The dizzying search for information in modern organizations

woman using magnifying glass to search, searching for information

It’s an unwritten expectation. A secret bullet point, if you will, hidden in job listings, “amateur detective experience required.” Let’s face it, modern knowledge workers are forced to comb through digital warehouses filled with information to find the most important documents they need. Employees act as private eyes using clues to find the pre-read for next week’s virtual event or toggle through apps to find the latest sales update. And with many working from home, there are no witnesses to give them any leads.  


It’s a silly comparison but it’s one many can relate to. As each employee searches across apps and softwares where information is saved and stored, valuable time and mental energy is being lost. With companies adopting more and more softwares with good intentions, information is spreading all over the place and answers to different questions are getting harder and harder to find. 


If this is an issue for current employees, imagine what it’s like for new hires, especially working remotely. A blank tab doesn’t give much guidance. Workers in the office could tap someone’s shoulder to ask or even overhear useful tips. But these are not reliable ways to find information and with hybrid schedules the person you need at the moment might not be around. 


The dizzying search 

The reality is apps and software are needed to do work, especially in an increasingly virtual work world where the average company uses nearly 90 software apps. Larger organizations double that with 200 apps on average. Yikes! Just think about the number of times today you have hit Alt-Tab or Command-Tab for our Mac users. According to the Harvard Business Review, to complete just one task, an employee switched about 350 times between 22 different applications and websites. By the end of the day, that number added up to more than 3,600 times. Yikes again! 


Each app toggle is jarring for the brain. Most softwares aren’t created to be compatible, instead they each have their own design and features that employees have to adjust to after each switch. HBR actually found it takes people about two seconds to reorient each time. Compare this to walking into a different room to grab something. Now imagine walking into your colleague’s house for another item; it would take a second to get your bearings. Multiple that feeling by hundreds of times a day to get your job done.

Over searching and acclimating is only exasperated for employees onboarding. Even if a new hire knows exactly which app to sign into to find a file they are being inundated with information. Overwhelmed, a new hire will have to use the ‘guess and check’ method and look across softwares until it’s found. Ctrl/Command+F can only get people so far with an antiquated search procedure that gives little to no direction to where information is saved. 


It’s no wonder, literal days are being lost to searching and toggling. Data professionals spend a third of their workday searching. This doesn’t leave much time or mental energy to do actual work. Only 27% actually, an employee spends less time doing what they were hired to do than searching. So much time is wasted on tasks that are not meaningful to workers, which drains them from creative and inspiring activities they could be working on to better the company and move it forward. 


The pendulum has to swing the other way

The dramatic expansion of SaaS apps and the siloing of information has led to local maximums. Individual teams can find information efficiently around their key workflows and work streams they are engaged in, on a near daily basis. However, this is at the loss of overall productivity at an organization, as people need to find information across tools. Any modern company leveraging SaaS tools will have to find a way to consolidate information that naturally wants to and will continue to be free flowing throughout applications. Otherwise, eventually there will be more data than there is time to search in a work week. 


To fight the natural tendency of new applications to spread, companies are thinking about consolidating software across use-cases whenever possible. An employee hub can include company updates, list of undone tasks, calendar alerts, messages, and more. Cleary’s Employee Experience platform centralizes and integrates information into one spot. Our unique approach however leaves room for the possibility that information will not ever be centralized. With integrations and search capabilities that help people find information no matter what application it lives in, we help employees save time in the search – especially when they don’t even know where to start.


A pervasive view is that time spent searching is the work or that this is just the cost of doing business. With more applications being deployed every day into the modern organization, the costs only go up. At some point, companies have to invest in getting their information and app ecosystem organized because it ultimately contributes to wasted productivity and worse, burnout.


Time to do a little inner searching 

  • Should your organization include a new SaaS to simplify searching as part of your people strategy? 
  • How is time wasted searching impacting your company today and more importantly tomorrow? 
  • Could your workers benefit from having a central hub to elevate the employee experience?

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