Training employees in the effective use of enterprise search Part 2 – Subject search

Many search vendors present the ability to search all enterprise information resources as the definitive business case for their application. The reality is that very very few employees will need to search all these resources and they will probably be in senior strategy and business development roles. In Part 2 of this blog I will share with you some of the elements of search training I have developed for clients.

Project specific training

Some years ago, when working for a major engineering company, I was able to arrange that all new projects had to have a start-up session with a member of the search team. At this session there would be an hour-long review of the types of search they would need to do, perhaps with a specific geographic scope or looking at technology options. The search team member would then run some sample searches to see what search terms worked best and which repositories would be most useful. These were then discussed with the team, and there would be at a minimum a bi-monthly catch up session to discuss how best to cope with emerging search requirements. The project could not be closed until the project manager had written a report on the value of the enterprise search in achieving project goals.

Team search support

Teams tend to have less of a focus on a specific outcome and their subject search requirements are less easy to predict. For teams I suggest that on a regular basis (perhaps every couple of months) search performance is an agenda item and the search team member attends the meeting to cover off any issues that have arisen and offer solutions. It is also a way of briefing employees about enhancements that are going to be made to the application.

Search mentors

In a widely dispersed multinational organisation there will be many offices with small teams of people, perhaps working in English as a second or third language. It can be effective to find someone (not necessarily at ‘manager’ level) who can act as a mentor for local employees who have search requirements, and where training in local language can be important. As a reward for taking on this role search mentors can be invited to a regional search meeting (probably now over Teams/Zoom etc) where good ideas and current challenges can be discussed. This approach also works well with support departments such as HR and Corporate Finance where the range of subjects is fairly narrow.

Coffee machines

I’ll end with one of the most innovative approaches I have come across. A few years ago poor search satisfaction at the Danish Police was substantially improved by putting an A4 sheet of search tips alongside the coffee machines, with a mixture of general advice and perhaps a few specialist topics based on current operational priorities.

Training costs

In a recent Twitter exchange I suggested that employee search training could be undertaken at zero cost, and I maintain that position. None of the ideas outlined in the post should incur any additional costs, assuming that there is a search support team that has the time to take the appropriate actions. If there isn’t then you might as well switch off the enterprise search application!

Martin White Principal Analyst 10 March 2023