Why every company needs a workplace wiki

Andy Cook | October 26, 2016

Imagine this… On your first day of a new job a cord is plugged into your head then all the knowledge about how to do your new job is seamlessly transferred to you, just like how Neo learns kung fu in the Matrix. You’d save weeks learning the ins-and-outs of your new role, save time for your team by not having to ask questions and you’d immediately be productive from day one.


See Tettra’s wiki in action

It might sound unrealistic, but at some companies, that type of knowledge transfer actually exists (without the cord going into your brain, of course). What I’m talking about is a workplace wiki.

What’s a workplace wiki?

A workplace wiki is a central place where all your coworkers can store internal documentation about processes, projects or products their building. You can think of as Wikipedia or Google for your company. Don’t know how to do something? Just look it up on the internal wiki.

Why does your company need a workplace wiki?

What do Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon all have in common? If you guessed the are five of the largest companies by market cap in the world, you’d be right. If you guessed the all used internal wikis, you’d also be right.

Companies that don’t have a workplace wiki are at a disadvantage versus their competitors who do. Here are a few reasons why having an internal wiki is important.

Onboard new team members faster

Growing companies spend thousands of dollars a year recruiting teammates, but don’t invest nearly as much money making sure new hires are onboarded quickly and efficiently. Every week someone takes to ramp up to full speed is money gone from the company’s bank account in terms of lost productivity.

For the people you’re hiring, starting a new job can be stressful. Having no clue what to do, how to do it, or who to ask for help can make your new teammates feel inept. The reality is, none of that is their fault, since there’s no training course for working a company you’ve never worked at before.

With an internal wiki, new team members can look up what they need to do their job with a simple search, so it makes them feel smarter and saves you money on ramp-up costs. As you onboard team members, make sure they know if and when you plan to meet on a regular basis, and clarify how you structure your one-on-one meetings. The more they know what to expect, the better prepared they can be!

19% of your team’s time is spent searching for information

According to a study by consulting firm McKinsey, knowledge workers spent 19% of their time searching and gathering information to do their jobs. Put another way, for every 5 people you hire, you basically only get productive work out of 4.

Having a centralized internal wiki that contains internal document for how to perform processes, links to important documents and allows your team to collaborate on a specific topic is a huge time saver. In fact, that same study found that by setting us systems that make it easier to search and gather information, you not only recoup that lost 19% but also could increase productivity by as much as 35%.

Knowledge doesn’t leave with people

When one of your teammates inevitably leaves, she’ll take all the institutional knowledge on how to do their job with her. Sure, there’s the “brain dump” approach where you ask your teammate to write down everything she knows before leaving, but that rarely works since it’s hard to document everything in such a short time period and important pieces of information are inevitably forgotten.

With an internal wiki, you can systematically capture your team’s knowledge as it’s happening in real time, so you already have it when you need it later. Over time, the accruement of institutional knowledge becomes a huge competitive advantage for your company that you may otherwise have missed out on creating.

Don’t have a workplace wiki yet?

At Tettra, we’re big believers in empowering your team, so we’re building the easiest to use internal wiki that will help your team share and access your team’s knowledge. We even let you search your wiki right from Slack.

If you’re using Slack and need a wiki, you can sign up for Tettra for free on our site.

If Slack’s not your thing, then there’s plenty of open-source wikis you can setup on your own servers for free, including MediaWiki, DokuWiki and Foswiki.