Knowledge Management is something a lot of business owners think about, but don’t really see the value in until a key employee leaves and things become a muddled mess. While I can’t guarantee that a new employee’s transition into the fold won’t be less than smooth, I do know from experience, that a way to help someone succeed and feel good about their job is to give them the tools to do so. And knowledge management is one of those tools. Yes it’s another task for you to manager (unless you have a great training person) but it’s worth it in my opinion.
Start by having each employee in the office make a list of what they do on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis. Also ask them to let you know what systems they use. And make sure that you have a way to access their accounts with an Admin override should they leave suddenly. I would suggest that if you have someone handling your AP/AR that you also make sure they leave for you (and you alone) the passwords to all of your accounts. So that you can access them if they are gone. For example, if an employee is receiving your office bills online make sure that you understand where those bills are going to (what email). And also make sure you also have the ability to access the accounts directly online as well.
Make sure to communicate why you are doing this. Employees are sometimes wary for sharing knowledge because it is in a way, power. They may worry you are trying to reduce the workforce. So explain to them that in order to cover for everyone if someone is sick, or if someone goes on vacation, and also as a way to cross train people, everyone is going to do this. You can leave out the other reason, which is if someone leaves suddenly, or is fired, you also need to have this information readily available.
Once the list of tasks is complete, ask your employees to make some simple screen shot training materials of anything that is mission critical. I know this can take time away from other other things. So I would suggest having them start with 1 key task a month or a week. And use a free software like Jing to quickly create training reference material for these tasks. If you are a larger company of course, there are consultants willing and able to help with the process, or in some cases create the material themselves, using your employes as reference guides. But for most small businesses, a simple Word document with simple screen shot captures should suffice.
Once you have these lists complete, do look them over for consistency. Where it makes sense, make sure people are cross trained on each other?s jobs. Use the lists and materials to have your people train each other on their jobs. I’m guessing if you have a staff of two or more, some of this is already happening. But now with a little help and direction from you, or your right hand woman/man, cross training can ensure that key tasks required for your office go smoothly regardless of who is sick or out for the week. And don’t be surprised if you yourself end up referencing some of the materials from time to time yourself, when you can’t quite remember how to do a task when your right hand person is on vacation!
Once these two tasks are done (list of all tasks, and materials for key tasks) make sure that these documents are updated once or twice a year. As your company grows, the need for slightly more robust training materials might be necessary. If so you can begin to add process flows and more detailed explanation of things. Especially on tasks where there are now multiple people in a department doing the same job. This is where scripts for customer service calls, or training materials on how to process orders for a team of people can come in handy. Like anything else in business, knowledge management can grow or subtract as you business needs change.
What about you? Do you have a knowledge management system in place? If yes, what is the most helpful thing to come from it?
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