Kill Internal Email Overload - Hot Tips
“Don’t flood my Inbox with boring, irrelevant emails!”
Try these tips to reduce email overload inside your organisation.
Workers claim that 34% of the internal email they receive is unnecessary. The average worker spends 49 minutes per day managing email. 24% of workers say they spend more than an hour a day engrossed in this task. (Gartner/eCompany)
Try these tips to reduce email overload inside your organisation.
Use informative headings
Use an informative text message for the subject line. Your reader doesn’t even have to spend time opening the email. They can read and delete. They get the message and they save time.
Use headings in the body of your email too. Think about reading a newspaper. How often do you just scan the headlines? The same applies to your email. Structure your email logically, and provide a heading for each paragraph. Your reader will be able to find key information quickly by either scanning or searching.
Can you get your message across in a single headline? Consider a tool like a scrolling news feed. It delivers information as an on-screen scrolling alert to targeted employee groups. If employees see a headline of interest, they can click through to more information.
Differentiate between urgent and non-urgent emails
Is your message critical, urgent, or just nice-to-know? Assist staff by flagging emails. Don’t forget that your reader may have a very different idea of what is urgent. Mentally put yourself in their shoes. Decide how important the email is to them. You can then indicate the level of urgency in the subject line or by using standard email symbols.
To ensure that staff have received important messages and then track who has read them, you could use a Desktop Alert tool. Alternatively a screensaver tool can allow administrator(s) to turn employee screensavers into a series of dynamic sequencing billboards. This format is ideal for messages that may not be urgent but are important from an employee ‘awareness’ perspective.
Employees who are suffering from email overload are unlikely to notice these types of messages when they are sent as emails. Screensavers however, can act as a subtle but very powerful way to raise awareness and communicate key themes.
Group your ‘internal comms’ and send them through at the same time each day
You may be alarmed to know that a study by Scottish universities Glasgow and Paisley revealed that some staff checked their inboxes 30-40 times per hour. It is often more efficient and more productive to deal with emails at set times each day. You can assist, by sending through internal communications at the same time each day.
AN email agregation tool enables internal email aggregation into a company newsletter pushed onto the desktop instead of being delivered by email. Any member of staff can click to easily submit e-mag content into pre-specified formats.
So, rather than IT sending an email update about an outage, marketing sending product information updates and HR sending their staffing updates out via email, all of these messages can be consolidated into the same magazine quickly and easily.
Manage group email lists and don’t deal in internal spam
How often do you or your staff open an email and then spend several minutes deciding if you need to read it or not? What a waste of time and email storage space!
Try appointing an email gatekeeper: someone who knows each email group, what information is relevant to each group, and what each group needs to know. The gatekeeper ensures each group receives only relevant emails. The Gatekeeper could also assist with developing clear email policies and procedures, so staff know which emails to delete, which to keep on file.
Target your audience and make emails relevant to them
So when you are writing an email, think about the people who will read it. Then write to them in language they will understand. Make the message relevant to them and their role. Tell them why you are writing to them and what you want them to know, think or do.
Whether you are sending informative emails or publishing an internal magazine, you need to know your audience.
Select Internal Communications tools that allow every communication to be easily to specific employee groups. Ensure the reporting options that allow you to see exactly what people are reading and what is being ignored.
Keep the content brief. Use simple language and make use of informative headings
Busy staff don’t want to spend time getting to the message, or working out what the message means. Emails in particular need to be brief and clear.
Think about your reader and what you want your reader to think, know or do. In other words, what do you want your message to achieve? Decide on a logical order for your message. Then, keeping your reader in mind, write your message using Plain English.
If you don’t have a clear idea of what you want your message to achieve, or if you don’t have a clear understanding of your audience, then stop writing.
Manage your emails and archive them effectively
If your organisation does not have clear guidelines for managing emails, you may find that more and more staff have inboxes that are groaning under the weight of hundreds of emails.
This puts pressure on IT capacity, but there is a more sinister problem. Have you or your staff ever failed to fully digest an important update or new information because your inbox is just too full?
It may be time to look at your email management policy. You could start with agreeing a folder structure, so that employees know where to save email and just as importantly, where to find them. Agree on clear rules around which emails should be kept, how long they should be kept, when and if they should be archived and which emails should be deleted once they have been read.
Once you have developed clear email polices you could use a Staff Quiz and Screensavers to reinforce and test your staff’s knowledge and understanding of your organisation’s email policies.
Before you email, ask yourself ‘Is email the best way to communicate this message?’
Email is used at times to convey sensitive or even unpleasant messages, but this is simply not good practice. Examine and promote alternative ways of conveying the message.
Why not use a staff meeting to think about all the different communications channels? You can involve staff by asking them to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each option.
Try a ‘no email’ day
How often do your staff send email to people sitting right next to them? How often do you send an email when a face-to-face meeting or a phone call would have been more effective?
A No Email Day may seem extreme to some people, but with so many available communication channels, including having your coffee break with a group that you need to relay information to, you shouldn’t find an email-free zone too difficult to manage. It is good idea to encourage staff to think about alternative and more effective ways of communicating information.
Think outside the square. How else can you get your message across?
Why not list all the communications channels open to your organisation and think about the benefits and drawbacks of each.
Examine the typical types of information that staff in your organisation regularly send and receive. Think too, about the requirements each type of message may need to have in order to be communicated successfully. Ask yourself, for example, do you need visual or voice cues? Or is the information confidential or sensitive? Or do I need additional information? Or is the message urgent?
Involve staff in this process, as it will help them improve their communication, by helping them select the most effective communication channel. It will also remind them that some messages, especially those dealing with sensitive issues, are not suitable for delivery via email.
You may think that phone calls and face-to-face meetings take more time, but one company that implemented email free days, noted that making a real effort to reduce email overload resulted in better teamwork, happier customers, and quicker problem solving.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sarah is a Director of Snap Communications, a company which provides specialist Internal Communications Solutions. She has a broad knowledge from strategic communications planning through cross cultural communications to measuring communications effectiveness.