I work for a large company which is beginning to make better use of the employee data held in Active Directory (e.g. contact information). Manually finding all of this information and updating it is a huge task. There is an employee portal which allows users to update their own information, which we've asked people to use, but few seem to. Are there any tried and proven methods which may help?

Other thoughts we've had (though not yet put into practice):

  • Hire temps / use work experience kids (alongside more interesting work so they get some value) to walk around our offices and manually update data (in a spreadsheet which we then validate for obvious issues, then upload via script).

  • Use the info in Payroll & HR systems to update data (as we have a number of business units in different countries we have multiple systems for this, some internally hosted, some external and locked down, some just using excel; consolidating that info's a lot of effort even where we can access it).

  • Office 365 email templates - we're moving to Office 365. If we use this feature employees will benefit from their AD data being up to date. However it's going to be a while before all Business Units (BUs) are on 365. http://blogs.technet.com/b/lystavlen/archive/2011/11/23/how-to-create-auto-signatures-centrally-in-office-365-exchange-online.aspx)

  • Name & Shame Reports - use scripts to identify obvious problems (missing data, old office addresses, disabled accounts listed as direct reports) to generate reports seen by all employees, then use peer pressure & gamification to do the rest. Alternatively, those who come up smelling of roses get free entry into a raffle (the carrot to the stick).

  • Appraisals / Objectives - build reviews of AD info into the periodic appraisals process.

  • Mechanical Turk - use people to help identify and resolve problems (for that info which we can make public / which can be found from online resources).

  • 1
    Is your employee portal easy to use? We have a similar tool which is a complete nightmare to use.
    – enderland
    Commented Jan 29, 2015 at 17:32
  • I would say this is what lower/middle management is for that. They tell everyone to just stuff the data, and have the secretary confirm it (or make the secretary input the data, too, if they wish).
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jan 29, 2015 at 17:33
  • 1
    In my experience, a horribly-designed UI is the no. 1 reason why people don't bother doing things unless they are forced to, and even so, they do it with a lot of resentment. If you choose to use any kind of "force" (stop their paychecks/shame them on the department notice board/etc.), be prepared for a few discontented people to treat it as the final straw and leave (especially if the UI is horrible). You need to think how important this so-called update really is versus the possibility of a few people leaving.
    – Masked Man
    Commented Jan 29, 2015 at 17:53
  • Is it usually work information (work extension, office location) or personal information (home address, cell phone)? If work, this information should be updated by IT, an admin, or manager as part of a hire or move. Aka, it's on a list of things that gets done.
    – mkennedy
    Commented Jan 29, 2015 at 18:26
  • Unless the employees are issuing their own company phone numbers and email addresses, why don't you already have the correct contact information for them? Commented Jan 30, 2015 at 5:02

3 Answers 3


I find two scenarios where you get 100% compliance on data entry: 1) Your salary/bonus is contingent on it. Don't want to fill out an expense report, you don't get reimbursed. 2) Your supervisor gets a faulty report of some kind that he thinks is important enough for you to fix it or suffer the consequences. When her supervisor wants it corrected, you get double threatened.

You could get Medieval and not process payroll checks for any accounts that don't match in both systems. In reality, one system isn't contingent on another. I think you should identify what problem you're trying to solve and ask everyone for their help.

I just tried to setup a phone meeting with someone in our company who has the wrong number listed in our system. He tried to change it, but claimed it didn't work. I'm in no authoritative position to force a change. He indicated that I'm not the first person to have this problem. You'd think he'd correct it eventually and solve the problem of other people not being able to call him and having to send an email to get a correct number.

They say you catch more bears with honey than vinegar. Throw a party for those with correct info if you feel that strongly about it. Send them some nice little gift. You really need to let them know why they need to take the time to do this. Call people who don't do it. You may find they are having a technical issue. Then you can send some instructions for others having the same problem.

Again, what is the problem? I hope it is not data correction for data's sake.

  • As you point out, data in AD is used as contact info. We're trying to make AD the master of this data so that we can use other systems' (e.g. Outlook) built in functionality relating to this data. Your example of an employee with the wrong phone number exactly matches our issue; only for us there are many such users.
    – JohnLBevan
    Commented Jan 29, 2015 at 17:09
  • 3
    You may want to look into what else they're using for phone lists. In our case, HR was passing around an Excel file periodically with an extension list. Getting people off of the alternate systems can help as well.
    – user8365
    Commented Jan 29, 2015 at 17:39
  • "You could get Medieval and not process payroll checks for any accounts that don't match in both" That sounds very illegal.
    – nobody
    Commented Mar 23, 2015 at 0:22
  • There are laws against the suggestion of not processing payroll checks in many areas.
    – NotMe
    Commented Mar 23, 2015 at 18:11

I'd try to see the problem from the employee's perspective: what am I going to earn doing this? Why should I do this?

It seems that keeping data updated is a 'nice to have' (assuming you didn't go medieval as JeffO mentioned!), and we know that nice to have is a fancy name for I'll never do it unless it's good for me.

So, what could happen if employees don't have data updated? What's the objective on this initiative to get better data from employees? Is it beneficial to the company only? Is there anything good to the employees at all?

Some (often) times, it's just a matter of getting to the root of the request and understand the real benefits expected with this initiative. In my company there's a similar scenario (with some specific data) and I know that this data is barely used (if used at all)... so I just left for the 11th hour to update it (and I don't invest more than a few minutes on it, as I know it'll be mostly a waste of time).

Bottomline: To sell this initiative to the employees, you must be quite sure it makes sense to you and it's a valuable activity. Otherwise, you won't be able to convince anyone (besides that guy that sits at the corner and had no projects in the last few months).


I'd recommend that you have one person in the company who can access and modify the data, and every six months you send an automatic email to everyone with the data you have stored about them, and ask to reply with anything they want corrected, or reply that everything is correct. Resend the email weekly if you don't get a reply. That's the most efficient method, because the actual work is done by someone who knows exactly what to do, and it is very little effort for each employee, and importantly it can be done immediately from within their email software.

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