Podcast | How To Build A Search-First Learning Culture

March 24, 2023
June 26, 2023

56% of employees struggle to find resources and documents while working remotely.

And when they’re scattered in multiple places, knowledge isn’t being captured and the norm is to shoulder tap or Slack, it’s no wonder.

But by building a central brain and search-first culture, we can connect people to knowledge that makes them better at their job WHEN it can make them better at their job.

Scribe CEO Jennifer Smith joined us live to explain how we can create a culture where people search in moments of need and find resources that drive performance.

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Running order

0:00 Intro to Jennifer and Scribe
5:25 Why people don’t search first
9:47 Building a central brain for knowledge
16:49 Scaling knowledge sharing as managers
26:26 Getting buy-in
29:34 On-brand ways to drive knowledge sharing
33:28 Do incentives work?
37:44 Audience question: Using the right language
45:45 Audience question: Correcting bad experiences
48:16 Best practices

Five Lessons On Building A Search-First Culture

Does this sound like a familiar problem?

“I have all of this really valuable knowledge that mostly lives in people’s heads… that knowledge heads out the door at 5 PM, and I’ve got to hope that it comes back.

“And if I try to capture it, I have two options. Tell people to take time away from the work they’re supposed to be doing and write down what you know, or I’ll hire someone to come shadow you.”

This was a familiar theme that Jennifer came across when working with big businesses. And it’s indicative of a wider problem: knowledge isn’t being captured day-to-day, meaning people have less incentive to search because they’re less likely to find what they need.

So, with that in mind, how do we build a better approach to knowledge sharing and build a search-first culture?

Why people don’t search

So many people have bad experiences when they search for knowledge internally, and it creates a negative feedback loop that discourages them from doing it again in the future.

  • 55% of employees named finding and sharing organisational knowledge as a challenge.
  • 57% also flagged locating specific files and people with specific expertise as a difficulty.
  • And it’s estimated that the average knowledge worker spends 20% of their time looking for information they need.

“When you search and don’t find your answer, you say, ah, I’m not doing that again. That place doesn’t have what I need and you probably tell other people too… And then it becomes this tribal understanding that the wiki is terrible, it doesn’t have any of the information we need.” – Jennifer Smith.

And if you’re the person who took the time to create it, you get no feedback on how it’s received or it doesn’t get used, you have less incentive to update it and create more content in the future.

However, you can create positive feedback through the same principles. Celebrate when content is used, explain the impact it’s had, and allow people to share their two cents to expand on it.

How to build a central brain for knowledge

Ask where people search today.

This will help you understand their existing organic behaviour. And if there is some sort of existing search culture, you’ve partly understood the problem.

However, many companies don’t currently have a central place, so they need to start training people to go to that place, and it only takes one good experience to start building that behaviour.

So, where do you start?

“If you have nothing in place or you’re starting from scratch, there are a few phases to think about, and what you’re trying to create is this positive reinforcement that when they search for something, they get this quick and easy answer.

“To start, ask what are my commonly asked problems or processes where there might be some confusion.” – Jennifer Smith.

If you can figure these out, you can create that positive feedback loop, and the behaviour change that people go to that place first. The more people find useful content, the more this grows naturally over time.

“You’re trying to make it really low effort for people and really high ROI. So I get exactly what I need or what I want. Whether that’s recognition from my team and knowing that I helped them, or if I’m the person asking questions, I got a really fast, accurate answer…” – Jennifer Smith.

Managers can encourage and scale knowledge sharing.

“A lot of this ends up being the behaviour that you’re trying to see and encourage. And as a manager or a leader, you can start to plant those seeds. You can start creating some of that yourself and lead by example.

“And make sure you’re doing something that’s really valuable for people. Because then they’re going to see it and say, this was really valuable, I wonder if it will be valuable for my team too?” – Jennifer Smith.

With that buy-in, you can share tutorials and best practices as well as communicating how this will benefit them specifically.

Why repeat questions are the enemy of knowledge sharing

The people who get repeat questions are normally your most knowledgeable and highest-performing employees. And they’re busy, so repeat questions often feel like an interruption or productivity killer.

“The way we do knowledge transfer right now is predominantly one to one, we don’t make it into scalable media. Most of the knowledge sharing in your company is one to one, through shoulder taps, Slack messages, emails – however people communicate, and that knowledge is lost.” – Jennifer Smith.

Incentives for knowledge sharing need to be sustainable

Incentivising is a broad term and often our mind goes to financial rewards – but this can be damaging in the long run.

“That should almost be your last resort. As soon as you’re paying someone to do something, you’re sort of devaluing all the other reasons someone might do something. And I’d argue that they are stronger because most of them tie more intrinsically (with people’s job and goals).” – Jennifer Smith.

Stronger signals are social recognition and positive feedback, solving challenges and helping reach business goals.