Recipe for Success: Creating an HR Knowledgebase

Melanie Lougee

As with any HR application there are several options and each option has pros, cons, and risks to manage. Here are a few to consider:

  1. Build: Many organizations build their own knowledgebase from scratch using SharePoint, Websphere or some other tool. At first glance this option seems most expedient since it’s often pursued with existing resources and tools. However, a knowledgebase that is built without a well defined structure may be more difficult to search and maintain. Also these projects are often staffed with resources with little portal or knowledgebase design experience which may lead to a less than optimal result.
  2. Engage Consulting Services: Engaging a consulting partner is an option that has delivered a well organized and highly usable portal/knowledgebase solution to many customers. Advantages to engaging a consultancy is that you can build a custom knowledgebase and portal experience tailored exactly to your company’s culture and programs and benefit from experienced guidance. The disadvantages are that you will need to have the skills and knowledge in-house to maintain and evolve your custom solution over time. Consulting services may also be costly in terms of both implementation time and price.
  3. SaaS: Many organizations have successfully deployed an HR portal/knowledgebase using a SaaS delivery model. A SaaS provider offers a standard but configurable portal/knowledgebase based on experience across many customers. A SaaS delivered knowledgebase can accelerate implementation times because the organizational planning has been done for you. SaaS delivery may also offer more predictable support costs and effort. As with any SaaS product, there may be trade-offs between operational efficiencies and ability to customize the solution.
  4. Hybrid approach: Some organizations have already invested in their company’s HR portal and content development - either on their own or with a consultancy. They do not want to replace or replicate this work. However, they see value in the highly personalized and searchable experience of a well-structured knowledgebase. Organizations that meet this profile have successfully deployed a standardized knowledgebase as a complementary component of their custom site. Adaptors are typically available for common technologies. Because no two custom portals are alike, some integration may necessary.

While there is no absolute right or wrong approach for creating your portal/knowledgebase, some points for consideration are your resource availability in terms of people and budget, not only for the implementation but for ongoing support. Assess your organization’s portal and knowledgebase skills and think about your organization’s appetite for custom vs. packaged solutions. Also consider how soon you would like your solution up and running.

Another consideration is the state of your current content. Similar to transferring history during an application implementation, consolidating and cleaning your existing content prior to a knowledgebase implementation will also save you time and money and produce a cleaner end result.

Measuring the Effectiveness of your HR Portal/Knowledgebase

Usage analytics and feedback were previously mentioned as key features for a portal/knowledgebase solution. Here’s why:

Unless there is a shared service center where metrics are being gathered, most HR organizations aren’t tracking employee calls leading into the implementation of a portal/knowledgebase. This absence of "before" data makes it challenging to use "after" data. There is no basis for comparison. However, an effective combination of portal/knowledgebase with robust analytics can provide login and activity statistics that can measure adoption and site usage over time thereby prove the value of the investment.

Additionally, analytics provide necessary feedback for the continual improvement of knowledgebase content. HR will know if a policy is consistently rated as "confusing" and can revise it. HR will know if the number of visits to performance appraisal instructions is low and can proactively launch more communications.

Analytics and feedback may even inspire changes to general HR services. While personally identifying data should always be masked, aggregate statistics show that time off documents receive more unique hits than any other content in an HR knowledgebase. Perhaps adding a floating holiday could improve employee satisfaction more than building a corporate fitness center.

Driving More Value from your Knowledgebase

An HR portal/knowledgebase combination can provide tremendous value to your workforce and to HR in all of the ways described. However there are additional purposes for an HR knowledgebase that should be explored.

Knowledgebase content can be imbedded in any HR application to augment transactions with information. For example, a salary review transaction can be linked with the compensation guidelines for merit distribution. Managers and employees can get the information they need to make educated decisions delivered side-by-side with the associated transaction they need to complete.

Yet another way to extend the value of an HR knowledgebase is to use it within an HR Shared Service Center. An HR knowledgebase provides a highly searchable repository of information where call center representatives can also go for that one source of HR truth. Often a high quality knowledgebase with a powerful search can replace static and impersonal call center scripts. When delivered tightly integrated to the Shared Services application, a knowledgebase becomes a powerful service tool.

Looking towards the near future, the way an HR portal/knowledgebase is used will continue to evolve just like every other application in the HR space. It is already a mistake to believe that employees hover over their HR portal pressing refresh in anticipation of a changing policy. Employees will want their information available to them on demand. Urgent information will need to find the correct employees where they are. It won’t be enough to search for your information. Your information will also have to search for you.