8 Top-Notch Best Practices to Build Internal Documentation

How many questions does your HR team answer in a day?

Probably a lot. And, most of these questions are probably repetitive. 

Answering repetitive questions can lead to loss of productive time for your team.

The solution is to build internal documentation. It will help employees get answers to their HR-related questions and allow your team to resolve other crucial office matters.

Worried how to kickstart your internal documentation? If yes, time to dive deeper into this article.

What is Internal Documentation?

Internal documentation is maintaining detailed processes and procedures for your team. It is intended for employee reference and to standardize organizational performance. For example, when you build internal documentation for your HR team, they may contribute information about the following:

  • Employee onboarding
  • Employee roles and responsibilities
  • Company policies
  • Training materials

Your internal documentation will have all crucial yet common information that internal teams will find useful when trying to understand different aspects of the organization.

Internal Documentation vs External Documentation

Internal Documentation

Internal documentation focuses on processes and procedures within the organization, intended for employee reference. It includes information such as employee onboarding, roles and responsibilities, company policies, and training materials. This internal documentation acts as a knowledge hub for team members, fostering consistency and standardization across various aspects of the organization.

External Documentation

In contrast, external documentation is geared towards audiences outside the organization, such as customers or clients. It often includes user manuals, product guides, and documentation for public-facing processes. While external documentation is vital for customer support, internal documentation remains the backbone for effective internal operations.

Benefits of Internal Documentation

Most companies hesitate to invest in internal documentation. Only 4% of organizations decide to document their internal processes. Here is why you need to invest in internal documentation:

Improves knowledge sharing

Employees spend more time searching for internal information or finding colleagues to assist with specific tasks. Creating internal documentation will improve knowledge sharing culture and streamline the process.

Enhances productivity

When your team is equipped with all the information in one place, they’ll spend less time searching for information. They can spend more time on priority tasks, making them a productive resource for the team. 

Eliminates knowledge loss

You must document your knowledge to avoid losing vital information whenever a teammate goes on sick leave or vacation.  Instead of valuable knowledge residing in employees’ minds, documenting all the information benefits everyone in the organization,

Assists in onboarding

New employees can quickly understand company policies and procedures when they have access to internal documentation, and the senior employees need to spend less time on training.

Internal Documentation Challenges

While internal documentation offers significant benefits, organizations often face challenges in its creation and maintenance. Overcoming these hurdles is essential for maximizing the impact of internal documentation.

Resistance to Documentation

Employees may resist documenting processes due to perceived time constraints or a lack of understanding of its importance. Overcoming this resistance requires effective communication on the long-term benefits of documentation for efficiency and knowledge sharing.

Outdated Information

Maintaining accurate and up-to-date information is a challenge. Regular reviews and updates are necessary to ensure that employees rely on current, relevant documentation.

User-Friendly Formats

Striking a balance between providing comprehensive information and avoiding information overload is essential for successful internal documentation.

4 Popular Types of Internal Documentation to Choose From

Internal documentation is not limited to a specific department; all teams across the organization can benefit from it. Learn about different types of internal documentation. 

1. Project documentation

Project documentation is where the manager records all the details related to the project’s progress and resources in one place for other stakeholders. This type of documentation helps you generate essential documents that explain why each process took place and how it helped the organization move one step towards the completion of the project.

2. Team documentation

Team documentation records the company policies, business goals, organizational structure. It also describes roles and responsibilities in your organization, what that role entails, and the resources currently allotted to that role. 

3. Process documentation

Want to capture all the steps and measures you took to complete a specific process? This type of documentation helps team members act on a task swiftly, and it is the trusted source for Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and protocols. 

4. Technical documentation

Technical documentation is mostly built by engineer and product teams. This documentation offers system requirements and technical specifications.

8 Best Practices to Follow When Creating Internal Documentation

Creating and maintaining high-quality documentation sounds daunting, but it’s not that challenging as you may think. Now, we’ll go through some best practices to manage your documentation.

