Email communication is very important in today's business world. Specifically, in a manager and employee relationship, email is used to document and track the request and/or completion of task items. When employees inadvertently miss an important email, or do not carefully read (or understand) the contents of an email, the purpose of email communication is lost.
Managers can take the following steps to address employees that do not read and/or understand email communications.
1. Set expectations. Managers should set parameters and expectations around email and the importance of email communication for the team. Employees come from various backgrounds and may have varying levels to which they value communicating by email. In setting a team expectations, the manager should not only emphasize the importance of reading emails, but also define how email communication will be used (I.e. to assign tasks, send weekly project updates, etc.).
An interesting fact shows that 85% of work emailers prefer to have 'face-to-face' conversations when they are dealing with workplace problems and other sensitive issues . Fewer than 6% consider email effective in these cases (Pewinternet.org). Managers should be cognizant in separating sensitive issues from work tasks when setting expectations around situations that constitute the use of email communication.
2. Be concise. Be clear and direct when communicating by email. Remove detailed explanations and stick to the points and/or action items. The purpose of the communication should be stated within the first three sentences of the email.
3. Use lists when possible. Use bullet lists, or numbered lists, when assigning a task. Lists break-up the content in an email by giving the reader a clean visual. The employee can easily determine (or focus in on) the tasks that need to be completed.
4. Be consistent. If possible, follow a format. For instance, always begin the email with a brief summary of the task, follow that section with the to-do items, then finish with steps to submit the completed items with a due date.Consistency can have positive and/or negative effects. Employees may grow used to a predetermined format and focus in on specific areas of the communication and miss other important information. In this case, consider being consistent in the content and not necessarily the layout/structure.
5. Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up. It is also a good idea to offer a face-to-face follow-up meeting to address questions and/or provide clarification regarding information contained in the communication.
A follow-up reminder can be added to the email in Outlook for both the sender (manager) and recipient (employee) if needed. This electronic reminder will prompt the manager and employee to either follow-up and/or draw attention to the contents of the email.
These steps can help increase the odds that employees read and understand email communications sent by the manager. According to ThePewInternet.org, 77% of work emailers say email helps them keep up with events at work. This percentage points to a workforce that, for the most part, understands the importance of email. However, there is the 23 percent who feel otherwise. If no measures are taken to draw employees' attention to the importance of email, the gray area (or 23%) may ultimately have a significant effects on the productivity of the business.