As any organization grows, it becomes harder for people to form direct, personal relationships with their colleagues.

Social scientists have found that we can only maintain these kinds of relationships with a relatively small group of people—beyond a certain point, it becomes too difficult to sustain the interactions required. Dunbar’s number famously suggests that we can only form close connections with 150 people on average, although this varies quite widely depending on the individual.

That means that for many of your people—not to mention HR leaders themselves—it becomes hard to remember “who does what” once you move beyond a team of 100, 50, or even 25 professionals.

And that’s not all. Hybrid and remote work has dispersed teams more widely than ever, with colleagues spread out between different rooms, offices, locations, and working hours. With increasingly globalized workforces, it’s likely that these trends will only grow.

So how can HR leaders help people stay connected? When people’s behavior and productivity at work become defined by structural relationships rather than personal ones, it’s easy for your culture to evolve into a transactional arrangement. That removes wide possibilities for collaboration, efficiency savings, and an environment that boosts happiness and creativity.

An employee directory is one of the first steps you can take to protect your business culture. Not only does it make communication and connection easier within your company, supporting personal networks, but it is also the foundation of a healthy work culture that champions collaboration and mutual support.

In our employee directory template, we’re going to show you exactly how to go about creating yours.

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What is an employee directory?

An employee directory is a database that holds key information about your people. Its scope varies: It could include everything from basic data such as names, photos, and job descriptions through to more complex culture-focused information. It’s an indispensable tool for keeping track of your teams, collating important details, and sharing these with your people.

Typically, your employee directory will be a part of your Human Resources Information System (HRIS), which allows it to integrate directly with all your other HR resources. But it’s also possible to maintain a separate shared spreadsheet with all the information you need.

To be most helpful, your employee directory will also be quick to search and scroll through. The easier it is to use, the more useful it’s likely to be, which also means that reliably keeping it up to date as people’s circumstances or roles change within your company is crucial.

Why do you need an employee directory?

Your employee directory will be accessible to everyone in your organization, making it easier for them to build connections, reach out to one another, and collaborate on projects. It saves a huge amount of time by helping people immediately identify who to contact when they have a particular question or need, with staff listed by department, role, and responsibility. In today’s world of liquid teams and flexible and remote work structures, seeing who can help with your problem has never been more useful.

Even in a medium-sized company, it’s hard to keep track of who works where and does what, and a digital employee directory does all that hard work for you. Staff can double-check who was in the latest meeting, get the answer they need faster, and therefore start their important tasks sooner—rather than running around trying to find the best contact first.

The benefits don’t stop there either: For HR leaders, an employee directory is an indispensable tool for assessing staffing needs. By filtering by department, role, location, or skill set, you can quickly identify gaps in your teams, and keep private notes that relate to members of staff. A directory also makes it quick to reach your people during a crisis, giving you all the contact information in one place.

How to create an employee directory

Typically, your employee directory will be built into your HR platform. This makes it easy to create, update, and access information, supporting clear and frequent communication among your people.

If this sounds familiar, then you won’t need to use an employee contact list template like the one below. Instead, you can simply activate the feature within your core HR platform and let it take care of the legwork on your behalf. The added benefit is that your directory will also automatically integrate with the rest of your system, reducing the amount of updating you need to do, and maintaining information consistency across your records.

However, for a more manual approach—and for businesses who don’t use an HRIS—a spreadsheet can do the job, too. Best practice tends to be to create category headers along the top of your document, with a separate row below for each professional. Using dropdown menus, filters, and conditional formatting you can make it relatively easy to navigate and search through, saving you and your HR team time when updating it whenever there’s a change.

The most important thing if you are working manually is to make sure your directory is centrally located and accessible to all, and that you institute a thorough process for updating and verifying the information it holds. After all, it should improve your people’s efficiency, not contain outdated information that sends them in the wrong direction.

<<Download these directory templates and add details that help employees connect.>>

What should an employee directory include?

Any good employee contact list template will give you all the basic information that you need in your directory. That will include categories such as name, job title, place of work, photo, and contact information.

However, while this information is important, modern HR leaders know that these don’t get deep enough, and miss an opportunity to support your work culture with extra layers of detail.

By including specialist skills that your people might not otherwise know about, interests, and hobbies, you can help your teams build stronger relationships, and make unexpected connections when they need a particular skill for a specific project.

Other information can also be crucial: If, for example, you have a birthday cake tradition, it might be useful to have a column that relates to any food allergies among your teams so no one accidentally buys a regular cake for someone with a gluten intolerance.

Enhancing the information you store allows your people to connect according to shared interests, helping you to create a more fun, inclusive culture at work.

Your employee directory template

Top tip: Think about who will have access to your directory, and whether you want to make any of it private for only certain people to view.

Enhance your teams’ collaborations: Employee directory template - Employee-directory-template_Tables.jpg

<<Download these directory templates and add details that help employees connect.>>

More than just a phone book 

Building a more detailed and culture-driven people directory will help your teams find greater areas of connection.

Not only will that improve their happiness and satisfaction at work, but it can also lead to unexpected collaborations on projects that require specialist skills—which don’t appear in anyone’s job description.

By creating and maintaining an up-to-date and intuitive directory, you can help your teams learn from each other, reach out to each other, and grow together. Building a better, happier, and more productive company culture.