tagging as a hidden navigation or site architecture that directly supports the contextual clustering of content. Tagging content helps the employee filter the context of their search results, which further expedites access to the correct information. Consider what terms or phrases employees might input when looking for your article. Maintaining and surfacing fields like “created date” and “author” can also help indicate relevancy and a point of contact, respectively.
A digital destination for knowledge management
At Igloo we’re genuinely passionate about knowledge management and are constantly experimenting to find the best ways to improve access to the right information at the right time, for all employees in every function. In fact, Igloo was recently named to KMWorld’s annual ranking of the 100 companies making a difference in knowledge management in North America – for the ninth consecutive time.
At our core, we help solve business challenges by connecting people to the tools and information they need to achieve the highest levels of productivity. With the sheer amount of information passing through internal channels in today’s digital workplace, it’s more important than ever to leverage and consolidate tools that store and strategically surface your company’s collective knowledge in one central location.
Learn more about our industry-leading knowledge management solutions.