1. Include flow chart and procedures

Explain each process step and how to accomplish it using a step-by-step approach. To make it look simple, you can include flow charts to help your team.

2. Provide enough information

Don’t miss out on crucial details. Someone who isn’t familiar with the process will find it difficult to follow and get stuck. Use the what, why, and how to approach to write detailed documents. Ideally, it is essential to balance between documenting the crucial details and avoid burdening employees with more information.

3. Make it visual

Some individuals retain information with visuals, rather than reading text. So, include images and videos to improve the documentation experience. It will help your team understand processes easily, and it can be a great way to show employees how to follow a procedure.

4. Establish a simple format and stick to it

Create a documentation template you’d like to use. But make sure it is simple and adaptable according to the various processes. Also, avoid deviating from the same format. This way, all your documents will help users find the right information.

5. Simplify search and navigation

Want your team members to find specific information faster? Include a search bar to your internal documentation. You can also improve search with a detailed navigation bar. Identify the primary and secondary categories of the navigation bar.

6. Choose the right documentation tool

Choosing the right tool will help your employees easily create and publish in a centralized location. There are different knowledge base softwares you can use to create documentation, but an ideal platform should provide an easy-to-use editor, real-time search for the user to find the information, categorization to keep your page organized, and integration with other tools.

7. Refresh and update the document

The processes and organization procedures will change over time, so update your internal documentation regularly. Assign a stakeholder to update the documentation.

8. Gather feedback from employees

After the documentation is released, ask for employee feedback. Use the in-built analytics in the knowledge base software to find  terms employees are searching for and which terms aren’t showing results.

FAQs About Internal Documentation

1. Why is internal documentation important for organizations?

Internal documentation is crucial for knowledge sharing, enhancing productivity, eliminating knowledge loss, and assisting in onboarding new employees. It acts as a centralized source of information for employees to reference company policies and procedures.

2. How can internal documentation benefit productivity?

By providing all necessary information in one place, internal documentation reduces the time employees spend searching for information. This enhances productivity as teams can focus more on priority tasks.

3. Is internal documentation limited to specific departments?

No, internal documentation is beneficial for all teams across the organization. It can encompass project documentation, team documentation, process documentation, and technical documentation.

4. How frequently should internal documentation be updated?

Internal documentation should be regularly refreshed to align with changing processes and organizational procedures. Assign a stakeholder to ensure timely updates and gather feedback from employees.

5. Can small businesses benefit from internal documentation?

Absolutely. Internal documentation is valuable for businesses of all sizes. For small businesses, it helps streamline processes, enhance knowledge sharing among team members, and facilitates smoother onboarding for new employees.

6. How can internal documentation contribute to a collaborative workplace?

Internal documentation fosters collaboration by providing a centralized source of information. Team members can easily access and share knowledge, leading to better communication, understanding, and cooperation within the organization.

7. Are there tools specifically designed for creating internal documentation?

Yes, several tools are designed for creating and managing internal documentation. Knowledge base software, intranet platforms, and document management systems offer features tailored for effective internal documentation, including categorization, search functionalities, and collaborative editing.

8. What role does internal documentation play in regulatory compliance?

By documenting processes, policies, and procedures, businesses can demonstrate adherence to regulatory requirements, making audits smoother and reducing the risk of compliance issues.

9. How can organizations encourage employees to actively use internal documentation?

To encourage active usage, organizations can provide training sessions on navigating internal documentation systems. Also recognizing and rewarding employees who contribute valuable content can promote engagement and a culture of knowledge sharing.

Start Building Your Internal Documentation

Possessing internal documentation encourages a pleasant working environment for your employees. It acts as a source of truth when an employee seeks information about company policies and products or services.

About the Author

Jubina Prabhakaran is a digital marketer. She has more than seven years of experience in digital marketing and loves to read and write about technology, marketing, and SaaS-related content.