How to Build an HR Knowledge Base

So, you’ve decided to stand up an HR Service Delivery solution with case management, HR knowledge base and a self-service portal.  But there’s one problem – you don’t have much content to put in the knowledge base.

How can you build your knowledge base?  Where do you begin?

You can purchase content, and you can create content.

Purchasing Content for your HR knowledge base?

You can subscribe to HR information sources like Business & Legal Resources.  These sources provide up-to-date information on compliance policies at the US federal level, and for each of the 50 states.  But the content in these data bases tends to be more useful to HR professionals, than to the employees they support.

Another consideration for using these data bases is the vetting requirement.  That is, any HR content that’s going to be accessed by employees through self-service often must be vetted through your internal legal team, before it’s published and accessible to your employees.  Therefore, the content is not always “ready to go.”

Finally, these data bases can’t address your company-specific policies, such as benefits, PTO, expense policies and such.  This leaves a significant “content gap.”  And unfortunately, this content that the commercial HR polices does not provide tends to be the content most often requested by employees.

So, how to cover the content gaps?

Using Existing Content

Every company that’s large enough to require a service delivery solution likely has existing content.  But just because you’ve got it doesn’t mean it’s ready to use.  You’ll likely need to find it, standardize it and format it, before it’s ready for publication.

Find it.

Finding existing content is not as easy as it sounds.  HR content is often created over time without consistent governance.  Therefore, you’ll likely find it in different places, and in different formats.  Content may exist on shared drives, in intranet locations like SharePoint, and yes, even in 3-ring binders.  But it’s out there, and someone needs to take inventory.

Sort it.

Once you’ve found it, sort it by category.  (e.g. benefits, compensation, health & safety, performance & termination, etc.)  It makes sense to use the same topic structure for organizing your knowledge base content, as you use for the categories and sub-categories in your case management system.

Format it.

Another step is to format all content in a similar way, from naming nomenclature to writing style, to fonts, headings graphic styles.  The writing style is important:  Remember, the consumer is the employee, and not HR.  So be sure to write in a style that’s easy for the employee to understand.

From the employees’ perspective, consistent formatting breeds familiarity, and familiarity causes employees to become more comfortable reading the content, and using self-service.  The greater the  comfort level and familiarity, the greater the self-service “portal gravity.”

Creating new content for your HR knowledge base

After you’ve collected the existing knowledge base content, you’ll realize that there’s still much that you still need to create.  But the problem is, where to begin?  Use Pareto’s Principle to your advantage.

The Pareto principle, named after economist Vilfredo Pareto, specifies that 20% of the invested input is responsible for 80% of the results obtained.  (Rumors exist that Pareto wanted to be an HR business partner instead of an economist.)

Putting Pareto’s Principle into an HR knowledge base context means 20% of the knowledge base content will resolve 80% of the questions that are asked.   The key then, is to figure out what that 20% is.

Mine the answers from the most frequent questions.

The easiest way to do this, is to go live with the Case Management system first.   After a reasonable volume of cases have been resolved, run a report on closed cases, or export the data to Excel.  Sort the report first by case category, and then by subcategory.  That will automatically group together the same questions and responses.

Review the Category/subcategories that appear most frequently.  Those questions and answers are the “raw material” for the FAQ’s for your knowledge base.  As you edit those responses, remember to use stick to the formatting principles we referenced earlier.  This will assure a more consistent and productive experience for the employees.

Building your knowledge base is never an easy task.  But with some sound methodology to guide your efforts, the task becomes more efficient.  I didn’t say the work is any easier, but as you’re doing it, you can rest assured that you’re focusing on the stuff that matters most.


Closing the gap between what your knowledge base offers and what your audience needs. (Courtesy of GinazMetrics)