Every company, big or small, has a number of policies, guidelines, procedures, workflows, and information that need to be communicated to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that the work is done a certain way and up to a certain standard. Some companies are strict about this, while others are governed loosely and freely, but they all have at least the fundamental understanding of what is and isn’t supposed to be done.
Companies go about different ways of communicating essential work-related information. Some will employ the improvised “take it as it comes” approach, leaving it to the employees to ask directly for any necessary information and providing it on the fly. Others will bombard their employees with a never-ending torrent of emails (or — gack! — paper documents), or unnecessary meetings for even the smallest universally applied detail.
Smart companies, if you ask us, implement a company wiki — a shared information center that gathers all relevant work-related information and knowledge. Its benefits are numerous, both for large and small businesses. Research conducted a while ago, showed that there are three main types of benefits from corporate wikis: enhanced reputation, simplicity, and improved company progress.
In other words, a well-structured company wiki will save time, create an organized informational flow, allow for the information to be added or updated promptly and provide all employees with the necessary know-how for all common work situation.
The most important step in creating a company wiki is defining a structure that ensures that the information is accurate, relevant, and easy to find. Here are a few tips that we hope will get you started in the right direction.
Company wikis can contain a wide variety of information, from general company info and conduct policies to specific workflows and knowledge bases and beyond. Before you start devising a wiki, think long and hard about what you wish to achieve with it. A good way to do this is to put yourself in the shoes of a new employee at his or her new job and think about any information they might need to quickly become a productive team member.
A brief list of types of information most commonly found on company wikis:
- general policies and guidelines, — basic work procedures (email setup, communication tools, etc.),
- organizational structure, — basic employee information, — production pipeline, — necessary software, — knowledge base,
- company-wide news
(Feel free to expand this list to include any relevant information specific to your company)
A wiki can contain the most useful information in the world and still fail its purpose if the user doesn’t know where to look. Therefore, organizing a variety of information on your company wiki is essential. Ideally, a wiki should be logical, convenient, and easy to navigate. Start with a small number of general categories that cover the entirety of information found on the wiki (think: company info, procedures, and guidelines, news, projects, knowledge base, etc.), and then segment it further within each individual category. Think of how a user would look for a specific piece of information, and make sure you test your organizational prowess on others — their feedback will tell you whether you’re on the right track or not.
Allowing everyone to add to the growing knowledge base is great in theory, but not everyone is equally comfortable with providing their two cents. People will often avoid contributing due to their doubts and uncertainties about the preferred shape and structure, and even contents of what they wish to contribute. A way to alleviate this problem and make it easier for everyone to contribute is to standardize your wiki and create templates for the submission of any information. Of course, this is not applicable in every occasion, but, whenever possible, try to provide your employees with clear directions on how something should be done.
One of the defining characteristics of a wiki its openness to everyone. It can be edited by anyone, and anyone can contribute to raising the overall level of knowledge and information. It is great because it allows employees to share any knowledge useful to others and update any info that’s obsolete and incomplete in a quick and convenient manner. On the other hand, in wrong hands, it can lead to incorrect information. You can solve this problem by maintaining a certain level of moderation.
BlogIn’s in-built wiki allows the administrator to control who can add content by assigning different roles to users (that could be another administrator, writer, commenter or reader). It is up to you to define who can contribute to a company wiki. You can leave it open to everyone, or only to employees with a certain level of seniority, or project/department leads. You should also try to review any added contents, but that will greatly depend on the volume of information added to the wiki. You can also invite colleagues to contribute their expertise with a simple @mention in the post or comment.
Regardless of your company’s size and nature, a wiki can be a useful tool in a number of different ways. Done properly, it will ensure that all relevant information is communicated equally to all employees and provide everyone with the necessary know-how to conduct their business in a consistent manner.