HR’s wiki strategy: Using wikis for learning and education

"How can we begin to move past an educational model that is tethered to time and place and move closer to learning that is immersive, mobile, collabroative, and social?"

Image by shareski on flickr

How did we ever settle arguments before wikipedia and google let us prove we’re right in a few taps on a keyboard? And yes, I may be overly concerned about proving I was right, but wikipedia proves it, John Wayne did star in over a 100 movies. Wikipedia, the source of all knowledge for many of us, is a well-known example of a wiki, a website that anyone can edit.

It’s worth a closer look at wikipedia as it shows us how something that seems to create a recipe for chaos is able to work. Basically we have 100,000 active contributors, a span of 23 million articles (4 million in english) and 35,000,000 users, all being run by 140 employees. Surprisingly, a 2005 study showed Encyclopedia Brittanica had an error rate of 2.92 mistakes per article, while Wikipedia had an average 3.86, which many consider to be a respectable comparison for a service run on so little money. Wikipedia is able provide a high-level of accuracy through formal editorial controls that uses a large number of editors to oversee the contributions of a much larger number of writers.

The principles and factors that make wikipedia a useful resource can be applied within an organisation for the purpose of learning and education. Let’s take a look at the why, what and how.


  • Employee Engagement –Learning contributes to greater employee engagement and social learning is an enabler of some of the drivers of engagement: opportunities to learn, reward & recognition, relationships with peers,and self-directed behavior.
  • Putting effort into the right place – Social learning is an enabler for HR departments and training professionals in organisations taking a 70:20:10 approach to learning and development, with it’s focus on learning through experience, learning through others, and the decreased focus on formal education.
  • Not all employees work in the same location – Wikis allow content to be created and consumed in an asynchronous and distributed manner; this is key in organisations that are working with their own employees and people within partner organisations who are distributed across cities, countries and timezones.


Wiki’s are made up of user generated content from many different contributors: enterprise wikis such as Confluence which provides greater control with an audit trail of changes by authenticated users. An enterprise wiki might be used for different purposes to achieve learning and education objectives:

  • Collaborative creation of content that is delivered through formal training classes and workshops
  • Communities of practice to expand knowledge within an area of specialisation, such as recruitment practices for HR advisors or the recruitment process used by leaders
  • Knowledgebase of articles that meet the needs of HR stakeholders through allowing anyone to add and contribute to topics


  • Getting started – Provide time and coaching for employees to get used to the concepts and etiquette behind collaborative content creation.
  • Encourage participation – Provide management support and direction, for example, refusing to read emails related to a topic being discussed on the wiki.
  • Provide guidance – Publish the principles of collaboration to provide guidance for user behaviour, this may be similar to Wikipedia’s five pillars.

These are a few ways that wikis could be used to support learning and education objects, and a few suggestions on how this could happen. Can you suggest some more?

Some more reading on wikis for HR departments:

 Wikis as part of HRs social media strategy

Wikis for projects and initiatives

Wikis for collaboration

Wikis as content management systems


15 thoughts on “HR’s wiki strategy: Using wikis for learning and education

  1. Hi
    Nice post, I like story-line:
    Wikipedia – organizational level – corporate-wide learning & education focus
    I find that why font size is much bigger than what and how.!!
    Are you trying to say that why wiki’s should be used is more important?


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  4. Hi Amanda,

    I agree with you that by using wiki would help to encourage employee engagement and eliminate the restrictions by distance. As all of us know that, without such tools available in the market, it would be hard to work with someone long distance.Therefore, I would say wiki is an essential tool that organization must have .

    Edwina Tan

  5. Hey Amanda. I too love wikipedia. Such a useful tool for finding information, and it covers such a massive range of subject matter. It isn’t hard to imagine the potential benefits that an internal wiki covering a much smaller scope could have to a business. Theoretically, all users of the service should be an expert in the area that they are contributing to and should have no real reason to sabotage the content. I guess that would have to be one of the main concerns of any organisation wanting to implement a wiki for the purpose of gathering knowledge, the possibility of staff either accidentally or on purpose adding incorrect information, and because nobody else knows any better, that information being taken as gospel and mistakes being made. I suppose that the guidelines for usage would need to include the requirement that all information be referenced back to some sort of procedure or manual or something so that if necessary, the data can be checked.

    Aside from that, I guess that the wiki would also need to be audited periodically to ensure that staff haven’t contributed any information that is of a sensitive nature (once again, either accidentally or on purpose).

    Great post. I always gain something from reading your blog. Look forward to your next instalment.

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  7. Hi Amanda.
    Apart from easy to edit and easy to access (anywhere, anytime via web browser), in my view the most powerfull feature in wiki style tools is the message traceability and searchability. In my job any time a got a error message for example a go to wiki and do a serch for the same error message and not surprisily 60% of the time a can see a comment from someone else facing the same error, and sometimes the solution is also there.

    Indeed, people can collaborate in more productive and effective way. However the consequences and also the ROI come, in my opinion, from the information usage. And wikis have a good feature to facilitate the information usage via a powerful search engine.

    Just to generate some discussion about that searchability I am talking about: Google is big company today due to their powerful search engine.


  8. Hi Amanda,

    Nice post, actually I think that is very useful taking into account that the future of learning and education could be in these digital tools.
    I consider that Wikipedia is a good example, but furthermore I think that this tools will be in the classroom as collaborative tools between students – teachers, teachers – teachers and/or students-students.

    I recommend you a couple links that I found about learning using wikis:

    Danny (

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  10. Hi Amanda, I think it is important that users participate in using Wiki as part of their workflow. If questions are raised on topics that is already discussed on the wiki, perhaps the user can be provided a link or a set of instructions on how to search for that information on the wiki. Eventually, they will develop the habit of searching the wiki first before sending an email for help.

  11. Evening Amanda,

    Well done on another quality read. You’re posts always bring new light in to the subject matter. Would you say that the key to a wiki’s success is in employees or management? In other words would you recommend a bottom up approach or a top down approach to implement a wiki in an enterprise? Loved your suggestions on how to implement a wiki strategy.


    • I’d like to hedge my bets and say both are important 🙂 Many case studies I’ve read suggest they leaned towards either a top-down or bottom up approach. The bottom-up success stories still suggest they were able to gain top-level management support. The top-down success stories suggest that management provide infrastructure and clear direction but people found their own uses that were sometimes different from the direction provided. I think senior management support is critical to the success of adoption. I also think the implementation needs to allow the freedom of people who know their jobs to find ways to make their jobs easier, this is critical to the benefits being realised. How about you, would you lean one way or the other?

  12. It is surprising to see that a contribute information from just about anyone around the world has almost the same quality as expert. Wiki is similar to real people. They might not be good at first but they will get better as more article added, more article get edited, and more article get cited. People will also be able to improve themselves using information from Wiki. It is the same as a library that anyone who want to learn can access information.


    Prapat W.

  13. I am not surprised at the quality of this weeks blog post, i mean its always fantastic when it comes from you. Your section on how to implement a wiki strategy is solid to say the least. one point in there you made that i didn’t think of was really good. things like gently pushing employees to use a wiki be not reading emails on topics being discussed in the wiki might sound harsh but i think it is a great idea. No one wants to waste their time explaining something to some one when that some one could have simply looked it up on their own and probably gained a lot more from the experience. Thanks for the great post again Amanda 🙂 keep up all the good work in the future.

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