HR Self-Service Portal Searching – Easier than Google?

We all spend a lot of time searching for information online and, at times, what we’re looking for eludes us. As Target Marketing’s Jeremy Zimmerman writes in ‘Still Haven’t Found What You’re Looking For?’ “Twenty-eight years later, after the advent of Google, people are still having a hard time connecting to the content they’re in search of.”

The issue, described in some recent research from Blue Nile, ‘Psychology of the Searcher: Patterns in How Searchers Formulate Queries’ stems from the keywords used to optimize content versus the words users use to actually conduct searches. “Marketers see visitors from a wide variety of search queries coming to their site.  This data is valuable in guiding a search strategy, but it has existed in a vacuum, with little known about how searchers make decisions about how to phrase their search that lead up to the visit.”

Companies are becoming more and more aware of this discrepancy, and when building internal knowledge bases for use within their own organizations – they are diligently getting employee input as to how they conduct their content searches. This is particularly pertinent when implementing an HR Shared Services system for a firm’s employees – since the Self-Service Portal relies so heavily on getting the search terms correct.

When an employee logs into their company’s HR portal, the content presented is geared directly to them based upon their unique profile and role within the organization. A variety of information is displayed about company news and events, as well as access to their personal information such as payroll and other benefits data. The portal also serves as an HR knowledge base featuring the ability to query the company’s repository of HR content – as well as communicate with HR professionals, and other colleagues, through a variety of methods including email, live chat and online surveys.

When establishing the search terms used to access content, how searchers choose to conduct their searches in a variety of scenarios, must be taken into account. Blue Nile’s research discovered, “an exact 50-50 split between users who search in fragments (e.g. ‘swollen ankle’) and those who search in more fully formed terms (e.g. ‘causes of swollen ankle during sleep’).  When it came to questions vs. statements, 27% of respondents phrased their query in the form of a question, with ‘How’ being the most commonly used prefix.”

As no two snowflakes are alike – neither are any two people. We all think differently, and therefore phrase things differently – whether when writing a column such as this one, or performing online research. And, just as Blue Nile’s research concluded, firms implementing knowledge base repositories into their IT structures will need to ‘develop distinct approaches for the individual ways people search.’

“Although some may have begun this journey believing the data would show large groupings of respondents searching in similar ways, in reality human identity is alive and well.  Marketers that wish to be well prepared to appeal to a wide and varied audience will be thorough with their research process and craft content that maps to the answers their audience is looking for.”