Office 365 and SharePoint – Company Directory – User Profiles and Expertise Search Results Refiners

A couple of posts ago, we saw Human Resources (HR) provide the organization with a Company Directory based on Office 365 SharePoint User Profiles. We actually saw two versions, and the final one (at the end of the post) highlighted how SharePoint Search includes “Ask Me about” (Expertise) and “Interests” in People search results by default. Let’s look just a bit closer at where that Expertise data comes from and how it’s populated. Then, we’ll see how Human Resources (HR) improves the Company Directory by adding one-click refiners where users can focus their search on those Expertise or Interest attributes.

For reference, here’s where the aforementioned post left off showing Expertise and Interests for employees in the Company Directory.:

O365 SharPoint Expertise in Search Results.

Where Does Expertise Information for the Company Directory Come From

Expertise and Interests information about employees comes from the Office 365 SharePoint User Profile Service, and from the individual employee user profiles therein. Another perspective, from that of the SharePoint Search engine, might view expertise and interest information coming from user profile properties that have been promoted to managed properties. But, before getting into all of those details, the best question to start with is: how does the data in the User Profile Service get populated in the first place?

Information such as Expertise and Interests can be automatically pushed out by the IT department, but this information really should be sourced directly from employees (with some governance) when possible. That is done by/when employees populate their “My Profile” section of Office 365 SharePoint, and Microsoft Delve, with “Skills and Expertise”, “Interests and Hobbies”, “Past Projects”, etc.

For a user to access his or her Expertise and Interests data, s/he can right click in the upper right hand corner (where there may only be a placeholder image if one hasn’t been uploaded yet), and choose “My profile“:

O365 SharePoint My Profile Link.

As with so many things in Office 365 and SharePoint, there are multiple ways to provide the Expertise and Interests (and other) information that will be displayed within the Human Resources (HR) Company Directory. Let’s just start with the most prominent entry point for adding this information.

When a user clicks “My Profile”, s/he will end up on his-or-her Microsoft Delve landing page. In the image below, there’s 2-3 different links that will let a user edit his/her profile information, the one we’ll focus on here is the “Add skills and expertise” link:

O365 SharePoint Microsoft Delve landing page.

That drops the user straight down to the sections Human Resources (HR) is focused on:

O365 SharePoint Delve expertise.


So, this is how employees are entering data into Microsoft Delve that will make its way into their user profiles in Office 365 SharePoint. So let’s get back to the original question of – where does the information come from when Human Resources (HR) wants to use it on their Company Directory Search Page.

  • The data comes from the employee’s user profile, and
  • The information is then promoted into the Managed Property named “PeopleKeywords“. PeopleKeywords is configured to be a refiner out of the box.

The PeopleKyewords managed property is configured to be a refiner out of the box. That is what will make it available for Human Resources (HR) to use the property in the Refinement / Refiner Web Part that they are going to add to the Company Directory landing page in the HR portal of the Intranet.

This Managed Property is a combination of three Crawled Properties: People:SPS-Responsibility, People:SPS-Skills, and People:SPS-Interests

O365 SharePoint PeopleKeywords Managed Property.

Keep reading through to the next section because we’ll also see how the Human Resources (HR) department deals with information overload when too many refiner values are returned. Hint: each targeted People property is going to be pushed to their own refiners.

Finally, a complete aside before moving on…for future reference, these “PeopleKeywords” values are also automatically propagated into the Managed Metadata Term Store, which means the values are available outside of People results and can be applied to fields other than “Expertise”, “Interests”, “Ask Me About” etc. if the organization wants to surface them elsewhere.

O365 SharePoint Keywords in the Term Store.


Improving the Company Directory with SharePoint Search Refiners and an Updated KQL Query

After partnering up with Marketing and Communications, the Human Resources (HR) team completed an organization wide initiative to ensure employees updated their information for the Company Directory. When viewing profiles, Westmorr employees now see Past Projects, Interests, and Expertise. Also, even though not shown below, Interests have also been updated.

O365 SharePoint Delve Another FInal Profile

As things stand right now, the  Company Directory built in the previous post has two major user experience problems that had gone unnoticed.

Problem 1 – The Keyword Query Language (KQL) Query Matches More Than Initially Thought

When Human Resources had first setup the SharePoint Search web part parameters, their query and Result Source were setup as follows:

O365 SharePoint Human Resources valid people search results.

The configuration above is for SharePoint Search Result Source, “Local People Results (System)” filtered by the Keyword Query Language (KQL) query in the “Query text” box. Together that basically reads, “Get all People and filter them by anything in the Search Box (if specified) and they must have an e-mail address ending in”. And, if you look at the Company Directory landing page, they put the text, “Search for People by Name” above the Search Box.

But…is it really only searching for people by name?

No, the query will match any properties on the content type (e.g. People) that have been indexed into its search, so it’s matching on Interests, Expertise (i.e. Responsibilities), Skills, etc….not just name.

So, Human Resources (HR) changes the Query text, Keyword Query Language (KQL) value, to be:

PreferredName:{searchboxquery}* AND

Now if a value is specified in the SharePoint Search Box Web Part, it will be applied against the PreferredName managed property:


Problem 2 – The PeopleKeywords Refiner Contains Too Many Values

The next important enhancement for Human Resources (HR) was to put easy to use and understand, one-click refiners that enable employees using the Company Directory to refine their search results against Expertise, Interests, and other useful filters using a Refiner web part. Now, in this test directory of only 2 employees, here is what the Refiner for PeopleKeywords looks like (and the SharePoint Search crawl hasn’t even completed yet):

They’ve hit the default maximum (and usable, IMO) values to be displayed (15) with only 2 employees in the Company Directory, and all of the different employee properties are grouped together without distinction between an Interest, a Skill, an Expertise, etc. There’s also no filter on Past Projects which is very relevant in a Company Directory focused on helping employees to find coworkers based on expertise and work history.

This is unusable and definitely won’t scale to a larger organization. So, they split their target SharePoint Search people managed properties into individual refiners. Those are:

  • People:SPS-Interests – for our example, values such as “Blogging” and “Golf”
  • People:SPS-Skills – for our example, values such as Office 365, SharePoint and Accounting
  • People:SPS-PastProjects – for our example, values such as IPO and Corporate Reorganization

IMPORTANT NOTE: for People Properties to be valid refiners, this must be done at the SharePoint Admin level, that is, from the SharePoint Administration Center:


The above is repeated until all of the target People properties are pushed into their individual refiners:

O365 SharePoint Human Resources Company Directory all properties mapped.

And, as for “Expertise“, that already exists in a refiner where People:SPS-Responsibilities is promoted to the “Responsibilities” managed property out-of-the-box.

Laid out, that’s:

O365 SharePoint Human Resources Company Directory Refiners mapped.

Now, HR sets-up the Refiner Web Part and break each property into an individual refiner where the information is categorized into useful, readable, and meaningful buckets:

With a few cosmetic updates to the page, this feature will be ready to roll-out company wide.



Categories: Business, Business Management, Human Resources, Office 365 and O365, SharePoint

Tags: , , ,

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