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Increase engagement and morale with knowledge management

November 10, 2022 - 17 min read
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    Knowledge is power. But sometimes, spreading knowledge to the masses within organizations is harder than it seems. 

    If you’re familiar with the management consulting industry, you’ve probably heard of knowledge management. It’s a concept that originated in the consulting world but has fast spread to all industries. 

    At its core, knowledge management is about effectively distributing information across an organization. Especially as organizations grow and scale, it can become more and more difficult. After all, your company needs to make sure employees have the information they need to do their jobs well.

    But knowledge management is also about disseminating knowledge to enable success. Ultimately, knowledge management can be a lever to help your people reach their fullest potential. 

    In this post, we’ll talk about the definition of knowledge management. We’ll also talk about different types of knowledge management systems. We’ll also break down the benefits of knowledge management — and give you some best practices to keep in mind. 

    What is knowledge management?  

    First, let’s define what we mean by knowledge management. 

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    Knowledge management is the process of organizing and sharing knowledge across an organization. Oftentimes, this means all resources, information, and knowledge are easily accessible for employees. 

    {end of featured snippet} 

    Having worked in internal communication for years, knowledge management is a big topic of discussion when it comes to employee productivity. As organizations grow, so do their resources, processes, programs, and enablement tools. 

    It becomes increasingly important to empower knowledge sharing, especially as teams work cross-functionally. It’s also important to create a knowledge base that houses all important information. 

    At BetterUp, we have a set of high-impact behaviors that help guide how we show up as employees. One of our high-impact behaviors is called “organize to win.” It’s this concept that in order to reach our full potential, we need to invest in the seemingly “little” things. We need to organize our resources, our people, and our knowledge to be better equipped to find success. 

    In many ways, knowledge management is similar to this concept of organizing to win. No matter how your organization operates, having a solid knowledge management system can give you a competitive advantage. 

    5 types of knowledge management systems

    There are plenty of knowledge management tools in the marketplace. We’ve rounded up a list of five types of systems. 

    We looked to TrustRadius for its top-rated knowledge management systems (with the highest customer satisfaction ratings). 

    • Bloomfire 

    • Guru 

    • Zoho Desk 

    • Atlassian Confluence 

    • Microsoft Sharepoint 

    There are plenty of options out there. And truthfully, every organization operates differently. Work with your information technology, HR, and internal communications teams to determine what type of tool is right for you. The tool should fit seamlessly into your digital transformation strategy, too. 

    Some organizations might find that an internal intranet best meets their needs. Others might need more of a content management system that can house enterprise information.

    Some might need mobile-friendly app use, especially if there’s a large field or sales presence within their organization. Others might prioritize security and workflow integrations into other software systems.

    Whatever your organization needs, do your due diligence and research appropriately. It’s important to look at ways the tool can be self-service to your employees to lessen the workload on your HR and communication employees. This is especially important to keep in mind if you’re looking to scale and grow your organization. 

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    3 types of knowledge management

    Knowledge management is a broad term. But when we break it down, we can think about knowledge management in three different categories. Let’s dig into the three different types of knowledge management

    Explicit knowledge 

    This is the most basic form of what we know to be information. It’s documented in written form. It’s accessible and easily able to be passed along to others. It’s recorded, communicated, and stored somewhere where folks can easily access it. 

    For example, let’s say your company has an internal intranet. At BetterUp, our intranet is used to store knowledge assets. We have programs, policies, and employee benefits documented in one knowledge management program. Employees can access recorded webinars, policy FAQs, and other must-have documents pertaining to a variety of subjects. 

    We also have things like white papers, reports, data, and other assets that all employees can access. It’s a self-service platform that stores everything in a place where people can visibly see the information they need.

    It’s a real-time, updated system that helps enable sharing of information. Because everything is written down, documented, and posted publicly, it helps streamline workflows. 

    Tacit knowledge 

    This is a tricky form of knowledge management because it’s based on personal experience and context. In many ways, we can think about tacit knowledge as we would about any stories passed down by word of mouth. 

