Why Knowledge Management is Critical for Remote Teams
You slam the snooze button. “I’ve got another fifteen minutes,” you tell yourself. You’re working from home today. No sweaty subway ride. No bumper to bumper traffic. And, as an added bonus, you can even stay in your Frozen pajama pants (side note: this author’s cover is now blown). Ah, remote work. Remote work has earned a media spotlight for all the wrong reasons recently amid panic relating to COVID-19 (coronavirus). Zoom CEO Eric Yuan went so far as to say that coronavirus will “change the landscape” of work and collaboration forever. He might just be right.
But the truth of the matter is that the rise of remote work has been slowly materializing for the past ten years.
Even before COVID-19, remote work was very much becoming a thing—you likely just didn’t notice. According to Global Workplace Analytics, remote work has been increasing dramatically over the past 10+ years. In fact, they estimate remote work has increased by 140% since 2007 among non-self-employed workers, and more than one-third (37%) of knowledge workers now come into the office four or fewer times per week. Remote is no longer an all-or-nothing work style, with 43% of Americans working remotely at least occasionally and 85% of workers preferring at least some remote work.
But yes, COVID-19 has poured gas on the remote work fire. The evidence suggests so:
But with all of the hysteria and all of the change, it’s worth asking yourself the question — is your company ready for remote work, regardless of the impetus for change? Gartner doesn’t think so. And you probably don’t, either.
"We’re being forced into the world’s largest work-from-home experiment and, so far, it hasn’t been easy for a lot of organizations to implement. In a recent webinar snap poll, 91% of attending HR leaders (all in Asia/Pacific) indicated that they have implemented ‘work from home’ arrangements since the outbreak, but the biggest challenge stems from the lack of technology infrastructure and lack of comfort with new ways of working." — Saikat Chatterjee, Senior Director, Advisory at Gartner
With or without a public health crisis, the inevitability of remote work seems obvious. Unfortunately, so too are the challenges that remote work brings. Working from home can be hard and scary for teams who are new to it, but we’re here to help.
The Challenges of Remote Work
COVID-19 has no silver linings, but one interesting byproduct has been exposing just how few employers are actually ready to support remote teams. With teams struggling to adapt on such short notice, it’s worth first understanding some of the challenges with remote work environments.
There are obvious challenges technology can solve for — and some less obvious. With respect to collaboration, communication, and time zone differences, Intercom has some tips to consider.
Get ready for the remote-work future with collaborative knowledge management
This remote-work trigger is a good, if sudden, wake-up call to prepare for the future — when employees will expect to feel as fully supported in remote work environments as they do in the office. COVID-19 or not, Gartner estimates that by 2030, the demand for remote work will increase by 30% as Generation Z fully enters the workforce. It’s time to think ahead.
Our ability to collaborate in this type of environment — as well as adapt to the fast rate of change organizations are grappling with — makes knowledge management a necessity. And, while knowledge management is very much on the top of mind of technology leaders, most organizations are well behind where they need to be to support remote work environments.
So why get your knowledge management strategy on track? What types of problems can you expect a collaborative knowledge management solution to solve for?
Consider the following scenarios that remote work environments present teams who don’t take a collaborative approach to knowledge management.
A sales rep in New Zealand has a question from a customer about a security protocol, but your security team is in Berlin and fast asleep.
A support agent is getting pricing and packaging questions in a live chat from a customer who may churn, but the pricing and packaging document lives in your sales CRM, not your support knowledge base.
You release a feature that introduces a very painful bug for your customers. You have dozens of different support agents DMing the product manager who released the feature — the PM is forced to answer the same questions again and again.
When teams have their own knowledge silos, they fall victim to “out of sight, out of mind” syndrome for anyone outside of those teams. And while most teams have many team-specific tools they use to store knowledge, remote environments expose the need for knowledge to be a team sport, with every department contributing and collaborating in the same place.
These knowledge silos make it difficult for remote teams to traverse the information needed to do their jobs. We recently polled some Guru customers, and it quickly became obvious that knowledge is a team sport — with contributions and collaboration coming from across the entire organization.
Moreover, when we force our teams to go into a confusing, out of date portal to search for information, they’ll likely find it easier just to give their teammates virtual shoulder taps via chat DMs or emails. These types of virtual shoulder taps pile up on subject matter experts, cripple productivity, and erode employee engagement.
In fact, time spent by managers and employees in collaborative activities has ballooned by 50% or more. The employees who have the most institutional knowledge and are rated as the best collaborators in their companies—have the lowest engagement and career satisfaction scores.
So a few things are clear: Remote work, while on the rise, has been accelerated due to COVID-19, and teams face a number of challenges, but collaboration is arguably the most important. With that in mind, knowledge management can help drive better collaboration across remote teams, but organizations need to rethink their knowledge strategy in order to combat some common knowledge pitfalls, which include:
Knowledge silos popping up and being attached to team specific tools (CRM, Ticketing System, Project Management tools etc)
If knowledge is out of date and untrusted, people will revert back to the virtual shoulder taps, which exhausts and frustrates your subject matter experts.
If you keep knowledge in a portal, adoption will be low.
A Knowledge Playbook for Your Remote Knowledge Strategy
Shopify Support has been a remote and distributed team since 2014. In a lot of ways, Shopify has modeled the future of knowledge sharing by optimizing their knowledge strategy for remote environments.
“Using Guru with our remote Support teams helped us scale and maintain consistent, quality support for our customers” Dana Tessier, Director of Knowledge Management explains. “Our reliable and up-to-date knowledge management repository in Guru is critical to ensure our remote teams are set up for success.”
Dana offers up a few pieces of advice for getting started with your remote knowledge management strategy:
If you’re interested in learning more about how knowledge management can make your remote teams more collaborative, schedule a quick consultation with our team today. If you want to get a feel for how Guru can solve these problems more specifically, read about how to use Guru to help your team transition to remote work.