What’s In Your Employee Directory?
When you think of an employee directory, you likely are not thinking of anything too exciting. In fact, you probably never think about your employee directory at all until you need to find someone and no one else you’ve asked can tell you where to find them. If you’re part of a growing company, it can be a challenge to keep up. If it’s hard on you, think of those new hires who are trying to find their way. Most company address books aren’t sexy; they aren’t memorable; they aren’t used much. There’s a reason for that.
Companies frequently use one of a few available tools for managing an employee directory. After all, every company has to have one, right? Some rely on manual spreadsheets. Spreadsheets are great for some things, such as budgets, but they are hardly flexible and reliable enough for housing an entire employee database.
The problems with spreadsheets are many. They are manual, which inherently adds risk of human error. They are static, meaning they rarely change. People forget to update their information or one person, usually an admin, is tasked with keeping track of every employee. Contact information can change, as well as titles and roles, quickly outdating the spreadsheet which is supposed to be the golden record. They are also typically limited in the employee details they provide. Most cells are filled simply with facts, such as names, titles, department, location, email and phone numbers.
Because everyone recognizes the spreadsheet is likely not a current version, few choose to use it. It gets buried in a file folder somewhere on a desktop or in a shared folder, and when it is accessed, there is always the question of whether it is accurate. Not exactly the most reliable way to document employee information.
Some companies depend on Wiki/Intranets. The company will publish the employee directory on these proprietary sites using popular software such as SharePoint, Google Sites, and/or Atlassian Confluence. This is definitely a step up from the spreadsheet, particularly for larger organizations, but they too have their flaws.
The intranet site is loaded with company information. The employee directory is often hidden amongst the many files, links and pages. It is difficult to find, infrequently updated, and even less frequently used. Every company realizes the need to produce an employee directory and it takes quite a bit of effort to generate it, so it appears a colossal waste of time if no one is accessing it. This time drain is multiplied by the fact that because no one is using the employee directory, they are instead asking coworkers for the information.
The other most common employee directory tool is HR software. Many HR software products include an employee directory feature, such as Workday and ADP. Newer age HR software offers expanded employee directory features, like BambooHR. These tools are effective, but they were built for HR staff, not the rest of the employees.
Employees may access these directories when they have administrative tasks they must tend to, such as updating their payroll details or HR benefits, but it is not a tool they often use for discovering their coworkers to help get work done. It is not a solution they typically enjoy using to help them with their work, perhaps because HR software is not considered employee friendly.
Of course, HR software vendors are beginning to pick up on this fact and are purposely building employee directory functionality that is more palatable for employees. The only problem is it requires the organization to switch HR systems, something budgets are not prepared for and administrators do not have the time for. New employee directory features are typically not a catalyst for such a massive undertaking.