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Using a company wiki for employee collaboration and training is a new initiative at Sparta Engineering that recently spawned from our first FedEx Day.
The Sparta Fedex Day involved taking a day off from day-to-day activities to allow employees to work in small groups to solve problems. For those of you that don’t know what a FedEx Day is, the concept came from Daniel H. Pink’s book “Drive”.
The catch is everyone has exactly 24h to deliver the product (that’s the FedEx overnight shipping reference). Sparta took all of a Thursday to complete our FedEx Day and had the groups present on Friday.
One of the projects that came up during the FedEx Day was an internal Wiki for our company. The Sparta Wiki is the start of a knowledge database for our employees to share ideas. We are really excited about this concept as it gives us a platform to share and save some of the ideas that our staff commonly share every day.
Use a Company Wiki to Capture Employee Shortcuts
What typically happens is that someone will discover a really neat shortcut that saves a lot of time. Best case scenario is they will share the trick with the our staff mailing list. Sometimes the trick is a Windows shortcut, an Outlook setting or something in our design software (SolidWorks). If we are lucky, the employee will email our company mailing list to let us know of the trick. Unfortunately, more times than not this email is likely lost in the 100’s of emails everyone receives daily and never to be thought of again. We needed a place to share ideas that was accessible to everyone in the company.
Use a Wiki for Training and Educating Employees on Company Practices
My experience is that when you stare at software for long enough, (for instance I have been using SolidWorks for 7 or so years) it is really hard to break old habits and look for new ways to accomplish tasks. Your knowledge and methods of interacting with that software end up being the same for years. With a company wiki, we can put all of our shared information, shortcuts and company hacks, online in a searchable format. This will also hopefully turn into a great training tool where we can direct new employees to check the wiki for tips and tricks before interrupting someone.
Setting-Up Sparta’s Company Wiki
There are a few different options for setting up a wiki but we had a few parameters we required.
- We wanted to control access to our wiki. Access was limited to internal team members in case sensitive material got uploaded. We needed full control of who could see and edit the pages.
- We were also looking for a cheap (free) and super simple solution. The idea of hosting it on our website seemed like a headache and was a complexity we were not interested in.
Using Google Sites
So we settled on using a Google Sites. Setting up a google page takes all of 10min and is something I am sure any organization has someone capable of doing. Here are the brief steps:
- Google: “google sites” (or here is a link for the lazy)
- Log in or create an account
- Click create. Once in, delete all the standard pre-packaged template stuff and start creating your wiki. At this point, all we wanted to do was keep it simple until it was fully adopted by the group so we left the one page that allowed people to “add new posts” and deleted the rest.Fill in appropriate info. We chose to search for a really simple wiki template but feel free to make it as fancy as you wish.
- The Google help files are very well written for any technical things you might be trying to attempt. The “more button” followed by manage site will let you setup templates, configure access etc.
What other advantages are there to using a company wiki? What did we miss?