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Creating a More Effective Email Communications Culture: Guest blog by David Grossman

Posted Friday January 24th, 2014, 4:12 pm by

In the final part of this series of interview with David Grossman, he reviews what are the barriers and drivers to creating a more effective email communications culture.

Monica: What do you see as the principle issues restricting the use of email within organizations?

David: Limiting email and reducing abuses is a step in the right direction, especially for middle managers.

We conducted research of 1,100 executives, senior leaders, managers, and employees on their perceptions of e-mail.

Our 2012 email perception study, “Enough Already! Stop Bad Email,” shows that when it comes to email overload, it’s the middle managers who feel the most pain:

  • Middle managers typically spend 100 hours (6,000 minutes) a year on irrelevant email
  • They are 50 percent more likely to access work email outside of normal business hours
  • 30 percent experience work-life balance issues
  • 20 percent fear missing relevant information
  • 21 percent experience stress

And yet, they don’t want their ability to use email taken away or even interrupted.  83 percent of middle managers agree that email is an effective and necessary communication tool, and only 15 percent said that limiting email during normal business hours would be very effective. Our research suggests that to melt the iceberg that is the “Frozen Middle,” companies need to do a few things:

  • realize that the responsibility to improve is at the individual and organizational levels
  • agree on email expectations and get leadership in board
  • promote e-tiquette to reduce overload

All that said, limiting email and stopping abuses isn’t the ultimate solution to improving employee engagement, work-life balance, and productivity. Really, it’s a Band-Aid because the much larger issue is about ineffective communications inside organizations today, which is negatively affecting business results.  That means leadership needs to assess and improve the overall communication system for the organization.

Monica: How can we improve this situation – top three tips.

David:

  1. First, determine whether email is the right communication tool: As you assess whether email is the right vehicle, consider its limitations and your strategy for getting feedback. Use email when you need to provide one or multiple audiences with a brief status update in the body of a message, deliver a longer message or information as an attachment to your intended receivers, or prompt the receiver(s) to view web-based content or other content that’s attached. Don’t use email to give bad news or to give complex, detailed or lengthy information or instructions.
  2. Commit to using email more effectively oneself: I’m a believer that the number of emails one receives is proportional to the number of emails one sends. Before you send, ask yourself, “Should my message be communicated face-to-face or voice-to-voice instead?” Make sure your email is relevant, and ask “Is the information pertinent to my recipient? Do they really need to read my message?”
  3. Coach others when they’re not using email effectively: Could people in your organization benefit from picking up the phone instead of using email? Are their emails lacking necessary context or calls to action? Coach them. When you commit to using email more effectively and help others do the same, you can not only take steps to conquering email overload, but also improve the flow of communication within your entire organization.

For more information on email overload, its effects on the frozen middle, and additional tips, visit our Email Research and Resource Center.

David Grossman, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA helps leaders drive productivity and get the results they want through authentic and courageous leadership communication, a sought-after speaker and advisor to Fortune 500 leaders. A two-time author, David is CEO of The Grossman Group, an award-winning Chicago-based strategic leadership development and internal communication consultancy; clients include: DuPont Pioneer, Lockheed Martin, McDonald’s, Motel 6 and Tyco, to name a few.

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