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Tips for Better Search Results in Your Policies and Procedures

Accessibility is one of the biggest barriers organization’s face when applying policies and procedures to streamline business processes. If your employees can’t locate AND understand the policy or procedure they need—when they need it—you might as well not bother writing policies and procedures in the first place! Documents sitting on a shelf or files on a hard-drive some where that no one can find are not doing anyone any good.
How do you make your company’s policies and procedures more accessible to your workforce? Policies and procedures that get results are both physically accessible as well as mentally accessible—meaning workers are able to understand and use the content once they find it.

This post focuses just on one aspect of accessibility: keyword searching. Many of you probably utilize a search engine on your corporate intranet so that users can perform keyword searches and bring up content that contain those words or phrases. How often do you get unusable results—a billion hits or no hits at all?
too many hits in prolicies and procedures search results
no hits  in prolicies and procedures search results
We were talking just the other day with a client whose organization had implemented MS SharePoint to improve access but found themselves still experiencing difficulties with keyword searches. Searches returned confusing results or none at all. People were having difficulty “guessing” the right word or phrase to use to find all the information they needed.
Poor search results in your policies and procedures happens when you don’t have controls in place to enforce consistent terminology for authors. Is it Vice President of Marketing or Marketing VP, or Marketing Director? Do I need to try all three? And then, did I get all the right documents?
You see where we’re going here? You can have the most robust search engine on the planet, but if your terminology is inconsistent in your content you’re going to be disappointed with the results. That’s why we designed our Zavanta software to ensure consistency right at the start so that easy and accurate searching is built right in. Authors have the tools and controls at their fingertips to ensure accurate search accessibility right when they are writing.
If you are currently using a plain word processing-based approach for writing policies and procedures, you’ve probably already run into problems with the searchability of your documents. Unless you are applying rigorous, labor-intensive reviews and clerical clean-up, consistency and standardization quickly evaporates. Because the process can be so expensive and often impractical, many organizations abandon the word processing template approach after they’ve invested significant time and resources and not getting the results they need.
Whatever technology or approach you use, make sure you have developed standards and have a process for controlling terminology standardization.