HR Knowledgebase in HR Shared Services Organizations: The Secret Sauce

Melanie Lougee

What is Content and Why is it so Important to HR?

HR is a communication intensive organization with a large audience. Information ranging from employee benefits programs, to corporate policies, or processes such as performance reviews requires the communication of detailed information across an often diverse workforce. This detailed information all exists today as some form of content. Content can be paper documents, videos, presentations, graphics, or even information created by employees in wikis or in discussion threads. Content is essentially information kept in any format.

The content challenge for many HR organizations is that their essential information is often in disarray. Information is inconsistent, out of date, scattered across many locations, and difficult to maintain. When information isn’t reliable or easily accessible, employees depend on their local HR Representative to personally provide them with answers. As a result, HR spends much of their time answering simple questions about policies or programs instead of working on new programs or on other more challenging projects.

By consolidating disparate sources of HR information into one knowledgebase, HR organizations can dramatically improve their information management efficiency and reduce their content maintenance effort. An HR knowledgebase is simply a highly organized structure for centrally storing and managing content. It is similar to a library where every item has its’ place and can be easily found by any visitor with the proper identification. Once an effective HR knowledgebase is in place, HR representatives can start achieving their goals of reducing routine support efforts in three ways;

  • First, HR Information resides in one place providing one source of truth. Providing that one source of truth for employees reduces the time spent searching for basic answers. There is only one place for them to look.
  • Secondly, information consolidation eliminates the proliferation of old policies and information. When information is immediately updated for the entire workforce through a single source, obsolete communications and handbooks become a thing of the past.
  • Third, centralized management and distribution of HR information saves time for HR content owners. There is no need to juggle versions, perform time consuming distributions, or ensure that old copies are retired.

The consolidation and organization of HR information streamlines both the creation and distribution effort for HR and provides faster and more accurate for employees.

After an HR knowledgebase is created, the next step is to make it available to employees, managers, and other constituents. Most often this is done through a portal. It is important to differentiate a knowledgebase from a portal. The knowledgebase stores and manages the content. The portal provides the front end that allows someone to search and interact with the knowledgebase content. Most often, a knowledgebase is packaged with its’ own portal. However, a knowledgebase can also be coupled with a different commercial portal such as SharePoint or a portal delivered by an ERP vendor.

Delivering knowledgebase access to your workforce is a game changer. When your workforce can immediately get reliable answers to their routine HR questions without making phone calls, they are more satisfied with their HR service. Furthermore, they are more satisfied with their service and they didn’t need to call HR.

Key Knowledgebase Features

If deploying an effective HR portal/knowledgebase was simple, there would be more success stories. Instead there are many success stories, but also many stories of tried and failed. Many organizations have struggled because creating an HR portal/knowledgebase that employees will actually use is challenging. The project requires more finesse than posting flat documents to an intranet site. In the age of Google, if a worker cannot find an answer immediately or if the answer is wrong, they will quickly abandon the site and resurrect their smart phone.

There is a basic set of features that a portal/knowledgebase must have to attain successful user adoption. Some portal/knowledgebase feature essentials include;

  1. Personalization: Today’s workforce is more diverse than ever. The HR policies for an executive in India bear little resemblance to the policies for a union worker in Chicago. If an employee must search through irrelevant content to find what is specific to them, they may follow the wrong policy. They may also abandon their search and call HR. A knowledgebase must offer personalization that ensures employees only see what is specific to them.
  2. Search: Today’s workforce is accustomed to powerful and fast search engines. They will not be satisfied with hunting on an employee site for information. Essential search features include ranked results and suggested alternatives for additional information. Advanced features include aggregated search which can return search results from multiple public or private search sources such as Google, Bureau of National Affairs, or your organization’s internal SharePoint site.
  3. Usage Analytics and Feedback: It must be possible for HR to gather and analyze feedback on their knowledgebase usage. Usage analytics gather valuable quantitative feedback. Direct employee responses provide qualitative feedback. Employees should be able to rate content and make comments about their experience so that HR can hear directly from them. Employees are also more satisfied with their service when they are involved.
  4. Availability: Today’s workforce is often on the move or working remotely. Employees may also prefer to make personal decisions with their spouse or partner in the privacy of their home. It is essential that the workforce can access their content outside the firewall. Searching content from a mobile device is also highly desirable. Imagine accessing detailed insurance coverage for a child while at the doctor’s office or easily accessing the latest PTO policy without needing to login to the corporate network.
  5. Content Management Tools: A robust knowledgebase should offer tools for authoring, loading, and updating content. Workflow for new or updated content is also an essential tool. An author should be able to submit a document or revision for approval. Others should be able to participate by editing, commenting, or approving. Workflow should also track the status of any document in progress so nothing gets lost.

A well implemented portal/knowledgebase that serves the workforce precisely what it needs when it’s needed will achieve high user adoption. A portal/knowledgebase solution that makes life easier for HR will achieve greater internal support.