Companies interested in investing in their employee engagement and knowledge sharing may be looking into a corporate wiki.
At first glance, a corporate wiki and an internal knowledge base might seem like the same thing – but they are actually very different types of software. It’s possible that you may be looking for knowledge base software instead of wiki software.
Either way, a lack of knowledge is a huge bottleneck to productivity. In fact, failure to share knowledge is responsible for a $31.5 billion a year loss by Fortune 500 companies. Wikis are frequently seen as a top solution to help employees share their knowledge more effectively.
Definition of a Corporate Wiki
Wikipedia is a famous example of a wiki. The content on Wikipedia can be created and edited by anyone as long as they have access to a web browser and can write using simplified markup language. With a wiki, there is no centralized author or team responsible for content production. Wikis are, in one sense, extremely democratic.
Wikis are typically developed using an open source model. The aim is to crowdsource content from a group of users. The key word here is “collaboratively” – corporate wikis are used internally by employees to collaborate and share knowledge.
How Companies Are Using Wikis Internally
85% of businesses rated employee engagement as important or very important. A corporate wiki can play a big part in this strategy.
An internal wiki should boost employee engagement in a number of ways. Most crucially, it’s by getting your employees to collaborate more and improve their knowledge sharing. Collaboration is crucial for any teams who need to share information and documents, which also constantly need to be updated.
Ramp up onboarding
Wikis can also benefit your new staff members. 53% of those working in HR say that they see improvements in employee engagement after improving the onboarding process. And did you know that the average new employee wastes up to 200 unproductive work hours due to poor training?
A wiki can help you onboard your new employees and give them access to the knowledge they need more quickly.
Retain more knowledge
Knowledge retention is also a key differentiator for businesses keen to outperform their competitors. Every time an employee leaves for any reason, companies lose knowledge. Knowledge loss can even result in accidents that cost millions of dollars.
Stem staff attrition
A wiki can help reduce staff attrition by improving access to knowledge your company already has. Companies can leverage the resources of the crowd to produce a comprehensive knowledge repository that grows organically.
Even better, 92% of staff say that access to the proper technology at work improves job satisfaction.
As former US president Benjamin Franklin wisely imparts, “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”
Corporate Wiki Versus an Internal Knowledge Base
Like a wiki, an internal knowledge base is also designed to curate important information. The main difference is that your knowledge base content is centrally produced by dedicated writers. Any user can be a contributor to a wiki, but only selected authors can create content for a knowledge base.
You can think of a knowledge base as read-only and hierarchical, with a clear distinction between authors and readers.
Your knowledge base should follow a content strategy. Your writers produce content according to a schedule, with Information Architecture. In contrast, corporate wikis are expected to grow organically, since your content is added by a theoretically unlimited number of users. Content is added according to the impulses of your users.
This brings us to our first hurdle concerning wikis. It’s obvious that your employees will be more engaged with your content if it follows a logical structure. They can learn the system and be confident they know what your knowledge base contains.
Structuring your content is fantastic when you appreciate how boosting employee engagement can increase profits by $2400 per employee a year. The ability to structure properly is just one way that knowledge bases are superior to wikis.
In fact, there are many disadvantages to using a corporate wiki, which is why you’ll find they are slowly dying out in Knowledge Management.
A Corporate Wiki is Not All That
Now we’ll run through the main ways that a wiki has limited potential for improving employee engagement.
Unsatisfying onboarding capabilities
First of all, if you want to onboard new staff, a wiki probably isn’t going to cut it. There’s no proper structure to the content, while you need to present only the most important information for onboarding. New employees are at risk of overwhelm when trying to use your wiki.
Due to its nature, a wiki is useful for content exploration – but what happens if your staff have limited time? And they will never have quite enough time. They can use the search bar to find what they need, but wiki search is typically unsophisticated.
Only basic analytics
A wiki also has very little analytic capability, which means you’ll be lacking insight into how your employees are using the software. You won’t be able to see the content gaps, or who your top users are, for example. It’s hard to get an oversight of how to plan and improve your wiki content – because you can’t really plan.
Lack of relevant content
It takes a lot of effort to get your staff to contribute to your wiki. When staff get busy, contributing to a wiki is going to sink to the bottom of their to do list. The software also has poor usability for non technical users – requiring familiarity with markup languages like HTML for example. Poor usability makes users even less inclined to create content in your software.
This means your precious knowledge is still at risk of seeping out of your organization.
Hard to edit content
Even if employees do contribute your wiki, then there’s the mammoth task of editing all the content. Not everyone in your company can write to a professional level. Wiki content can easily become out-of-date if content authors leave the organization, with no one to take ownership for updating it.
As a result, the content you do end up with may not be presentable for staff to be able to make proper use of it.
Lack of structure
Ultimately, your wiki then becomes a dumping ground for content you don’t know what to do with. Who hasn’t had this experience with a corporate wiki?
And too much unstructured information can almost be worse than none at all. “In your thirst for knowledge, be sure not to drown in all the information,” says Tony J. D'Angelo, VP of Sales and Marketing at InterTrade Systems.
You’re not really saving time or resources with a wiki. You’re creating a knowledge graveyard.
An Internal Knowledge Base Beats a Corporate Wiki
Wiki tumbleweed is a real problem, as your staff find your content increasingly impenetrable and fail to use it. What represented a novel way to engage your staff now becomes an embarrassing waste of money.
Limited options to customize your site means your wiki will look like something from the Windows 95 era. It won’t be like the sophisticated knowledge portal you were hoping for. This is very bad, since users come to expect
Unlike a wiki, a SaaS knowledge base offers a customizable front-facing website that is UX-optimized and visually appealing. It doesn’t require users to be technical specialists to publish content. The modern CMS is perfectly geared towards editing and publishing posts. With a wiki, you can’t really customize the front end without fairly advanced coding skills.
SaaS knowledge bases – like our own Helpjuice – are hosted for you, so you don’t have to worry about managing the software in the back-end. You can benefit from 24/7 customer support to troubleshoot any problems. Your internal knowledge base integrates with your support ticketing system, so you can easily turn emails into help articles that save time.
You can also track the search queries on your knowledge base, showing you the popularity of pages to indicate which topics your employees are looking for.
A wiki can seem appealing because it requires less initial content investment than a knowledge base. The idea is that your employees organically contribute to the wiki, which builds itself. In reality, wikis are difficult to manage without significant content oversight. Wikis notoriously have the potential to rapidly sprawl into an unusable mess.
Instead of crowdsourcing your content, the key is to work together with Subject Matter Experts to source your knowledge. Employees are motivated to share their knowledge in order to empower and help others.
Once they see your knowledge base is a valuable resource, they will be motivated to contribute – and highly engaged teams are 21% more profitable.
“Knowledge is like money: to be of value it must circulate, and in circulating it can increase in quantity and, hopefully, in value,” said American novelist Louis L’Amour, Education of a Wandering Man.
Take it Away!
Whether you choose a wiki or a knowledge base for your team, it’s essential that your company has a formal method of knowledge sharing. This is the route to providing a strong foundation for employee engagement.
Employee engagement starts from the ground up. Neither a wiki nor an internal knowledge base will fix deep-rooted cultural problems. But a healthy workplace culture can be enhanced with appropriate knowledge-sharing processes.
“To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace,” says Doug Conant, CEO of Campbell’s Soup. This means treating your employees like customers by providing them with the necessary knowledge to do their jobs effectively.
Helpjuice' s knowledge base software can help you win in the workplace. It’s a platform you can use to easily produce your own internal knowledge base. Try it for yourself right now.