4 easy ways to make email less terrible for employees

Keep your content short, make messages visual, and tuck top tips into a tidy digest.

4 email tips

We all love to hate email.

Employees don’t like reading them, leaders loathe sending them—and yet email persists as the premier channel for business communication.

Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be a chore or a time-wasting bore. Try these four tips to make your internal email a valuable messaging asset instead of an annoying hassle.

Fix the content, not the channel.

It’s not Outlook’s fault that employees ignore your emails.

Take a hard look at the content your organization is sending. Are the subject lines compelling? Does the writing grab readers? Are your emails segmented, or do you blast out the same message to everyone?

Compare your content with the best marketing messages you receive from retailers or news sites. What attention-grabbing ideas can you “borrow” from competitors or other exemplary organizations? Be intentional about enticing employees to open that email, just like marketers do.

Don’t give up on email—just make it better.

Make it short.

Instead of serving up heavy chunks of text, keep copy tight and tidy.

Include links for those who want more details, but focus on offering one key piece of information you want employees to know. Then, include the call to action for what you want them to do in response.

Make it visual.

Think in terms of an ad, poster or social media post instead of a typed letter.

Strong, striking graphic design, photos or illustrations are far more likely to grab—and hold—attention.

Create a weekly digest.

Eliminate department heads sending all-company emails whenever they have some news. Instead, have managers submit all their would-be emails for you to cut, copy, compile and condense into a snappy weekly digest. You can use a templated design to save time.

For each piece of news, give employees a 10- to 15-word blurb that clarifies what they really need to know, and let them click a link to read the rest.

Make cascading easier.

If you’re counting on managers to share emails with their non-desk employees, give them an easy way to do so.

You can attach a PDF flyer they can print out and post to the breakroom bulletin board. For more complex communications, like a major change initiative, you can attach a PowerPoint deck or one page of talking points for them to use in their pre-shift meetings.

Giving managers concise snapshots of crucial information will improve the quality and consistency of your comms cascade.

Less is more

If you feel like you’re sending out too much email to employees, you probably are. There’s no magic number, but it’s always safe to err on the side of less.

Even the most engaging emails won’t get opened by every employee, so don’t lose heart or give up on your email strategy. Just keep on working toward making your messaging more interesting.

Elizabeth Baskin is CEO of Tribe, an internal communications agency working with national and global brands. A version of this post first ran on Tribe’s blog.

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