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Is Email Dead for Employees?

work emailWith such a strong focus these days on digital communication channels, my company recently conducted a communications channel audit of our 40,000 employees. The results of the survey show that email remains, today, the NUMBER ONE preferred method of communication with the Intranet coming in second. I know that many organizations are seeking new ways to engage with employees but when you have an organization where more than 50% of the workforce is disconnected — either intentionally or because of the nature of their work — slick, new digital solutions don’t always resonate with the majority of an organization’s audience.

It begs the question… is email dead for employees? The results of my company’s communications channel audit would indicate absolutely not. Email IS NOT DEAD and, in fact, it remains an essential communication tool.

But when it comes to email, the information has to be targeted, deliberate and informative. There is such as a thing as over communicating. We cannot spam our own employees. Newsweaver partnered with Ragan Communications to learn how Internal Communication teams are using email in their organizations. Over 600 communicators from around the world participated, resulting in the recently published Email Best Practice Survey 2014.

Email remains an essential channel. Communicators are not looking to replace it – only 27% say internal social networks will replace email in the organization within the next five years. But clearly the channel is under resourced, because communicators are finding it difficult to increase effectiveness of these communications – or prove business value to the organization.

I recently attended a Towers Watson HR Leadership Forum in Washington, DC where the group discussed the business value of applying marketing communications tactics to internal communications. In theory, it sounds great. I already organize my communications into strategic campaigns. But, my company doesn’t have an enterprise messaging system. We still use distribution lists and Outlook. There’s no way for us to track open rates, click throughs, etc.

Our proof of business value? It’s the ONLY way employees can read their email. And I know we’re not alone in this — many other organizations are in the same situation.

Key findings about Internal Communication email

If you’re interested in Newsweaver’s report on how Internal Communication uses email, here are a few of the major findings:

  • Email remains a significant form of communications in most organizations – Nearly 60% of respondents’ corporate communications send out email at least once a week. Within that: 19% email their employees once a week, 26% two to three times a week, and 14% daily.
  • Engagement is the primary purpose – 75% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that “Internal communications is responsible for making sure employees are engaged.”
  • Click-through tracking is not common – Only 26% measure open and click-through rates, despite the fact that 94% of all respondents rank it as important or very important to measure email as a channel.
  • Email is best for critical messages. A landslide majority of 98% of respondents use email for critical, must-read information. Email is also the favored tool for getting out a consistent message to the entire workforce.
  • Must-have policies – 75% of respondents have a policy in place for the newer social media channel, but fewer report having such policies for the well-established email channel, with 62% answering yes. When it comes to enforcing the policies, comms takes the lead in social media, while IT tends to enforce email issues. Clearly there is a struggle managing the employee use of the ‘company-wide’ emails, as only 30% have a policy/structure in place on its use.
  • Measuring is crucial. The top channels to measure are intranet/website, ranked by 96% of respondents as “very important” or “important.” Email drew nearly as many responses. The most popular measurement tool is Outlook – even though it is limited to read receipts or delivery metrics.

If you are interested in how your peers across the world use this go-to channel, you’ll want to download the full report. Some of the insights you’ll get:

  • The tasks are communicators using email for – and what frequency of their sends.
  • What channels communicators using to meet top IC objectives.
  • The features communicators would like to have access to (e.g. personalization, embedding rich media, measurement, smartphone-friendly designs)
  • Who holds the budget purse strings?
  • What is working in terms of trying to reduce email overload. The impact it is having.
  • The measurement communicators have access to – in email, and other channels. What tools are they using to measure?

Download the Newsweaver/Ragan Email Best Practice report 2014

Attribution: [report] How Internal Communication uses email

Elizabeth

Elizabeth is a strategic communications leader with nearly 20 years experience in both internal and external communications. She is a passionate advocate for developing communications that foster a stronger relationship between the organization and its employees. She is a global keynote speaker on employee engagement and HR communications. Elizabeth is a certified professional in Employer Brand through Universum Global's Employer Branding Academy.

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