Employee experience will be top of mind for businesses in 2023, as they look to accommodate new ways of working and deter rising attrition. And with workplaces becoming more distributed than ever—in terms of both employees and information—choosing the right enterprise search solution has never been so critical for employee engagement and proficiency.

Recent studies show that locating files remains among the biggest frustrations in the modern digital workplace. It’s causing nearly 50% of workers to be less engaged in their work, and 16% are ready to quit. Enterprises are under enormous pressure to provide a more rewarding employee experience by modernizing knowledge discovery—one that can hopefully slam the brakes on the “Great Resignation,” expected to hit businesses hard in 2022.

Choosing an enterprise search solution, however, is a big decision. Remaining agile and adaptable to change has never been more important for the enterprise. So it’s crucial to consider not only what best meets the needs of your business today, but what will continue to work for your employees as your team grows and accumulates more knowledge.

Here are seven considerations when selecting the best enterprise search solution for your digital workplace.

Breadth of Connectivity

Enterprises with 2,000+ employees now use an average of 175 SaaS applications—and this number is only likely to grow. Your workplace search solution should be able to index all of these data sources to abolish knowledge silos slowing your employees down.

The first step in assessing an enterprise search solution is to establish its capability to connect to each content source at your company.

Does it have out-of-the-box connectors that can quickly index content from Sharepoint, Google Drive, and more? Does it offer flexible API-based connectivity for proprietary platforms and less common (or more complex) workplace software? Is there a crawling module that allows you to pull on-premises content into the cloud and make it searchable from anywhere?

Larger enterprises are unlikely to find a workplace search solution that can do everything they need out of the box. But a solution with flexible connectors, that can be managed by business people, and offers “set-and-forget” machine learning models will get you up and running faster—and provide more scalability.

Beware of enterprise search solutions that simply provide a framework for your developers to build upon. While suitable for smaller outfits, they are less scalable for larger enterprises and require heavy lift from your development team.

How Much Does Connectivity Matter?

The ability to index content from all of your company’s data repositories and applications is the bedrock of your workplace search system. It’s also important to remain flexible to accommodate tools and data sources that you might introduce in the future. Compromising on connectivity is unwise, whatever size your organization is at now. 

AI-Powered Enterprise Search Relevance

Indexing all of your enterprise content is the most basic requirement of an effective workplace search solution. To provide the best possible knowledge discovery experience for your employees, your solution has to analyze and understand each file within the index, and stitch together insights from every interaction to establish its relevance.

This kind of search relevance, at scale, is only possible with AI. 

Some workplace search solutions allow people to ‘verify’ the quality of search results manually to help the algorithm learn. But when you’re indexing thousands or even millions of new documents every year, this isn’t sustainable.

You need a solution that can establish relevance automatically by considering an employee’s location, role, and interactions, in addition to the context gathered about each indexed document. This way, you provide a better search experience with every interaction, without the burdens of manual curation and constant maintenance.

Employees want to cut through the noise to find role-specific knowledge that helps them grow and accomplish more. If they’re new to your company, they want to see onboarding content that makes them feel supported. They certainly don’t want to see HR policies that don’t apply to their location, or training content that’s only relevant to other teams. 

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Understanding Relevance Maturity in Service & Workplace

Is AI Really Necessary?

Personalizing the employee experience is no longer a ‘nice to have’—it’s expected by your workforce. So if it seems like overkill, think again.

Irrelevant or out-of-date information is usually to blame for a poorly-adopted company intranet. Solving this problem not just for today, but for the long-term, requires AI. Because with the vast amount of information spread across the digital workplace, there’s no other way to provide the personalized experience each user now expects from search.

Federated Search vs Unified Search with Machine Learning

Workplace search solutions also vary in the way that they gather data and make it searchable.

Federated search, using search-time merging (or query-time merging), looks within separate search engines using a single search query. This system pulls search results from each content source successfully, and can be quite fast to implement.

However, because institutional knowledge continues to exist within separate buckets under this system, search is limited from establishing relationships between different pieces of content. These relationships drive the level of relevance that the solution can deliver to your employees, so it’s an important drawback.

Coveo uses a unified index, with applied machine learning. By bringing all of your data into a single search engine, it makes connections between everything in that index, regardless of source.

Simple federated search can work adequately for smaller organizations, with fewer data sources.

But for organizations with a high document count, and many disparate systems, unified search with machine learning adds enormous value. That’s because it can stitch together insights from interactions with content across your entire knowledge stack—automatically—even as you continue to add new content and data sources. The result is greater search relevance, without costly upkeep. That’s a big win for both your employees, and your IT budget.

Centralized Knowledge Within Your Existing Platforms

The sheer number of workplace apps used by your employees every day brings with them a plethora of distractions. Our own research has revealed that employees spend up to 2.5 hours per day searching for documents, jumping between various systems to find what they need.

The answer is to make all of your enterprise knowledge discoverable from a single, unified search interface—and to make that search interface accessible within your existing intranet or self-service portals.

After all, the last thing your employees need is yet another digital workplace solution in their daily routine. Workplace search and discovery should exist in the form of components flexibly deployed across your employee experience. That means integrated within your existing intranet platform, employee self-service portals, or departmental knowledge bases to provide a modern and intelligent experience.

