You’ve got an email lined up to fire off to your employees, and you’re ready to click the “send” button.
Then a thought causes you to freeze up: Is this the best time to reach them?
The success of emails depends not only on snappy subject lines and clever visuals. Timing also matters.
Every internal communicator knows not to launch an important workplace safety update on Thanksgiving weekend. To successfully reach your employees, though, your email strategy requires deeper thought than just avoiding days off.
Internal communicators must email at the optimal time and day—and must measure to see what works and what doesn’t get through. In this global age, there is the additional challenge of scheduling or managing delivery times for employees worldwide so the messages don’t get lost in the flood of incoming.
Here are a few tips:
Choose the right day of the week.
At Deloitte Services, communicators seldom send an email on Friday. At BECU, Mondays are also out. Why? Because communicators know their workforces—and can measure what gets opened and read on those days.
“We try to avoid Fridays,” says Ashley M. Smith, senior manager for strategy, brand and innovation. “Those are generally travel days, and we don’t see the kind of returns that we would ordinarily like to optimize.”
At BECU—a Seattle-area financial institution formerly called Boeing Employees Credit Union—Mondays are incredibly busy in the branch offices, says Ilene Peterson, senior manager for internal communications. BECU has 1,500 employees.
“People have gone out and done all their stuff on the weekend, and now they’re like, ‘Uh-oh, I’ve got an issue with my checking account,'” she says.
Send it at the right time.
Michael Schmidt, vice president of communications at Arnold Palmer Medical Center Foundation, often sends out emails to keep 1,500 employees engaged or ask them to spread the word about patient videos it makes. He knows, though, when to avoid sending a video.
“We have a few different times during the day that are major shift changes for the nursing staff—seven in the morning, three to four o’clock in the afternoon—so we usually try to hit things right in the middle of the shift,” Schmidt says.
Clinical staff are busy at that time handing over care of patients, and they can’t stop and read an email.
Others limit communications to certain times of the day. At Deloitte, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. work best. At BECU, mornings are preferred.
Make an appointment.
Your employees are busy, says Michael DesRochers, founder and managing director of PoliteMail Software. Corporate emails sent at the height of their workday are going to get processed by priority; certain messages, like newsletters, will fall to the bottom.
“If you send regular messages, it works best to establish a regular delivery schedule, ideally for each audience segment, and stick to it,” he says. “That way, employees will expect it at that time … and establish a routine to actually read it and not filter it out.”
Respect time differences.
Deloitte’s U.S. operation, which has 60,000 employees, maintains a workforce of skilled professionals in India to support client services delivery and operations at all hours. Key communications to the Indian employees are sent from the U.S. to arrive during the same time windows as those of their American counterparts.
“So it might be a wonky time in New York when the email is sent, but delivery occurs for those professionals during the same window that we target in the U.S.,” Smith says.
Clean up your distribution lists.
Cleveland Clinic—the renowned medical center with facilities in Ohio, Toronto, Las Vegas, Florida and Abu Dhabi—is working to clean up its distribution lists, says Kevin Kolus, communications manager. These lists track employee job titles and other data, but sometimes they don’t get updated when a staffer switches jobs. Accuracy is important, because it helps you to email individuals and subgroups based on the criteria you’re interested in.
“So if you’re able to do that,” Kolus says, “the more information, the more data rich those entries are, and the more accurate they are, the better handle you’ll have on your audience’s behaviors when they get your email.”
Send A/B emails.
If you’re figuring out what times your employees are most likely to open an email, split your distribution list in two. Send half at 8 a.m., the rest at noon. Your email analytics tool will show you when employees actually read those messages, helping you to determine the best hour to send.
A/B testing can be used to measure different subject lines and other variables. “You can get really creative with it,” Kolus says.
Maintain an ‘editorial calendar.’
You may have your ducks in a row, but is the same true of everyone else who’s emailing the staff? Do your communications collide with those from HR or another department?
BECU communications handles most of the HR messaging, but the company has a group in its knowledge management team that communicates weekly about operational changes, updates to procedures, and so forth. Scheduling helps prevent overlapping emails.
“When you start overwhelming people with emails, they just shut down and they don’t read them,” she says.