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Why knowledge management is critical to teams that work remotely and tips to build the right foundation for success

Work from home and remote working arrangements are increasingly popular among companies that employ knowledge workers. While the trend has accelerated with the COVID 19 pandemic, this trend has been on the upswing for many years.

The benefits of WFH arrangements are many. They save employers money, they get higher productivity from their staff, and they also tend to get more output as well. For employees, they save money, enjoy flexible work hours and are generally happier.

But those benefits are counterbalanced by some challenges as well. Consider the chart below, which was distributed by Buffer.

Employees cite a number of emotional challenges, including difficulty unplugging, loneliness and motivation. But it’s interesting to note that, collaboration and/or communication is the most significant functional challenge in the list.

This functional challenge can be improved upon with a functional solution. One approach to consider for solving this problem is to lean on a knowledge management strategy across the organization that mitigates the complexities that arise when in a remote work arrangement. Investing in good knowledge management will give your remote team a strong platform for self-serving solutions when problems arise, thereby reducing dependencies on intra-company communication and collaboration.

Communication and collaboration

Communication and collaboration are not easy problems to solve. They require a more thoughtful solution than just plugging everyone into Slack or MS Teams. Of course internal communication software will be an important part of enabling communication and collaboration, but it will not solve the problem alone.

Slack screen time to hack

Slack or MS Teams (or something else)

Ok, so we did say that your internal communication software isn’t going to solve your challenges around communication, but you still need to make a choice. We say Slack, others say Teams. It kind of depends on the rest of your stack. If you’re long Microsoft, stick with Teams. Otherwise, go Slack.

For those teams that just don’t like to part of the herd, but you don’t know where to start, here’s a pretty solid infographic list (we’re guessing this was made by someone at Grape):

The point it, you’ll need to have a communication tool that suits your internal needs, integrates well with your existing or anticipated tech stack and scales with your organization as it grows.

Invest in a Knowledge Base

Investing in a knowledge base isn’t only about making a financial investment in a company license for internal wiki software. You will need to invest in populating it with knowledge that is relevant to remote workers. Populating it will have require some tactical considerations:

  • What questions are asked?
  • Who is asking the questions?
  • Why are they asking the question?
  • Who will verify knowledge?
  • How will knowledge be kept updated?
  • How will the knowledge be accessed (is it integrated with other tools)?
  • How will knowledge be searched searched and shared?
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What goes in your knowledge base?

A robust knowledge base can solve a number of problems related to communication and collaboration. The contents should focus on issues preventing remote employees from performing at their peak levels.

  • Codify best practices
  • Frequently used snippets or instructions
  • Tutorials
  • Templates

Crowdsource the collaboration

By encouraging your entire team to contribute to the knowledge base, it will help identify where everyone sees frequent interruptions or shoulder taps coming from. This will also expedite compilation and more importantly increase the quality of knowledge through verification. You might even consider this crowdsourcing process an investment in the culture surrounding your knowledge base and how it is used from day-to-day.

Knowledge silos stifle collaboration

One needs to be wary of building knowledge silos, whether they are built by different departments or using different cloud-based technologies. This can stifle collaboration and increase unnecessary hurdles around communication. A tool like Obie can solve much of silo related hardships that surface from mismatched knowledge stacks across organizations, but when designing a knowledge management strategy, one should endeavour to minimize building inaccessible knowledge stores.

Remote work is here to stay, and it will always come with personal and technical challenges for those who are new to it. By investing on making knowledge management part of your culture, you can alleviate some of the stress on your remote team.