By Josh Zeitlin, Senior Editor
If you spend far too much time sorting through work emails, you're definitely not alone.
The average employee receives 88 work emails per day, according to a report by the Radicati Group, a market research firm. A flood of messages can take precious time out of the workday and make it harder for staff to spot which information is truly important. Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Plymouth even promotes "email-free Fridays."
Yet mass emails can also be an incredibly powerful tool. For instance, according to a 2014 study published in the American Journal of Infection Control, a weekly "email intervention" helped a Florida hospital cut rates of a superbug infection by more than half.
So how can leaders use email wisely, while avoiding spamming their employees? Read on to learn one key strategy, and join us for a webconference on Thursday, Nov. 16 to learn other tips.
Use tiered communication
One key way to avoid email overload is to use tiered communication, Kate Vonderhaar, a practice manager with Advisory Board's HR Advancement Center, tells the Daily Briefing.
It's often tempting for senior leaders to blast out one email to both managers and frontline staff about the organization's direction and priorities. Yet this can leave managers unprepared to answer frontline staffs' questions, which can lead to a flurry of emails seeking clarification, harm leaders' credibility if they aren't able to answer questions, and muddle the initial message, Vonderhaar says.
Staggering communication so that managers receive news first allows them to ask clarifying questions, develop scripting to convey the information to staff and respond to their questions, and increases leader engagement by making them feel "in the loop." It can also help senior leaders think strategically about limiting their communication to managers, rather than peppering them with important messages throughout a given week.
Vonderhaar shared four steps to developing a tiered communication strategy:
- Boil down need-to-know information. Consolidate need-to-know information for managers into one regular email that is sent on a consistent schedule, such as every Monday.
- Make that email easy to scan. Use headings, a color-coding system, and simple, direct language so managers know what's important and what the key takeaways are.
- Help managers share information with staff. Provide talking points, FAQs, and other information that can equip managers to hold more productive conversations with their direct reports.
- Stagger communications. Time out when you are sending information to mangers versus to frontline staff.
Get more best practices on how to avoid spamming your employees
To learn more about how to use emails sparingly but effectively, join Kate for a 30-minute webconference on Thursday, Nov. 16 at 1 p.m. ET. You'll learn how to prevent communication overload by limiting mass emails; color-code email text to signal what staff should do with the information; and use alternative communication channels.