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Most large organizations struggle with adoption and integration of rich employee profiles on their intranets. Often having multiple systems with employee profiles adds to the challenge, but these six tactics can help.


Imagine this: You’re in a taxi from the airport, running late to give a presentation at one of your company’s offices in another country. You need to call the person you’re presenting with, but don’t have her number. You fire up the company directory on your iPhone, search for her name, find her profile, click on her phone number and ring her.

Or imagine this: A big potential customer calls with an urgent question related to a service your company provides. You need to get the answer from an expert in the Research and Development (R&D) office. On your laptop you go to the intranet, search the people directory for the relevant term, find someone who’s written several internal blog posts on the topic, and call him to ask for the needed details.

Gap between vision and implementation

Most of us have imagined these types of scenarios plenty of times. But actually realizing this vision requires so much more than just implementing a collaboration platform with rich profiles. You need thousands of knowledge workers to fill out their profiles, you need to know those profiles are up-to-date and you need to maintain seamless integration between multiple applications and systems to make it all easily accessible.

DWG’s recent research report titled Intranet employee directories: adopting a strategic perspective inventories all the challenges large companies face. The report looks at why these problems exist and suggests mitigating tactics based on real-world case studies.

Here are six tactics from the report that you can start implementing today.

6 tactics to improve adoption and value of your intranet employee directory

1: Incorporate profile completion into onboarding processes

Battle-scarred employees who are already neck deep in email may not give you the time of day. But new employees bring excitement and fresh perspectives.

Work with the HR department to make “fill out my profile” a mandatory task during the first week of onboarding and training.

2: Avoid an “expertise” field in the profile; instead put “ask me about”

Are you an “expert” at what you do? Who says? How much of an expert?

Self proclaiming one’s own expertise can be a little intimidating. Instead of an “expertise” field in your rich employee profiles, try an “Ask me about” field. This is much more inviting, is actionable and helps put the employee in the right mindframe to list out useful topics.

3: Focus on specific groups of employees who need to be found

I worked at a company where HR staff said “but I don’t want people to find me. They already ask me too many questions.”

While that story speaks to broader problems, it nails home the point: some groups of employees are more commonly sought after than others.

Instead of a blanket campaign to get all employees to fill out their profiles, start with specific groups. Do a little research to identify types of employees who already answer a lot of questions. Maybe find out who the sales people most frequently ask questions of. Then run a targeted campaign to get those people’s profiles filled in.

4: Interview key employees and edit profiles for them

In one case study from the DWG research report on intranet employee directories, the intranet team actually paid people to interview technical experts. The information gained was then added to those employees’ profiles by the central team.

Editing one’s profile is work. It takes time, thought and artful word selection and writing. But simply answering questions for five minutes about what you do and what you know is a much lower effort level. If finding the right people is truly valuable, why not invest in it?

5: Link email and UC directories (such as Outlook or Lync) to intranet profiles

No matter how rich the employee profiles on your intranet are, many people will use the most readily available tool, especially if it’s a legacy tool they are used to.

If your colleagues look up contact info in Outlook (or an equivalent email programme), then add links in the Outlook contact directory to employee’s profiles on the intranet. Do the same for unified communications (UC) systems like Microsoft Lync or IBM Sametime.

6: Have tools for on- and off-boarding large amounts of employees

Most large companies experience mergers, acquisitions and other major organizational rejiggers on a frequent basis. Thus it becomes important to have tools for making mass changes to your employee directory.

When looking at systems with rich employee directories, or when integrating directory systems, look for tools that enable on- and off-boarding of large numbers of employees all at once. This can save a lot of time and headaches over the long run and ensure an accurate employee directory.

From a feature focus to business value

A few years ago we were all quite enamoured with enterprise social media and rich employee directories. But it turns out implementation and adoption aren’t as easy as we’d hoped.

Today, in order to successfully implement employee intranet directories you need to articulate a clear business value and use implementation tactics that support it.

As with most enterprise social software, the key is to start with the critical business need and go from there.

Related research

Intranet employee directories: adopting a strategic perspective

Intranet Employee Directories - cover

DWG’s new research report shows that most companies have failed to realize the promise of rich, social employee directories. It catalogues today’s major challenges with intranet employee directories and highlights the strategic questions intranet teams must answer.

When Helen Day, Managing Director of the Digital Workplace Group, first read this report she said that “every intranet manager should read this paper. The analysis and guidelines it puts forth will help any intranet team take a more strategic approach”.

Download a free executive summary »

About the author

Ephraim Freed, Communications Manager for the Digital Workplace Group (DWG)Ephraim Freed is a communicator and self-proclaimed “intranet nerd”.

Ephraim works at Riot Games now, but previously worked at DWG overseeing marketing, facilitating in-person & online member events and hosting our monthly webinar, Digital Workplace Live.

Prior to that, as a writer and professional services consultant for social intranet software company, ThoughtFarmer and managed internal communications and launched a social intranet at Oxfam America.

In his spare time Ephraim raises his two baby girls, goes trail running and plays many sports with great mediocrity.

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