Getting Started with Knowledge Management

I’m often asked in implementations the best way to start moving tribal knowledge and expertise into a living repository. What are the steps that need to be taken, and how long should the project last? This is a tough question for anyone working in an HR Shared Services team, where that information is important.  HR Help Desk Knowledge Management is generally handled on an ongoing basis, not as an individual project, though you have to start somewhere. If you are building your HR Service Delivery strategy around collaboration and knowledge sharing, this will be an important element. With that in mind, here would be my suggested approach from a process perspective. I’m excluding thoughts on timing, since that may vary based on your situation. You are better off moving at the pace that is right for your team.


Take Stock

Create a complete inventory of the existing documentation and where it lives. This should include the HR-facing and the Employee-facing content, including Intranet pages, policies, FAQs, photos/images, videos, process documents, handbooks and flyers.


Categorize the Content

The first major division should be internal and external. Which items should be displayed to an employee accessing the content through self service, and which should only be shown to HR? (By the way, if your knowledge management system doesn’t allow you to make a distinction between the two? You have a bad system.) Once you have that taken care of, it is time to create your search categories. Not all content applies to all employees, so setting up your context filters now will help make sure they are seeing the right content. For example, you may need to show different benefits packages by country, bargaining unit or employee type. Another option is to create language filters so employees see the information in their primary language choice. (By the way, if your knowledge management system doesn’t allow you to filter content like this? You have a bad system.) Finally, decide which content should be displayed as text, which as links, which as attachments, and which using a combination. You should make sure the information is being provided in the right way to get an answer quickly, but still be thorough and complete. (By the way, if your knowledge management system doesn’t allow you to share content in different ways?  Well….you know…)


Upload and Share

If your content has been well organized, this should be the simple part of the process. Getting information posted should be a painless activity, even for numerous items. With either a mass upload or individual item setup, you should be able to create/modify/share your content with minimal effort.

The best content, of course, is that which is easy to read and absorb. My rule of thumb is that someone looking for an answer should be able to get in and out in under a minute. That means you may need to break a policy into several smaller items for posting, with each one covering a specific aspect. In general, policies are made to document, not to be read. Your knowledge items should be built with the reader in mind.

Another factor to consider at this point is maintenance. If you publish a policy in the text of an item, what happens when the policy is updated? Will you remember to update the knowledge item as well? Or are you better off linking to the primary policy document so it stays current? Will the policy text become the official version? There are many ways to approach the question, so you’ll want to make sure you’ve thought through your management plan.


Ongoing Additions

Knowledge is not meant to be static. Questions, answers and conditions change over time based on policy, law or environment.  Make sure you know who is the owner of your system and its contents. Watch the HR calendar for upcoming events that will drive questions (such as open enrollment) and create content in advance to handle the workload. Watch your HR case management system for case type trends, and create content to help answer those questions before they reach the team. Finally, consider a regular review of the system content to make sure you are up to date and accurate with the information you are sharing with your teams.


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