    Instead of getting information in a tangible, documented form, we learn about it through experience. It complicates the knowledge-sharing process because it’s contextual. It’s often lessons learned that help shape this type of knowledge management — and knowledge that is shared as “tricks of the trade.” 

    For example, let’s say you’ve recently hired new team members. During the onboarding process, these team members learned plenty of new knowledge about the organization. The company has documented resources for things like workplace wellness initiatives, how employee benefits work, and organizational culture

    However, your team is fairly new. These are the first new hires you’ve added to your team and certain business processes aren’t documented yet. Details of the new team members’ jobs are largely left to on-the-job training. Or, in other words, contextual and personal experience. Key competencies of the role come with lessons learned along the way. That is, until someone documents it. 

    On our content marketing team, we regularly host what we call a “process day.” It’s a day dedicated to documenting tacit knowledge to make sure we’re setting up our team for optimal success. It helps to document little things, like how to pull metrics or how to interact with customer support. 

    These “process days” help translate tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge. Ultimately, while tacit knowledge helps current team members, it might not set up your future team members for success. 

    knowledge-management-team-sitting-around-in-break-room

    Implicit knowledge

    Lastly, implicit knowledge is a type of knowledge management that puts explicit knowledge into action. 

    In many ways, implicit knowledge can be thought of as a knowledge transfer application. For example, when I was first hired at BetterUp, I had never worked with our certain type of content management system before.

    Everything was documented in a process document on how to best upload a blog or put together a newsletter. But in many ways, some of the best practices were shared through conversations with team members. 

    Implicit knowledge takes explicit knowledge and puts a cherry on top. It helps to optimize the knowledge transfer process to boost employee productivity

    What is the knowledge management process? 

    Every organization has different processes, communities of practice, and collective knowledge. As such, that means the knowledge management process will look different for different companies. 

    However, there are some general guidelines for implementing a knowledge management process that your organization can adopt. Work with your IT, HR, and content management teams to help make sure you’ve got all of your ducks in a row. 

    We’ve outlined four simple steps that can help your organization get a handle on its company knowledge. 

    • Audit or discovery. To figure out what information is out there, you have to conduct an audit. In past companies I’ve worked for, IT and HR generally conduct some sort of discovery. This helps team members look across the business to find out what tools, systems, and software already exist.

      But this also includes looking at the types of knowledge that you’re gathering, too. For example, are most of your employees documenting processes? What’s lacking in your audit? Do you see certain teams using tools more than others?

      Conducting a thorough audit of what already exists in your ecosystem helps you to make an informed decision. After all, you can’t make a decision on a knowledge management solution without knowing what you’re working with. 

    • Documentation and assessment. The next phase of managing knowledge is the documentation and assessment phase. You might have stumbled across all sorts of knowledge in your audit. For example, some might be tacit knowledge that needs to be documented in a tangible way. You might have explicit knowledge yet need to add best practices.

      Make sure you’re documenting all the knowledge you’ve found. This includes categorizing the types of knowledge you’re coming across. For example, are you finding webinars or written FAQs? Does your organization have a healthy library of know-how guides or case studies? 

    • Organization. Now that you have all of your information, you need to organize it. This may seem daunting. But with the right tools and support, you can better share information to help streamline efficiencies down the road.

      Before you jump into the first knowledge management system available, test functionality. Get feedback from your employees on how the system works for them. Involve the necessary stakeholders in this decision-making process.

      In my last role, I was a part of a team that rolled out a new intranet across the company. It took months of beta testing, content discovery, and demos with different software providers. But in hindsight, those months of work helped to make sure we were making the right decisions along the way. 

    • Communication and sharing. Last, but not least, it’s time to start sharing. You haven’t done all of this work on gathering, organizing, and collating information for nothing. It’s time to broadly communicate the new knowledge management system across your company.

      In my previous role, after rolling out a new intranet, we hosted how-to webinars for content owners. We created tutorials and guides to help make sharing information easier for employees. We launched initiatives like lunch and learns and even a company scavenger hunt to help drive engagement.