Dell is an example of a company that was able to break the cycle of constantly upgrading their intranet platform Inside Dell by combining their intranet and workplace search initiatives.

The problem with traditional intranet platforms? Employees don’t trust them because they typically contain incomplete or outdated information, leading them on a wild goose chase. 

But with intelligent enterprise search, you can turn your intranet or HR portal into a trusted knowledge hub that actually helps your employees become more proficient in their roles. The best part is that you can achieve this without performing risky migrations or requiring costly platform maintenance. You simply index what you want to make discoverable, and machine learning keeps the experience relevant to each person by learning from every interaction.

Coveo’s customization features also enable you to keep your search components sleek and on-brand, wherever they’re deployed.

Does it Really Matter Where Your Search Solution is Deployed?

It matters if you currently have an intranet platform or a self-service portal that isn’t as effective as you want it to be. Instead of overhauling your tech stack and introducing yet another new tool for your employees, you can simply upgrade the search component and “quietly” transform the employee experience.

Flexible deployment also keeps your business agile for the future. Let’s say you want to upgrade your intranet platform in a few years, or merge two departmental knowledge bases. You can rest assured that your workplace search solution will fit reliably into any of these plans.

Knowledge at Every Employee Touchpoint

Imagine going a step further and bringing that unified search experience into the tools your employees are actually working in. With Coveo, this is entirely possible.

The ultimate employee knowledge experience—one which almost completely eradicates the effort from searching—is to be served relevant enterprise-wide content within the flow of work. That means bringing the search experience within applications like Google Drive, Confluence, and Jira, via a browser extension or another “in-product” deployment.

This not only saves employees time, but it also preserves focus and maintains a productive flow state. It allows them to get needed information without navigating away from the task at hand.

Coveo’s Chrome Extension is an example of this functionality in the digital workplace. Proactive content recommendations adapt to the application the employee is using, and the project they’re working on, leading to powerful and rewarding ‘in the moment’ relevance.

How Important is Content Discovery at Every Touchpoint?

Most enterprises want to create a better search experience within their intranets and portals by centralizing their knowledge. If you can successfully apply enterprise search to this use case, you’ll reduce information overload and empower teams to do their best work.

But for a next-generation employee experience, delivering proactive content recommendations right across the employee journey is valuable. It minimizes distractions, supports employees at their exact moment of need, and shows an understanding of their daily work flow and what would improve it.

Actionable Insights for a Better Employee Experience

One of the biggest challenges of transitioning to remote and hybrid work has been retaining the human experience in the workplace.

Onboarding, in particular, is a sensitive stage of the employee journey that is tougher to accomplish well for a distributed company. Without the tour of the office, meeting coworkers face-to-face, and going for lunch, companies have to innovate to make their new employees feel welcome.

A workplace search solution with powerful analytics allows you to learn what your employees need most and incorporate those insights into your onboarding, upskilling, and training strategies. You also learn to identify the ‘moments that matter’ for your employees, and can create more human experiences around those.

For example, let’s say you put together a three-day onboarding program that accommodates on-site and remote employees. You might discover after running the session that there’s a spike in certain questions or topics being searched on your intranet platform. This shows you what matters to your employees at that stage of their journey, and allows you to improve your onboarding process by including those topics.

Senior managers and team leads can also use analytics to discover knowledge gaps that might be slowing down or frustrating members of their team.

Plugging these content gaps on your company knowledge base, and covering them in team meetings, helps your employees to feel empowered and understood.

Commitment to Future Innovation

Businesses have discovered over the past couple of years how ill-equipped they were to handle change. It’s more important than ever to take a long-term view of your technology and infrastructure to ensure that you can navigate business pivots, market turbulence, mergers and acquisitions, and other big events that require robust knowledge management.

Preparing your enterprise for the future requires a search partner that’s also committed to innovation and growth.

In Q3 of 2021, Coveo was named a Cognitive Search leader in the Forrester Wave, in acknowledgement of both its current offering and its long-term strategy. 

Coveo was also the second most prolific AI Research player after Amazon, along with Alibaba and Home Depot, in the number of papers published in peer-reviewed journals in 2020.

Workplace search has been at the heart of Coveo’s strategy since the company was founded in 2005, and with strong collaboration within the scientific community there are clear signs that the company is continuing to invest in search innovation.

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Coveo AI Labs: Fueling AI innovation

To dig deeper for the right workplace search solution, you’ll want to establish the business value of the modern search experiences and AI-driven personalization we’ve discussed in this article.

Our business value team has recorded a webinar in which they walk you through the measurable benefits of investing in intelligent digital employee experiences. You’ll discover some of the tangible benefits that AI-powered search has had for leading organizations like Adobe, and the types of business outcomes you can achieve by creating a more relevant workplace for your employees.

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Building A Solid Business Case for your Workplace Experience

Enterprise Search Platforms: Dig Deeper

Identifying the best enterprise search solution is just the first part of building a comprehensive and connected employee experience. For insights on going beyond the search box, download our ebook on How ITSM Leaders Transform Employee Experience Using AI.

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How ITSM Leaders Transform Employee Experience using AI