In recent months, remote work has become a requirement for many industries. This has impacted everyone from IT service desk employees to teachers, customer support agents, accountants, and anyone in-between. In positions where knowledge was traditionally shared verbally, the need for a more formal knowledge sharing strategy has widened.
Telework can be challenging, especially when the plan to go remote was made quickly and without much time to prepare. Teams may feel disconnected and it can seem that a lack of shared knowledge becomes a barrier to success. However, with a knowledge management strategy, your team can remain connected, coordinated, and functioning properly.
Knowledge management has various definitions. For example, in terms of the IT service management (ITSM) best practices (ITIL 4 Foundation Edition), knowledge management is defined as having the goal “… to maintain and improve the effective, efficient, and convenient use of information and knowledge across the organization.”
Knowledge management is also defined by Wikipedia as: “The process of creating, sharing, using and managing the knowledge and information of an organization. It refers to a multidisciplinary approach to achieving organizational objectives by making the best use of knowledge.”
It is more than simply sharing information with coworkers. Effective knowledge management for an entirely remote organization combines both definitions and spans across multiple, if not all, departments. The goal of a solid knowledge management strategy in a remote work environment is to empower each employee to succeed by identifying and creating frictionless access to information.
Knowledge management may differ between teams or departments, but typically includes:
Knowledge management is useful in traditional on-site organizations, but is especially helpful for those working in a remote environment. A solid knowledge management strategy can lay the groundwork for improved communication and a more efficient experience for customers because it minimizes the time spent searching for answers.
Telework naturally lends itself to resources and knowledge being spread across a large distance, both physical and digital. Additionally, remote work increases the need for virtual meetings, sales, and support, which may require the use of software that is not usually used in-office, such as Teams, Zoom, or GoToMeeting.
Organizations may also face the challenge of potential knowledge loss when a remote employee abruptly leaves the company. However, a knowledge management protocol can consolidate the necessary information, whether it is about tools commonly used or those being implemented for telework specifically, and make it accessible to all employees, no matter where they are working or when they joined or left the organization. Knowledge management can also offer guidance to individuals in a wider approach and can include answers typically outside of the company’s scope.
If your team is only temporarily working remotely, a database of knowledge will also ensure that when you return to the office, information is still easily and readily available.
Additionally, a knowledge management strategy for remote teams can result in:
In short, knowledge management has the opportunity to unite team members across a remote workforce. However, understanding why your team needs a knowledge sharing strategy is only the beginning of the equation – you must also utilize a knowledge management system that is streamlined and easy to use.
Before building a knowledge management strategy, it is important to create a knowledge management process. This can be similar to the processes used in ITIL 4's best practices and should include a clear roadmap for the creation, storage, updating, and access of sharable information.
Although the process may be complex, it is important to note that implementing a knowledge database will require updating and compiling existing articles. Enlisting the help of industry experts and employees can be helpful to create and update these articles. You should also pay attention to keywords that you continually notice, which can make finding shared knowledge easier.
As you build your knowledge database, the next step is setting up database infrastructure. This can be in the form of a knowledge management system and can incorporate elements such as self-service which will enhance the user experience.
Self-service portals can be implemented with little to no additional training and will allow employees to seek answers easily in the knowledge management system. This will empower employees to search for knowledge at any time. For example, with self-service, an agent can answer a customer inquiry quickly, without needing to wait for a coworker's response.
The easier it is for employees to access information they need to do their job, the more likely it is that the system will be used, and reused, for years to come, leading to an overall better employee self-service experience.
Once you have implemented a knowledge management system, your team may be tempted to include any and all knowledge they have. While it is true that information in your knowledge-sharing initiative should leave little (or nothing) up for interpretation, you should also limit the information going into the system so that it does not become overwhelming.
When employees are given the proper information to do their jobs, research shows that they have higher levels of confidence. But in order to know what information is needed for each position, it is important to get input from multiple team members across every team in your organization to discern what is most important to include, and what would only serve to complicate or confuse. Seeking this type of input can also help boost employee self-esteem, as they feel their voice is valued.
Another important step in filtering what is important is knowing which pieces of knowledge should be routinely updated. You can leverage existing and new knowledge to speed up processes across your entire remote workforce, but this can only be done when the information being accessed is complete, accurate, up-to-date, and relevant.
Furthermore, knowledge content contextualization based on habits, behaviors, devices, and services can help filter and provide the most effective information. This ensures that the knowledge that is needed the most is what is being delivered to every employee.
While knowledge management seems like a technical need, at its most boiled down it is simply a form of communication across teams. Communication is the basis of success for any remote workplace, which is why the sharing of knowledge is so vital. However, despite having a comprehensive self-service knowledge portal, out of sight should never mean out of mind when it comes to remote workers.
Routine communication including calls and training sessions should still take place. With the right tools in place, going remote can be a positive opportunity for any business.
Learn more about real intelligent knowledge management use cases that have transformed self-service for employees and IT support in our latest webinar replay!
Erika Troconis-Rodell is the Sr. Digital Marketing Manager at EasyVista. She leads the content and blog strategy for the company, and manages global digital marketing initiatives. Erika loves all things technology and enjoys reading about ITSM, IoT, and SaaS. Fun fact, she also speaks Spanish, French, and Mandarin.