Email is still the most prevalent digital communication method in the workplace, but it remains an inefficient and unpopular medium. Have you ever heard anyone say they really love their inbox? Employees can be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of emails they need to respond to, not to mention the time they need to spend doing it. Then, when they actually get to their inbox, not all of the messages in there are relevant. For example, “all staff” emails get sent out too frequently, many of which are not even intended for different groups. The result of this is that email communications end up being routinely ignored and missed.
Another key issue with email is that it is not always a fully inclusive method for workplace communication. Not all members of the workforce will necessarily have corporate email addresses; this is particularly true for frontline employees who may work in retail outlets, call centres, manufacturing plants, distribution centres and more. In recent years, some organisations have bridged the gap and given all their frontline employees email addresses, but this can prove expensive, particularly due to licensing costs. In organisations where an email address is also tied to a Microsoft 365 license, corporate email identities for frontline staff are often not enabled because of the costs involved.
Clients frequently ask us how they can communicate more effectively without relying on email. In this post, we’re going to explore eight approaches that can actively help in both reducing email and finding alternative methods of communication in order to:
- Open up digital communications to those who don’t have or use email – mainly frontline staff
- Reduce the amount of time employees spend on email to improve efficiency and raise productivity
- Reduce the amount of data generated from email
- Make employee inboxes less overwhelming to support wellbeing
- Improve the quality of conversations and interactions
- Make communications more impactful and ensure important messages don’t get missed.
We’re also going to place particular focus on some of the challenges associated with communicating with frontline or remote employees who may not have or actively use email.
Understand your workforce and communication needs
Any attempt to improve communications and reduce emails has to start with a good understanding of how and why your workforce use email. What are the main types of emails they send? What are their business objectives in sending them? What are the alternative channels they might use? What are their communication and information needs?
Undertaking a research and discovery process that involves speaking to stakeholders and employees, and that audits the use of email, is essential. From here, you can start to plan an employee-centric strategy that builds better alternatives to email.
Control all staff emails
An obvious but essential step in communicating to employees without email is to shut off some of the options. Often, one of the best approaches is to strictly control the sending out of all staff emails, limiting the use of this option to only when it absolutely needs to be used, such as for key updates from the CEO. This forces the use of better alternative channels for company-wide or wide circulation communications.
Pursue an omni-channel strategy for communications
Many IT functions and digital workplace teams have actively been trying to reduce their collective reliance on email. The principal way of doing this is to provide and promote the adoption of more efficient alternative solutions. These include:
- Messaging and chat for one-to-one messaging
- Social and collaborative solutions for communications involving more than two people
- Intranet and portals for top-down corporate communication
- Workflow and transactional systems to replace system notifications and / or workflow updates
- Employee apps available on personal mobile devices for frontline communications.
These messaging, social and collaborative tools are now well-established and well-adopted across the enterprise. Anecdotally, we have heard that the use of a tool like Microsoft Teams has also been effective in reducing email consumption across some teams, so similar tools can work too.
Most organisations operate in this omni-channel world – it’s unavoidable. But not everyone brings a strategic view of communications to it, and thus some fail to deliberately target the use of channels based on the purpose of communication, the audience, the message being delivered and other factors. Particularly for internal communications, having a more co-ordinated omni-channel strategy that takes into account the strengths and weaknesses of each channel can start to reduce the use of email, at least for internal communications.
For example, you may start to use an employee app like LiveTiles Reach to drive communications with a remote frontline workforce who predominantly use personal mobile devices for communication.
Bring communications and messaging to the daily flow of work
To encourage good adoption of email alternatives, they need to be brought into the daily flow of work. For example, many knowledge workers are spending their day in Microsoft Teams, and it therefore makes sense for employees to access internal communications and the intranet from there.
This can be more challenging for frontline employees as they are far less likely to be spending all day in a digital system. Sometimes, you need to think of creative ways to communicate with remote employees.
Recently, we completed a project with TTEC where we brought messaging into the daily flow of work through the creation of an innovative messaging system, hard-baked into the intranet experience.
TTEC provides outsourced customer experience solutions, including by providing call-centre staff for global brands. Employees actually already had email, but it was seldom used, and the TTEC team were seeking an alternative solution. An existing intranet was well-adopted, so we created a brand-new system for internal communicators and managers to send targeted messages to employees, all accessible from within a lively intranet. Frontline employees can also access these communications on their personal mobile devices via an intranet app.
This has had an excellent response from both communicators and employees, and we’re already working on the next phase of the release. In this case, bringing communication into a place where employees are more likely to be working has proved far more effective than email.
Ensure relevance by supporting targeted communications
Communications must be relevant to each employee for them to be read and resonate with the individual. If you bombard employees with messages that don’t apply to them, they will simply stop reading them. Here, targeting communications to employees based on their AD profile covering aspects such as location, division and role is key; any effective alternative to email must support targeting.
When we built our messaging system for TTEC, we included hyper-targeting capabilities with the ability for communicators and managers to select multiple attributes to pinpoint message recipients down to the individual employee level. Dynamic filters allow groups to be defined by country, location, department, level of seniority, type of employee, client team, team supervisor and more. Internal communicators love the ability to have such targeted messaging capabilities, while managers and supervisors can also use it to communicate with their teams. Note that having reasonably complete and accurate AD profile data is a pre-requisite for successful targeting.
Simplify the ecosystem and support digital employee experience
Whatever messaging system is in place, it needs to support a good digital employee experience. One way to do this is to help simplify the communication ecosystem in place, and reduce the number of channels that your employees have to access on a daily basis. For example, our solution at TTEC brought messaging into the intranet, reducing the need to access email as well. Attractive and intuitive interfaces have also contributed to the solution being well-received by frontline workers.
Drive self-service to reduce email
Self-service approaches can be highly effective in reducing the email traffic that is sent to IT and HR helpdesks relating to questions and issues. Here, a range of tactics can help, including:
- Supplying content that provides answers to key questions
- Encouraging interaction in online support communities using tools like Yammer
- Using a chatbot to get answers
- Encouraging users to submit and track tickets using a system like ServiceNow, integrating these with other key channels.
Focus on tools and tactics to engage remote employees
Engagement needs to be part of any internal communications strategy that reduces email, particularly to engage remote frontline employees who may feel less connected to an organisation than knowledge workers. Here, tools like polls and employee recognition channels, as well as tactics such as posting videos, can make all the difference compared to formal and often dreary formal corporate communications.
Communicating without email
Email has its place, but it’s simply not the best method for internal communications and communicating with frontline staff. A range of other approaches, tactics and tools can help find an effective alternative. If you’d like to discuss how to communicate without email, or find out more about solutions similar to the one implemented at TTEC, then get in touch!