The world of work has changed. But the world of wikis, intranets, and knowledge bases hasn’t. And employees, leadership teams, and companies’ bottom lines are paying the price. It’s time for a new approach to knowledge management — one that’s purpose-built to meet the demands of the new world of work. I’ll explain why.
The new world of work is powered by technology, accelerated by the pandemic, and defined by asynchronous communication, remote employment, and worker flexibility. And in this new world of work, we not only need new products, processes, and policies, we need a whole new way of working.
Most businesses are aware of this, but there are two pitfalls I see many fall into:
- They use new tools in old ways
- They use old tools in new ways
Take meetings for example. When companies move to a remote or hybrid model, their natural instinct is often to attempt to replicate the cadence and structure of in-person meetings in a virtual environment. But this approach fails to account for the many other changes that are rapidly unfolding.
It isn’t just that employees are now working remotely — many are also working from new locations in different timezones, most are working flexible hours, and a growing number are defaulting to asynchronous communication whenever possible. As a result, meetings are harder for organizers to schedule, easier for attendees to justify skipping, and a source of fatigue for everyone. It isn’t surprising that, according to a recent study by McKinsey, “80 percent of executives are considering changes in meeting structure and cadence in response to the evolution in how people work.”
Just as companies are using new tools in old ways, many are also using old tools in new ways as a means to solving new challenges. Nowhere is this more obvious (and painful) than in knowledge management.
Pain that should stay in the past
Before the pandemic, companies used intranets, wikis, and knowledge bases for a range of purposes. They were places to store company information, post important updates, and publish everything from reports and memos to policies and processes. But the open secret about these tools is that they’re poorly adopted, difficult to search, and in many cases, bursting at the seams with information that’s out of date and irrelevant.
The pain these issues caused was tolerable in the old world of work. After all, employees didn’t need to use their company’s so-called source of truth when they could simply turn to the colleague next to them when they had a time-sensitive question or needed to be brought up to speed on the latest company news.
But in the new world of work, a company without a trusted, widely adopted, and easily searchable source of truth is quickly going to find itself rife with misalignment, information overload, and chronic inefficiency—issues which all ultimately result in a negative impact on company performance.
In fact, according to studies conducted before the pandemic, the average knowledge worker spends nearly 20 percent of the workweek looking for internal information or “tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks,” it takes people close to 25 minutes to regain focus after being interrupted, and the annual financial cost of constant context switching is $450 billion, globally. Imagine what those numbers look like since remote and hybrid work became the norm?
The new world of work is placing new demands on old knowledge management systems, and those systems are coming up short. What companies need today is a new breed of knowledge management solution; one that allows information to flow effortlessly throughout an organization—across time zones and locations, between leaders and employees, and directly into the preferred workflows of individuals.
This new breed of solution should not only allow employees to pull information from a single source of truth when they need it, but also allow leaders to push teammates towards that same source of truth when there’s a timely update that requires action. In other words, companies now need their knowledge management platform to be two things in one:
- A trusted source of truth on company information (ideally with better search, integrations, and user experience)
- A cutting-edge internal communications tool (that not only enhances information consumption, but comprehension too)
When these two capabilities are brought together in a single platform, that platform becomes greater than the sum of its parts as it empowers employees, leaders, and entire companies to unlock a whole new way of working — one that’s suited to the demands of the new world of work.
Unlocking efficiency in the era of flexibility
Employees today expect to be able to choose where they work, when they work, and how they work. Companies and workers across industries have realized that, when implemented correctly, flexibility doesn’t just increase employee satisfaction, it also drives productivity, optimizes team performance, and improves company results. Yet, many are failing to set up their teams for success in the new world of work. How is it that, even with reduced commuting time and the freedom to choose their own hours, employees feel like they’re working longer hours?
Well, in the absence of a reliable source of truth on company information or in-office teammates to chat to, employees are spending their days searching for basic details needed to do their jobs, waiting for replies from colleagues who may or may not be online, and sitting in meetings that only exist to share updates. And often when they finally find the information they’re looking for, it lacks context and is out of date. The result is work days that are inefficient, unproductive, and deeply frustrating.