      Think about how you can get creative with spreading the word about how you share knowledge. It can help engage employees while also increasing efficiency. 

    knowledge-management-colleagues-looking-up-info-on-ipad

    4 benefits of knowledge management 

    Effective knowledge management has plenty of benefits. We’ve outlined four benefits of knowledge management. 

    Increased productivity 

    One of the biggest benefits of effective knowledge management is increased productivity. In fact, more than 70% of companies expect to increase productivity by 20% with effective knowledge management

    Employees shouldn’t spend too much time trying to find the information they need to get their jobs done. With effective knowledge sharing, you can increase productivity and efficiency in your workforce. 

    Increased transparency 

    We know that employees want transparency in the workplace. According to the Slack Future of Work study, 80% of employees want insight into how decisions are made. Further, 87% of respondents want their future company to model transparency. 

    Increased transparency — especially across teams and departments — breaks down silos between employees. The increased visibility can also lead to better collaboration. Ultimately, transparency can translate into better goal attainment

    Better collaboration between team members 

    Hand-in-hand with increased transparency is increased collaboration. When teams understand shared goals and key initiatives, they’re better positioned to collaborate effectively. It can help with team alignment, too. 

    Increased morale 

    One study looked at the impact of knowledge management systems and found something surprising. Knowledge management actually increased employee morale.  

    Especially in a time when employee engagement is fast-slipping, employee morale is critical. Organizations everywhere are grappling with how to keep their employees engaged. While some obvious answers may be virtual team building or other connection-based activities, don’t overlook the role of technology. 

    4 knowledge management best practices

    Consider the role of automation 

    Technology exists to help make our lives — and our jobs — easier. Look for ways you can automate your knowledge management process. 

    For example, let’s say your company has a company-wide Slack channel for all employee benefit questions. You also have an internal intranet page housing everything your employees need to know about employee benefits. 

    When open enrollment comes around, your HR teams are bombarded with questions. It’s likely your HR folks are answering questions in multiple places, making it difficult to share knowledge. 

    Can you integrate any intranet page updates to your Slack channel? How can you get technology to work as a teammate? 

    Keep up-to-date with current technology 

    As a former internal communication professional, this is a big one. Your employees are used to tools like Google where information is at their fingertips. 

    The reality is that intranets aren’t quite keeping up with the standard that Google has set. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received feedback on things like search functionality or ease of finding things. 

    That’s why it’s important to make sure your knowledge management systems are refreshed and updated. Oftentimes, providers will also fix bugs that can help improve the employee experience, too. 

    Create forums where employees can voice feedback 

    Knowledge management systems are great for sharing information. But they’re even better when they’re interactive. 

    For example, can your employees use the intranet to comment and ask questions? How are you providing a forum for employee feedback? Is there a way you can capture feedback to make the knowledge-sharing process better? 

    Copy of BetterUp_Social_Apr2022_Post18-1

    Enable knowledge-creation champions or ambassadors 

    Any change management professional will tell you this: change is hard for people. So, rolling out a new tool and increasing adoption isn’t an easy task. 

    Think of ways you can enable advocates for the knowledge management system. For example, can your leaders nominate champions or ambassadors from each department? How are you driving engagement? 

    Knowledge management systems will only work well if your employees are using the tool. Get creative on how you’re driving adoption, too. 

    Start sharing knowledge — and unlock your organization’s potential 

    Your knowledge management strategy is an important part of your business strategy. It can help unlock organizational knowledge that leads to better business outcomes. 

    But any sort of change is hard. And in order to make sure your people are set up for success, coaching is here to help. 

    With BetterUp, you can provide personalized support for your people. Your employees will be more resilient, better equipped to solve tough problems, and more engaged. 

    See how BetterUp works - Watch Demo

    Published November 10, 2022

    Madeline Miles

    Madeline is a writer, communicator, and storyteller who is passionate about using words to help drive positive change. She holds a bachelor's in English Creative Writing and Communication Studies and lives in Denver, Colorado. In her spare time, she's usually somewhere outside (preferably in the mountains) — and enjoys poetry and fiction.

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