By and large, employees are swamped with so many emails that many don’t read them. So even if the subject line says ‘message from the CEO about factory closures’, it often won’t get looked at.
There are three things to think about when it comes to creating a message that people will want to read. First, you need to know their communication preferences (if the majority of your workforce are in a factory, email may not cut it). But of course, if it’s breaking news and you need to get it out to a lot of people quickly, email is often the way to do that.
The question you need to answer is ‘why should they care?’ Workers struggle to relate to generic emails that are sent to everyone in the organisation, so you need to show people immediately what the relevance is to them as an individual.
And that’s not just about segmenting the recipients by grade and function – it’s tailoring it to their disposition and basing it on their interests. For example, you could add a more detailed explanation about new company policies to people who you know go to all-staff meetings.
Second, it’s important to brief line managers. With difficult messages, employees will want their manager to be able to explain it to them in a way that is easy to understand and tell them what to do with the information. A good communicator thinks hard about how they explain emails to managers in a way that enables them to disseminate the information to their people. Invest time in briefing them – if you make sure they really know what’s going on, their teams will too.
The third point is to try and make sure you have a limited number of communication channels. I once heard someone say that for every new channel you introduce, you need to cull two. The amount of information flying around offices these days is astonishing and people get inundated.
You need reliable channels, like email, that people know will give them the important news, and tell them quickly what they need to do with it.
Liam FitzPatrick is an author, co-founder of Donhead Consultants and managing partner at Working Communications Strategies