When you are trying reach a workforce scattered from California to North Carolina, your communications must be more creative than an all-employee email broadcast.
Taylor Morrison, a homebuilding company with annual revenue of $3.9 billion, must communicate with a far-flung workforce of 1,800, many of whom work out of temporary field offices set up in the company’s new development projects.
How do company leaders align communications between headquarters employees with those working in sales offices out of model homes and garages? Taylor Morrison uses a strategy of targeted emails with videos highlighting executive messages, workforce wins and messages from their popular CEO.
“Not only are we spread across the country,” says Jaclyn Gettinger, corporate communications manager, “but we are a homebuilder, so a good majority of our organization are community sales managers, and they’re sitting in beautiful model homes and garages that are converted into sales offices in the meantime.”
In the field, superintendents work on company-issued tablets as they oversee local trade partners such as plumbers, roofers and flooring contractors. (In 2017 Taylor Morrison completed 8,032 homes.)
“We’ve worked with IT to make sure it is easier for them to access content, and we still have greater plans to make it even easier,” Gettinger says.
Here are a few conclusions Taylor Morrison has reached, bolstered by metrics from PoliteMail.
1. Mobile rules—even in the office.
Taylor Morrison has learned lessons about all its email communication through PoliteMail analytics. The emails tend to be limited to “super-important, mission-critical business updates—something related to company strategy, company goals.”
The three-person communications team has learned that even staffers in its Scottsdale, Arizona, headquarters are more likely to check company email on mobile phones, not on their desktops. The mobile read rate is around 65 percent.
“Everyone’s kind of multitasking,” Gettinger says. “Even if you’re physically at work, the likelihood that you’re going to read that email from your phone, walking from meeting to meeting or checking from a meeting, is probably greater than when you’re sitting at your desk.”
2. The right “from” address and targeting boosts readership.
When communicators at Taylor Morrison send a company email from a generic box, such as “Benefits,” they get little traction, Gettinger says.
“No one reads them,” she says. “You’ve got to send companywide emails from leaders.”
Gettinger says employees tend to read emails from the company’s popular CEO, Sheryl Palmer.
The open rate for generic inbox emails are 34 percent, versus 58 percent for emails from Palmer. The typical attention rate is 63 percent, while Palmer’s run at an impressive 89 percent. (Per PoliteMail, “Attention rate highlights if the from address, send day/time and subject line are working to get the recipient’s attention.”)
To make sure the workforce consumes other significant messages, communicators will send staffers in all 17 divisions an email from their own division president. The emails are identical, but people are more likely to read them with that segmentation.
“We do it for really important messaging when we know it’s the right thing to do, and we know we need the read rates to be high,” Gettinger says. “It’s a different way to send all-company emails. We just slice it into 17 groups, and give the bylines to 17 different leaders.”
Analyzing open rates versus read and attention rates has shown Taylor Morrison that when it does get people to open an email, they’re engaging with the content by reading, clicking and viewing.
“Our next mission is expanding our reach—getting more people to give the content a chance by actually opening it,” Gettinger says. “Where we see lower open rates, we still see high retention rates—telling us that those who open emails read them.”
3. Knowledge is power.
Email metrics give communications greater leverage. Communications had the supporting data to go to IT and show that content access via smartphones was important.
They told their tech-savvy colleagues that employees got links through email, but they couldn’t watch the videos because they were behind the company firewall, Gettinger says.
IT is working in the best interests of keeping data safe in a company that has a mortgage arm, she stresses. Still, the data proved that lack of access to video was a problem. This helped two departments with different missions come together to find solutions, Gettinger says.
Similarly, communicators used data to lobby executives for an employee app.
Now they could say, “Hey, this is important. It needs to be done sooner than later, and it needs budget for it,” Gettinger says.
4. Keep it brief.
Short emails are better at catching busy staffers’ attention. “We’re not afraid to send all-staff emails as short as 100 or fewer words, or, for more business-critical emails, we’ll try to stick to no more than 400-500,” Gettinger says.
5. Video unites.
Taylor Morrison communicators prefer to reach staffers through videos—two or three minutes is the preferred length, Gettinger says. An exception to the length limit is a series of videos from Palmer, the CEO, which run seven minutes each. The series, called “Shoes Off With Sheryl,” is popular with staff. (The boss dislikes wearing shoes and tends to kick them off under the table.)
The videos feature her at a model home sitting on a couch or at a counter or table. She talks about Taylor Morrison as well as the industry at large, such as her perspective on the housing market. She’ll drop in accolades for team members. Her leadership style is dynamic enough to merit an appearance in The New York Times’ Corner Office interview series.
Beyond that, Taylor Morrison emails videos that end to feature employees, often those who have done something noteworthy. A series called “Build Joy” highlights a company fundraising program for employees in crisis. These included Hurricane Harvey victims and a woman whose home burned down because of a lightning strike while she was out driving her daughter to the prom.
“With our culture, people really do care about stories beyond their local market,” Gettinger says. “It helps everyone feel a little more connected.”
The average click rate for email with video links is a hair under 56 percent.
Soon, the company will unveil video profiles of 15 senior leaders. They had to draw questions from a fishbowl—largely personal or non-work related. Among them:
- As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
- Explain your role as if you were talking to a kindergartner.
“A couple of them cried; a lot of them laughed,” Gettinger says. “Really authentic stuff. … We haven’t launched them, but when we do, I’m sure our team members are going to go bananas.”
This article is in partnership with PoliteMail.