It’s time to give best practices a brand refresh! They’re not just old folders to be tucked away in a stuffy cabinet and dug out every few years. They can be fun, fresh formats and fluid documents that evolve over time. Which can really help you drive social learning, knowledge sharing and learning culture in your company.
To be very literal, they’re the best ways of achieving a task that have worked in practice! When a process has proven successful in the past, most likely in meaningful situations that are likely to be repeated, it makes sense to consider that the best way of doing it.
Or at least in the short term! Most best practice definitions seem to forget that they’re often fluid and evolving, only the best practices for as long as they yield the best results. Fruitful variations to the process might lead to a 2.0 version of the guidelines and instructions – so always keep that in mind, especially when the situations or products they relate to change too.
Well, it’s pretty pointless just one person knowing the best way of doing something! Especially when the process gets the best results because the productivity or profitability gains are limited to that person alone. That’s why best practices are so often preceded or followed by the word sharing.
When people are sharing best practices, it brings a whole host of benefits that make employees better at their job and help companies achieve their goals.
There’s an outdated idea that guidelines and best practices need to come from the company’s top brass. But the reality is that they should be shaped by people with experience in overcoming the task at hand. We alluded to it in the definition, but it’s about the processes that produce the best outcomes – and it’s often the people on the frontline who know what works best.
Someone who’s clocked thousands of hours for successfully onboarding new customers, for example, is highly qualified to shape the best practices for welcoming new clients. And those subject matter experts exist throughout the organisation and can act as informal mentors for their colleagues.
It’s just a case of understanding where they are and their expertise. Auditing and measuring skills is a great place to start because it’ll show you the knowledgeable and those with knowledge gaps – pairing the two together is a great way to close those gaps.
The more people get in the habit of sharing what works, their experiences and best practices, the more you build a learning culture. As Josh Bersin put it, “the single biggest driver of business impact is the strength of an organisation’s learning culture.”
Why? Because people are encouraged and rewarded for seeking out new ways of doing things, picking their colleagues’ brains and building skills that help everyone progress! Whether that’s towards company or personal goals, HR tasks for retaining and attracting talent or improving productivity and creativity – the benefits of building a learning culture are pretty much endless.
Breaking information out of silos
We already mentioned it, but there’s no point in just one person knowing how to do something! Especially if that person decides to leave the company and you’re scrambling around to learn from them throughout their four-week notice period. Besides, that doesn’t really help people learn from that colleague naturally because there’s little time to ask follow-up questions or shadow them through tasks.
Sharing best practice resources as a regular practice gives people time to learn from colleagues by asking questions, collaborating on tasks and getting feedback from them. And that also leads to…
Everything we’ve discussed so far encourages people to interact with each other more in meaningful situations where there’s likely going to be a reward for that collaboration. And that really helps build a team spirit and sense of community between the people in your organisation.
When people can easily access and understand the guidelines for achieving business-specific tasks, it cuts down the time to complete them. Sharing best practices means that you’re not repeating the same mistakes but taking the most efficient and fruitful route to solving a problem. And that eliminates the wasted time and monetary costs that often come with trial and error for finding the right approach.
Getting the right best platform sharing platform in place can be crucial for harnessing all those benefits, and here are some of the most common or useful:
Companies who like to do things the old school way might still be in the very formal habit of asking people to fill out templates and files to document best practices. And then those are normally stored on the shared internal drive. Having that structure around how the process is captured can be helpful, but shared drives often make it very difficult to find what you need – unless you know exactly what you’re looking for.
It also poses the problem of having outdated versions with similar names clogging up the folders and leading people to follow inaccurate advice.
If you’ve ever used a tool like Trello or Miro, then you’ll know how useful they can be for creating visual pathways. When you’re building out a process with multiple steps and choices, it helps if people can see the order of the steps – normally, these tools let you do this through cards that can be dragged and dropped across the board.
However, when the number of processes grows into the high double and even triple digits, you might struggle to name and organise them in ways that people can easily find. And if a specific set of guidelines someone needs to complete a subtask is tucked away in a wider board, searching for it becomes tricky too.
The issue with the tools we’ve mentioned (and your other options like a company intranet) is that they’re disconnected from where people work! People typically need best practices in moments that matter, when they need to complete a task – so leaving the workflow to search for the guidance they need eats away at productivity and the time taken to clear that hurdle.
That’s why we integrate with the tools you use day in and day out! Perhaps you’re a sales rep who needs guidance in Salesforce as you manage prospects, or maybe you’re working in customer support and need your best practices in Intercom to cut down response time.
Storing best practices in a dedicated tool also means those resources are disconnected from all your other resources, from learning content to company announcements. And that’s why HowNow acts as your single source of knowledge and central brain for all the important company resources.
If you’d like to see what we’re talking about, we’ve got an on-demand demo you can watch right now.
It’s all well and good knowing why it’s important and having the tools to do it, but you have to encourage your people to make best practice sharing a habit! And there’s a few ways you can do build those best practice processes.
Whether it’s shoutouts, discounts or monetary rewards, there are plenty of incentives you can offer people – you’ll know which are the best cultural or personal fit. Creating a positive reward for employees to share knowledge and update the best practices is a way of reinforcing it as a beneficial habit that’s worth repeating.
They’re a blank canvas for processes and procedures, so make knowledge sharing and best practice use/management a part of the onboarding process. As they ramp up, they’ll not only provide feedback about those documents but they’ll also form the habits of creating their own. The more this happens, the more you build that learning culture.
If there’s loads of red tape for getting best practices signed off or the process is made unnecessarily long through demands for minimum lengths or certain formats, that’s hardly going to encourage people to do it! It might be an idea to set up some loose guidelines for how they should look and how often they’re updated – but bureaucracy is hardly going to win people over.
People are busy, they’ve got a lot on their plates and might not see the importance of creating and updating best practices (unless they’ve read this article), but carving out dedicated time every week or month can help form that habit. Especially if you’ve made it easier to create content and put those rewards in place.
Free Guide: 37 Lessons For A Winning L&D Strategy