Small Business Owners: Be Sure to Document Your Employees’ Valuable Knowledge
One of the most impactful improvements an SMB owner can make to the process of running their business is to develop a knowledge base, which is a company-wide resource that documents the nuts and bolts of running your business, including details on each employee’s responsibilities.
Documenting all your processes and procedures improves the efficiency of training and project management by providing employees with formal written instructions on how tasks and procedures should be performed. It also clarifies who is charge of which functions at your company. A knowledge base can help employees become more self-reliant and find the information they need to complete a project, especially when it involves other departments.
Read on to see how you can easily get a knowledge base up and running for your employees and start improving the efficiency of your business operations.
Knowledge base 101
A knowledge base documents all of your employees’ knowledge about their roles and duties, every department’s essential processes and procedures, and each person’s topic expertise (what makes them good at their job). A knowledge base is composed of numerous written documents grouped into the categories that make the most sense for your business (for example, marketing, sales, customer service, etc.). It should essentially amount to written instructions for how your business runs. If an employee is absent, another employee should be able to complete their crucial functions by following instructions from that employee’s knowledge base documentation.
Almost as important as the documentation of the knowledge itself is making it accessible to all employees. Storing your knowledge base in the cloud ensures that employees can access the content whenever they need it, and it also ensures that everyone is reading the most up-to-date information. (But be sure to protect your proprietary information by making sure your knowledge base articles are secure and not accessible by the public.)
To get started with your company’s knowledge base, ask each employee to document in detail all the essential knowledge they have that relates to their job duties. They should also include their general knowledge or expertise in various topic areas; for example, your digital services manager might note that they have expertise in website design, website building, SEO, sign-up forms, ISP addresses, domain name hosting, or any other skill they might possess.
Listing each person’s areas of expertise will help other employees search the knowledge base for the appropriate person to direct questions to if a problem arises later on, such as the website going down or your company’s domain name expiring.
Each person in your company should document
- What company functions they handle or are in charge of
- What software, procedures, and tasks are needed for each function
- What general topic expertise they possess, both career-wise and within your company
- Whom else they work with and in what capacity (these pages will be linked together later)
- “How to” articles for any process or procedure their department is responsible for, such as reporting expenses, requesting vacation days, or sending out RFPs
Key to success: accessibility
The key to getting employees to use your knowledge base to improve job training and efficiently complete projects is to make it easily accessible and searchable. Individual articles on procedures or job responsibilities should be linked to related content. For example, the knowledge article about how to file an expense report should be linked to the article that notes who approves expense reports, so a new employee would know whom to direct any expense-related question to. The article on filing an expense report should also link to your company’s expense policy so employees can easily retrieve that information. Employees should be able to access the most up-to-date content at a moment’s notice, at home, or on the go.