In the new world of work, companies need to ensure their employees have the ability to instantly access reliable information no matter what timezone, location, or workflow they’re in at that moment in time. And, critically, they need that information to be coupled with the context needed to make it understandable and actionable. Not only will this drive employee efficiency, it will lead to greater employee engagement — an issue that’s top of mind for many leaders, and one that can be greatly improved when internal communications is a central part of a company’s knowledge management strategy.
Driving employee engagement through timely communications
In the new world of work, leaders need to be intentional about communicating and connecting with their teams. Without a shared office and standard working hours, this doesn’t happen passively and there’s gaps emerging between leadership teams and individual contributors everywhere. Despite the fact that employees are experiencing never-before-seen levels of flexibility, employee engagement rates are falling as burnout and turnover rates skyrocket.
What leadership teams need today is an ability to communicate time-sensitive asks, morale-building messages, and important company updates with different groups within their organization. What’s more, they need a feedback loop that tells them how well-received their updates have been. And these updates shouldn’t be interruptive — rather, they should direct recipients back to a single source of truth. Doing so encourages deeper adoption of that source of truth and reminds employees that they’ll be able to easily locate and re-read the update in future if they need to.
When leaders have the ability to share timely updates like this, it can go a long way to helping employees feel more engaged not only with those leaders, but also with their company’s values, mission, and goals. And having a workforce that feels connected to their company on that level can be a huge asset during times of economic uncertainty, like those we’re experiencing now.
Navigating uncertainty with a new approach to knowledge management
If the past few years taught us anything, it’s that change is constant. As the pandemic unfolded, companies everywhere had to quickly draft work-from-home policies and ensure that those policies were read and followed by every employee—fast. As company leaders published these time-sensitive updates on their company’s intranet or wiki, many found that they lacked a reliable way of actually distributing the information and ensuring that it was understood. As the pandemic ebbed and flowed and policies needed to be further updated, this issue arose time and again.
Now, as we brace ourselves for a period of economic uncertainty, companies everywhere will need to pivot in response to external factors and reorient their entire organization—which is likely based in multiple locations and time zones—at lightning speed. To do that, they’ll need a way to communicate clear, actionable updates with the right people at the right time. Yet, many companies today are still relying on all-hands meetings and a combination of email blasts and chat-app blitzes to update teams on major changes.
In a changing environment, companies need the ability to publish and distribute information with complete confidence that it’ll be read, understood, and acted upon. A knowledge management system that can enable that, while simultaneously being a trusted company-wide source of truth, is the type of solution that will help companies adapt to the new world of work and successfully navigate uncertain times. And it’s precisely the type of system we’re building here at Guru—with the help of our customers.
New features for a new world of work
Some of the world’s most innovative and forward-thinking companies are Guru customers. And we’re constantly inspired by those customers as we build a knowledge management platform to meet their needs in the new world of work.
When we saw that context switching was a major source of pain for companies, we built a browser extension so they could access key information without having to switch tabs. When trust in the accuracy of information emerged as a challenge for teams, we launched a verification workflow to give end users peace of mind that the information they’re reading is up to date.
Now, we’re seeing our customers tackle new challenges presented by the new world of work by using Guru both as a company-wide source of truth and as a means to communicate timely company updates throughout their organization. And this week, we rolled out a series of new features to further help them overcome those challenges. You can read more about these updates here.
The pandemic didn’t create a new world of work; it only rendered the old one obsolete and exacerbated its flaws. Now, we find ourselves staring at a blank canvas, with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a whole new way of working. Replicating in-office rituals digitally is not the answer, nor is attempting to force old tools to meet new needs.
What we need is a dramatic reinvention of how we work, and that starts with a reinvention of how we manage information. The new world of work calls for a new type of knowledge management system—one that can perform both as a reliable source of truth on company information and a dynamic internal communications tool. With this type of system in place, companies will be set up to optimize employee efficiency, drive employee engagement, and empower their teams to adapt to the ever-changing external environment. It's a new way for a new world.