How to use data to effectively communicate internal changes

Three data-backed techniques to ensure your emails get opened and read by employees.

communicating internal change

Have you ever had to send an email so important that you reviewed and re-wrote the email 10 times and paced around your home before pressing the send button?

That’s how many communicators felt during the pandemic as many had to send messages to large audiences about the changes their organizations were going through. Communicating change is difficult, and communicating change during a pandemic is as tough as it gets. Communication about internal changes at a company is one of the most important emails an employee can receive because the changes may affect them directly.

There are many factors that go into communicating change properly. I want to show you—backed by data—how to get the right information to the right people that allows everyone to take appropriate action.

When change is happening at your company, your audience needs to know three things:

  1. What is the change?
  2. How does this change impact me?
  3. What action do I need to take to accommodate this change?

If you’re communicating change, what is the best way to do it?

There are three effective techniques to help ensure your employees will read about the changes and take any required actions:

  • Send the right, relevant message at the right time.
  • Keep it simple and actionable.
  • Pivot your communication messaging based on what the data tells you.

Send the right, relevant message at the right time.

One thing not often considered is the actual timing of a successful message. You want to send a single email that gets read by the most number of people while ensuring it’s relevant to the audience.

For example, if your company is communicating a large round of layoffs, how and when that message is communicated is important. Sending that email on the weekend vs. on a weekday will significantly alter the impact of your message and how everyone responds to it.

Not only are the contents of the message important, but the relevancy to the audience is even more important. We’ve learned that sending the right message to the right audience increases engagement significantly. When you’re communicating important internal changes about your company, here’s how to maximize engagement:

  • Send your email in the morning. Data shows that many employees open emails before work, so sending your message in the morning rather than the afternoon will result in higher engagement.
  • If you need to follow-up, do so 48 hours after the initial send. Employees who engage with the initial send will do so quickly. Every hour that passes decreases the chances they’ll read the email if they haven’t already. In fact, 80% of interactions occur within the first three-and-a-half hours of an email being sent. Especially when there is change happening, follow-ups need to be sent immediately to reduce employee anxiety and stress.
  • For recurring change messages, send on the same day and at the same time. Humans are creatures of habit. Data shows that employees engage more with emails that are sent on the same day and at the same time. If you’re communicating the progress of a change, keeping the send schedule consistent can help increase engagement by at least 2%. That may not sound like a big difference, but for companies with 10,000-plus employees, that means more people reading your message and taking the required actions.

Keep it simple and actionable.

Let’s unpack this to understand how each component helps ensure your employees read the message and click the link:

  • Emails with more images are read more. Data shows that a greater image-to-text ratio increases the read rate percentage for emails.
  • Emails with a single link result in higher click rates. The more links you provide in your email, the more options you’re shoving in front of your recipient. And as the paradox of choice suggests, more options result in indecision, or in this case, clicking none of the links. Including a single link in your email makes the decision of what to click easy for your recipient. And because this email is so important, you only want your readers to go to a single place to read more about the change that is occurring.
  • Send personalized emails to a small segment. The reason employees don’t open emails isn’t that they get too many of them; it’s because the emails aren’t often relevant to them. Use small, targeted segments when communicating internal changes. Data shows that emails sent to 1,000 or fewer recipients result in a 2.3% higher open rate.

Pivot your communication messaging based on what the data tells you.

The best way to ensure your message is relevant to your audience is to review the engagement of that audience for past messages. Reviewing your email analytics is time well spent, which can save you the hassle of writing messages nobody engages with.

Once you’ve reviewed your analytics to understand what types of messages result in higher open and click rates, you can continue to adjust your messaging to gradually increase engagement each time.

There we have it! A combination of sending the right message to the right audience, keeping it simple and actionable, and reviewing your email analytics to determine the right message will all contribute to increased engagement rates when communicating internal changes.

Michael DesRochers is the CEO of PoliteMail, an email intelligence platform for Outlook. This article is in partnership with PoliteMail.

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