Why Your Employees Don't Read Your Email Messages

Posted by Michael DesRochers on May 6th, 2014 at 1:13 pm

Email is easy. Easy to produce. Easy to consume. Easy to ignore. As much as company leaders would love to sit down for coffee and talk business with each employee, in most corporations email is the most efficient way to communicate important information to a widely distributed workforce. So how effective is yours?

The first issue is to determine whether or not your employees truly are reading your messages. Sure, there are products that track email opens, but what does an ‘open’ actually tell you?  It certainly does not tell you if they read it.  At most it tells you they looked at it. So why would they look, but not read?

1. They’ve been trained to ignore it.

If all your email to employees comes from one or two email addresses, after they see several consecutive irrelevant or inconsequential messages, it’s easier to ignore all of it.

2. It’s not addressed to them.

Their day to day priority email comes from a person and is personally addressed to them.  Broadcast email is usually sent to a distribution list from a general mailbox.

3. It’s not from you.

Corporate news, operations and benefits information comes from a general mailbox. More important executive communications might be sent on behalf of the Exec.  On behalf of is often read as code meaning not really from, and is often associated with unwanted marketing email.

4. Your subject line is silent.

An important message, April News and Benefits Update are typical subject lines, and ones unlikely to garner much attention.  Look at your own inbox. In three seconds or less recipient’s evaluate the From, Subject and first 50 characters of text to determine if the message is worthy of any more attention. Make it count. Subject lines need to be well crafted, and at minimum need to contain useful information.

5. Your content is unscanny.

Email is not the same as a letter.  Email is not the same as a web site.  To get read make your email scannable with short blocks of subject and text, or utilize a small image that tells a story. If you want your employees to read the carefully crafted 1,000 word summary of your new business strategy, summarize it into a handful of key bullets, and attach or link to a Word document instead of dumping it all into a dense email.

Email effectiveness is certainly challenging to gauge. What’s the desired outcome? Whether you are sending executive messages, company news, operations or benefits information, you rely on email to get the message out to everyone.  Like any good communications channel, when email is well utilized it can educate, lead to action, alter perceptions, align thinking, modify behavior and engage employees. But first, they have to read it.

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