By: Jen Stroud, HR Evangelist and Transformation Leader, ServiceNow
You know Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), one of the oldest and most rote tasks in the web builder’s playbook. I’m here to tell you that if you’re in Human Resources and building a knowledge base for your employees to use: Ditch those FAQs. Instead of making assumptions about what information employees want and need, figure out what questions they’re actually asking and focus your efforts there.
I call these Actually Asked Questions, or AAQs.
Implementing a knowledge base with AAQs can be a great first step in leading your organization into a new era, one in which organizations become more personalized, predictive, and seamless for their employees. This is a critical transformation. A recent survey of CHROs (chief human resource officers) reveals that more than half of CHROs (56 percent) see their roles as creating a digital, consumerized employee experience. And 77 percent, or more than three in in four, expect to see improved employee experiences from digital transformation in the next three years.
So where should you begin this daunting task of providing all information pertinent to your employee base? Start simple and take a phased approach.
To start, have your HR department take a few weeks and log every question that comes its way, whether via email, phone call, or someone flagging them down in the hallway. Build a database. See what it is that employees need to know, and what’s bubbling up as a question being asked over and over again. Use the top 20 or 30 questions to build your knowledge base. If you have the answers to those AAQs, you’ll be well on your way to creating something your employees will find useful.
When it comes to search functionality within your knowledge base, keep it simple and uncomplicated. Google became a massive company with the simplest of search pages. Learn from that. Equally important, ensure the search results are simple, too. Write answers in conversational, digestible language that employees can easily consume. You do not want to provide as the first search result your company’s entire policy. No one will read it and you’ll start the vicious cycle of phone calls to the HR department all over again.
Building AAQs does take some time. There’s work required up-front that will pay off if done right. Which means curating the content listed, not lifting and shifting information into the knowledge base from some other database or portal without carefully vetting it first. Listen to the employees. They’ll tell you what they need. And then refine that information into something easily digestible, so it’s of maximum utility.
Once you’ve built a knowledge base, keep it growing. As employees ask more questions, add them to the AAQs, because they’re coming from a place of authenticity. The knowledge base should be a living organism. For instance, perhaps when you assembled your AAQs, no one had asked about jury duty, but suddenly the courts call several of your employees. Go ahead and put that in. One key to making the knowledge base work: Assign one person to be your knowledge manager. Especially key in the first six to 12 months after the knowledge base rolls out, the knowledge manager needs to keep a close watch on which questions are being asked, what searches are successful, and so on, so they can update and grow the database accordingly.
Here’s a bold idea that we tried, and it really worked: When you’re ready to go live with your new knowledge base, turn off your general 800-number and email accounts previously used to reach HR staff. Force employees to use the knowledge base and continue to refer them to the AAQs. Many organizations, however, find that approach too aggressive. You can still keep the lines of communication open if you like. Then if someone comes to HR with a question that could have been solved by searching in the AAQs, have HR reply with a gentle note along these lines: “I found your answer in our new knowledge base. Here’s the link.”
Either way, the knowledge base should be easily searchable on the employee-facing website/portal so you reinforce the habit of turning there first for all questions. It should also have the option to submit a new inquiry to the knowledge base, with a prompt along the lines of: Would you like to submit a case? Then the knowledge manager can respond, route their question, and take the steps necessary behind the scenes to incorporate the answer into the knowledge base for the next time that question gets posed.
That’s where the project comes full circle. You’re using real-life transactions to help inform and build your living knowledge base, ultimately serving the needs of your employees. And with that, you’re well on your way to the new era of serving employees through digital transformation!