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How Satisfied Are Your Employees With Search?

September 08, 2020 Information Management
Martin White
By Martin White

Every day we judge how satisfied we feel with an experience, from taking a survey on a touchscreen poll upon exiting a washroom to discussing how well our favorite restaurant is applying best practices to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.

The Danish Police were very pleased with their new SharePoint intranet, but were disappointed when the search feature barely got used. Informal research indicated that users were projecting the poor search capabilities of an earlier intranet onto the new one. The solution? A new A4 poster placed next to the coffee machines that described the search capabilities and shared examples of how to get the best out of the application. Use of the search application almost immediately soared, as did the level of satisfaction with search. The cost? Laminating the poster to avoid coffee spills.

This is one of many low-cost ways in which search managers can improve user satisfaction with intranet and enterprise search.

How Satisfied Are Employees With Their Search Application?

The 2019 IntraTeam benchmark survey on search shows employees are experiencing high levels of difficulty finding information and low levels of satisfaction with enterprise search application performance. The survey found around 30% of employees were dissatisfied with their search application and 10% were very dissatisfied. A large-scale research project for a multi-national oil and gas company found three factors affect search satisfaction: the capabilities of the technology, the quality of the information and the availability of training and support.

When I have my initial project meeting with a client I always ask for the data they have collected on whether the search application is meeting employee requirements. Invariably they admit that they have never conducted a survey on employee satisfaction with search, but just as quickly insist no one has complained. Further questioning reveals that there is no search manager with the resources to undertake a survey, let alone take action to improve the situation.

Related Article: Assess Search Performance With Search Tasks

An 8-Part Approach to Improving Search Satisfaction

Through my work with a wide range of organizations over the last two decades, I have evolved an eight-element approach that can significantly improve search satisfaction, often within days of me delivering my report.

The elements are:

  • Establish a search team.
  • Develop a search strategy.
  • Focus on information quality.
  • Create search personas.
  • Analyze search metrics.
  • Customize solutions for user groups.
  • Raise the visibility of search.
  • Train and support.

None of these elements require an investment in a new search engine, though they do assume your existing application has the capability to support and deliver these initiatives.

Although this looks like a sequential list, in practice you need to move ahead with all of these initiatives in parallel. The clear place to start is in establishing a search team. No matter what size your business, you'll need at least one full-time experienced search manager with a decent budget to bring in specialist advice. Once you reach the 1000 employee mark, two search managers would almost certainly be required. If two full-time employees sounds excessive, ask IT how many people support other major enterprise applications currently in use across the organization. The number will surprise you.

Once in place, the team can start analyzing search metrics on the basis of search personas they've created so they can develop customized solutions for specific user groups. Such customization is far too complex to be managed by an AI solution. The analytics will help the team focus on queries where poor information quality is impeding search success. While there's no quick fix for information quality, identifying areas for improvement can help the search team develop an agenda for action (perhaps adding in additional metadata). These longer-term action items belong in a broader search strategy, which itself will be supported by an information management strategy

Lack of training is the most common point of failure in search performance initiatives. User interfaces for search are inevitably complex with a wide range of options, the purposes of which are often far from intuitive. A research project examined the very different ways in which lawyers, clinicians, patent agents and recruitment agents use search user interfaces. The same will be true of the different roles and levels of experience of people in your organization.

Related Article: Diagnosing Enterprise Search Failures

Employees Won't Always Tell You When Search Isn't Working

If employees can't find the information they need to make decisions or complete a task, they will not file a help-desk ticket. They will ask a colleague, and with remote working, that can be a time-consuming business.

Search satisfaction can be assessed in a number of ways, which I will describe in a forthcoming CMSWire webinar. If you're concerned about how satisfied your employees are with search, the webinar will provide some useful ideas which could be of immediate benefit.

About the Author

Martin White is Managing Director of Intranet Focus, Ltd. and is based in Horsham, UK. An information scientist by profession, he has been involved in information retrieval and search for nearly four decades as a consultant, author and columnist.

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