People & Culture, Social & Cooperation

User-generated content for employee directories

…… Part of The Basics series. First published in February 2009 ……


A group of intranet managers got together to discuss the social media-based features they would like to implement in their intranets in the future.

Many of their wish-list features centered around the concept of user-generated content for enterprise directories. This is a definitely a serious gap in most intranets today.

Few organizations have optimized employee directories and made them a key piece in enterprise collaboration.

The majority of organizations offer very little in flexibility and user-generated content in the directory. The numbers below are percentages of the full survey population who responded “yes, in most or all parts of our enterprise” to the following statements:

  • Employee directory has a free text field where the employee can add in personal notes such as their expertise or skills. (22 percent)
  • Employees can set up individual profile pages or “My pages” where they can publish information about themselves, their projects and their interests. (13 percent)
  • Expertise is managed by a set of controlled terms so that expertise is comparable. (9 percent)
  • The employee directory also includes information generated through social media applications such as projects and/or communities (project spaces, wikis) and blog posts, produced by the person. (4 percent)

Even Stage 3 intranets, theoretically the most mature, are not very advanced in these areas.

Stage 2, leader

The chart compares the 3 Stages and you’ll see that Stage 2 is ahead of Stage 3 in this area. This is interesting, because Stage 3 is more adventurous than Stage 2 in many usages of social media. We’ll see in this year’s survey if this difference when it comes to employee directories is confirmed or not.

Dream a little – then make it happen.

Some comments from the participants:

  • “We want to add information to the directory, make it a way for staff to declare their interests, make it searchable by all staff, tagged, and possible the beginning of a community of interest around topics.”
  • “We want to promote social networking so that it is easier for people to put together teams of experts. But we fear the reaction of ‘why look outside our own department where we have our own experts?’.”
  • “If we implement Facebook-like pages, it will help the people in small units, scattered around the world to feel more a part of the group.”
  • “We need a dynamic, collaborative directory to share contacts among people. However, I’m not sure people will share their contacts with other people.”
  • “People are concerned about privacy. We want to build a well-designed, non-threatening application that makes it clear we are only sharing so-called public information, not private details.”

Critical mass will be slow to come.

One thing for sure, if you open up your directories or build applications like above, you’ll then be confronted with the challenge of getting employees to fill in information about themselves. Some employees will do it, of course. But the real business value will come when you get critical mass.