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Article 4 min read

Take a customer-facing approach to your internal knowledge base

By Tara Ramroop, Content marketing manager, @Tara_Ramroop

Last updated June 20, 2018

Self-service portals are proven ways of saving agents and customers valuable time when they’re trying to solve an issue. More and more companies find that an internal knowledge base helps accomplish the same thing, freeing time-strapped departments to focus on more complicated issues, and ensuring employees have up-to-date information at their fingertips.

Perhaps an employee has a question about an HR policy or commuter benefits. If there is no central place to find that information, they stop working, start emailing people from orientation, or search through their onboarding materials until they get what they need.

To head off the frustration, as well as the waste of time and productivity, many large or scaling companies have implemented an internal knowledge base: a simple, easy-to-navigate resource that provides employees with relevant information not available to the outside world. If you’re on the cusp of implementing one company-wide, here’s how to optimise a knowledge base for internal use.

Best practice No 1: Your North Star: Think of employees as your customers.

Just as you consider how you can improve your customers’ experience with access to self-service content, wherever they are in their journey with you, consider how your own employees’ experiences improve as a result of having the information they need. Taking an audience-first approach to building your knowledge base helps this community stay invested in the resource, and you can maximise its potential impact.

New employees often have a variety of questions about a range of topics, and many of them are probably repeated among each class of new recruits, such as “How do I request PTO?” and “How do I sign up for retirement savings?” Building an internal knowledge base ahead of time makes the onboarding process easier for everyone: for employees just getting their footing, and for your HR professionals managing their questions.

Machine-learning-powered tools, such as Zendesk’s Answer Bot, can serve as your first line of defence when employees start emailing questions. Based on the content of the message, Answer Bot automatically suggests helpful articles from the internal knowledge base, potentially heading off tickets before they are sent and getting answers into your employees’ hands more quickly.

Thinking of employees as customers has been built into the John Lewis Partnership, the UK-based parent company of John Lewis stores and Waitrose supermarkets, since the early 1900s. Today, that employee-first mindset means a robust internal HR knowledge base designed specifically for the company’s “leisure time” perks: amusement parks and so on. The help centre has been a demonstrated success, with more than 28,000 views and 2,500 searches per month.

Best practice No 2: Build a community round the knowledge base from the start.

From the employees’ perspective, whether they are new or veterans, an internal knowledge base increases transparency and heightens the sense of trust between a business and its talent. But this is only possible if the teams populating the knowledge base have their finger on the pulse of their employee audience. Technical tools can help with this; Community forums build feedback into the process by allowing employees to up-vote or down-vote the effectiveness of published articles. And by keeping track of how your community of employees are interacting with the content—such as keeping tabs on the most viewed or most shared articles—you’ll get a better understanding of where and how employees need the most help navigating the organisation’s complexities.

Pointing new recruits to a one-stop resource during orientation and onboarding emails improves the employee experience and relieves your teams for more complicated issues. But an additional benefit is the sense of community it fosters across your enterprise. New recruits can be wary about asking questions out loud or simply forget to do so in the moment—they’ll be happy to find that they were considered when they find answers in your knowledge base.

Best Practice No 3: Build article writing into key moments in your business.

Does new-hire orientation happen like clockwork every other Monday? What about quarterly all-hands meetings? Schedule time and assign a team member (on a rotating schedule, perhaps) to cull all of the questions asked, in person and via email, after these key events. As noted above, trust us—they will ask, and many of the questions will be repeat ones, or different angles on a broader issue. Turn these answers into knowledge base opportunities; with Team Publishing, a feature included in our new Guide Enterprise plan, teams can establish a process for adding content, where everyone is empowered to contribute and incorporate content they know employees need.

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