Our company is growing and evolving on a day to day basis and our primary purpose is the standardization of the full-charge bookkeeping cycle which has many moving parts and can vary by industry and client need. All of this is to say that we have new processes emerging and process refinement occurring daily. And, because bookkeeping is something that can be done 100 different ways, we also have the challenge of defining the best practice – the one we want to adopt. At first, we just added to the process manual for each role within the company and made sure the processes had accountability points where a person outside of the process would be aware if it wasn’t completed or proper. Eventually our manuals became very beefy and there was no way to ensure that the staff members in a given role had a working understanding of all of the material. We implemented these tools for knowledge management and our knowledge share is now more efficient and exciting than ever:
Training Videos – We created a series of training videos to help orient new staff members or those entering into a new role within the company. They are supported by outlines on which we require our trainees to make notes and submit them to their supervisor. This accomplishes a few things: we are reaching the visual and written learners, we are ensuring that videos are being watched all the way through, and we are mining information about the content and the trainee. If we keep seeing the same questions pop-up on those outline notes about a given subject, we know we need to improve our training in that area. If we see inconsistent or off-subject notes, we know that the trainee lacks the ability to learn this way, be meticulous, or stay on point – all indications that the role may not be a good fit for them.
Testing & Continuing Education – After they have watched all of the videos and taken one long read through the process manual that applies to their role, we give them an open book test. All of the answers are searchable within the manual and this practice helps us to get their head into the manual, using it as a reference guide and bringing attention to the details of critical processes. Since our process manuals are constantly evolving, internal continuing education is critical. Our staff answers a quick set of continuing education questions every month that set them up for success in their roles. Some processes only occur once a year so the continuing education questions are a great way to refresh their knowledge about how to handle seasonal tasks properly. Of course, we also include questions about the new or changed processes so they are brought to attention. This has been extremely effective for reducing requests for support in tasks that are already clearly outlined in the manual – thereby increasing our staff efficiency.
Management Brainstorming – We have five levels of accountability within our company: Data Entry, Bookkeepers, Controllers, Operations, and Executive staff. At all levels we have talented, experienced, and highly educated people who love the company and want to see us become more valuable, more efficient, and more effective in the market we serve. I believe that executive staff who do not recognize the talent of their team and instead ‘dictate from on high’ miss out on great feedback and have a hard time creating the passion that fuels collaboration and personal responsibility. If a staff member is always carrying out someone else’s wishes and doesn’t have the opportunity and encouragement to share their thoughts and ideas, they won’t be excited about their workplace. We provide a forum for weekly brainstorming where our management level team members air concerns, discuss potential solutions, work through processes that are broken, and discover untapped opportunities. Our non-management staff are recognized when they bring a good idea to the attention of management and they get a sweet bonus if it is implemented in part or in whole.
These strategies have drastically improved knowledge management within our small business environment and they are very affordable – we were able to create all of our training and tests in-house, by the people who are closest to the work. It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive to be effective.
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