How Employee Knowledge Can Help Your People Work Better Together
Let’s spare a thought for the humans.
At a time when phrases like “do more with less” are common and the bots are banging down the door, it can sometimes feel as if everyone’s in a hurry to replace the work of us humble humans.
But so much of what humans do provides value that can’t be replaced—not now, and not ever.
Take trust for example. At Guru, we’ve always believed that humans play a uniquely valuable role in building trust in the accuracy of the information stored in a system like ours. And from day one we’ve felt it’s critical to create an explicit connection between written knowledge and the humans behind that knowledge.
Today we show this connection with our verification workflow: When someone views knowledge in Guru, they can not only see when the information was last reviewed and verified, they can also see the name and profile photo of the person who verified it.
For example, if I want to view Guru’s product roadmap, I can see that it was recently verified by Ly Nguyen, Guru’s VP of Product Management. Seeing that Ly verified the roadmap helps me in a number of ways:
I know that Ly is a VP on the product team and therefore has the expertise and authority to confirm that the information is accurate.
I also know Ly; we’ve worked together for years, so I know that when she says something is up to date, she means it.
Seeing that Ly verified the knowledge tells me that she’s the person I should go to if I have follow-up questions.
In a situation like this, something interesting is happening: “Company knowledge” is being enhanced by “employee knowledge”—knowledge about the human behind the work.
The importance of this type of knowledge is often overlooked, but employees at companies everywhere rely on it to answer questions like:
“What’s this person’s role?”
“Who do they report to?”
“What’s an appropriate time to book a meeting with them?”
Most companies provide their teams with the information they need to answer simple questions like these—details like a person’s job title, start date, and timezone are usually available in an HRIS system, for example. But these details only scratch the surface of all the employee knowledge that’s out there. And they don’t help teams answer more complex questions like:
“Where does this person’s expertise lie?”
“What are their priorities right now?"
“How do I collaborate effectively with them?”
I’m willing to bet we all regularly ask ourselves questions like these—when getting on a Zoom call with a new hire, kicking off a cross-functional project, or preparing to share feedback with a teammate for example.
As common as these types of questions are in modern workplaces, it’s remarkably difficult for employees to get the insights they need about the people they collaborate with, learn from, and rely on to do their best work.
After all, according to the Dunbar effect humans can only manage a maximum of 150 stable social relationships at one time. So any company with, say 100+ team members, almost certainly has employees who are craving more context about the people they work with.
This brings to light the importance of not only having access to trusted company information (the “what”), but also having access to trusted employee information (the “who”) alongside it. When this is made possible, employees can get the context they need. And with that context, they can establish more meaningful connections with one another. And when teams feel connected to one another, they collaborate better.
Employee knowledge: context, connection, collaboration
Let’s say you’re a people manager who just joined a new company. You have new direct reports and you need to get up to speed on how best to support them—fast.
Your key to early success? Context about the people on your team.
You’ll want to be able to find each employee’s start date. This will tell you who’s the most experienced and who might need more hands-on support. You’ll also want details about timezones and working hours. This will help you avoid setting up meetings or pinging your team at unreasonable times.
Most of all though, you’ll want to know who’s working on what and where each individual’s areas of expertise lie. This will give you an instant insight into how best to support each team member and how to elevate the expertise that sits within your team.
When companies can give their employees this level of context about one another, it can help new hires hit the ground running. But more than that, it can foster an ongoing sense of connection between people.
When employees know their colleagues’ working styles, priorities, and areas of expertise, they can spot similarities and shared interests. They can skip the awkward ice-breakers and jump to the part where they can confidently jam on topics that energize and excite both of them—in other words, the part that creates a meaningful connection between two teammates.
And when teammates feel connected, they collaborate better.
When a cross-functional group is brought together to kick off a new project, their success will depend on things like their ability to share feedback, their understanding of each other's strengths, and the extent to which they feel psychologically safe to ask tough questions and share bold ideas. This type of culture is nearly impossible to establish if employees feel disconnected from one another, but if team members have access to knowledge about their colleagues’ working styles, previous projects, and unique skills, they’re much more likely to be successful.
Guru+HRIS: introducing employee profiles
At Guru, it’s our vision to make it easier for teams everywhere to access employee knowledge and get a holistic view of the people they work with—who they are, what they know, and how they like to collaborate. And like our approach to company knowledge, we think that employee knowledge should always be trustworthy, easy to find, and in every user’s workflow.
We’re building towards this vision with the launch of Employee Profiles—a new feature that gives employees a single source of truth about their colleagues, accessible directly in their workflow.
An employee’s profile includes information synced from their company’s HRIS system, like what team they’re on and where they’re based. Each profile also includes the ability to add details about working styles and communication preferences. The part we’re most excited about though, is the fact that each profile includes all of the Guru Cards a person has created, which gives their colleagues an insight into what they’re working on and where their areas of expertise lie.
With Employee Profiles users can:
Access trusted employee data synced from their HRIS system, so they can easily see details of what team someone is on, who they report to, and when their start date was
See all of a colleague’s Guru Cards in one place, so they can view what they’re working on and get context ahead of their next interaction
Follow a colleague’s work in Guru, so they get notified every time they create a new Card and never miss an update
These features are available in Guru now. And just like any Guru Card, profiles are searchable in Guru, accessible through our Chrome extension, and available to pull up in Slack or Teams.
It’s our belief that employee information that lives in a HRIS system and company knowledge that lives in Guru can be greater than the sum of their parts. Employees can get the context they need to create deeper connections with their teammates. They can use that sense of connection to drive more effective collaboration. And ultimately, they can get a deeper understanding of the humans behind the work.