Are Emails Killing Employee Engagement?

I hope you have a cuppa in your hand, maybe a biscuit or two, and five minutes spare to stop what you’re doing and reflect on the ways you are communicating to your workforce.

Engaging Comms

There are multiple ways to engage with your staff effectively, but ultimately communication rules.  Your organisation may have nailed the comms – it’s frequent, it’s transparent, it’s written for a diverse audience, it encourages the workforce to live your core values and tells them what they want, and need, to know.

But how are you getting the messages across?  Is the message being read – or simply left unloved and unopened in someone’s Deleted Items box?

Just How Effective Are Emails?

When I started my career in communications many moons ago there was no such thing as an email (or the internet, a chai latte, the ability to order a chocolate milkshake from a mobile – oh yeah, no mobile phones either!) but I still managed to communicate effectively.  A phone attached to my desk and a fax machine were my tools – a little bit more advanced than smoke signals.  I digress.

Emails can be great. They can deliver the same message to a huge number of individuals.  So, what is my problem with them – well, where shall I begin?

  • It’s great for the sender to just hit that ‘send’ button. The message has been written, the message has been sent – no longer is there any need to think about it. ‘My job here is done’. And there lies the problem.

  • The written content can be misinterpreted unless it’s been written clearly.

  • The tone can cause a negative reaction, unless of course, it has been written clearly.

  • Don’t use them if the message is time critical. If the message is time critical, a communication plan should be in place where all managers have been informed that an important email is to be circulated and all their team members should be made aware to keep a look out for it.

  • It’s just too easy for staff to ‘park’ the email in a ‘read it later’ folder. We all know that never happens.

You get the idea – if using emails ensure the content has been written clearly with no means of misinterpretation.


  • Have a structured communications plan in place that everyone knows about, preferably to become part of your company’s induction process.  Emails sent willy-nilly just don’t cut it. Set times when employees know they will receive valuable communications – and stick to it.

  • Consider emailing a weekly newsletter instead of drip-fed bits of information. These can be made fun and engaging and written in a way that makes your workforce actually look forward to receiving it. Taking a few minutes out of their normal routine to find out what’s going on/what’s coming up/what’s in it for them will be a welcome break!

  • Always ask for at least two others to read through a company-wide message.

  • Or, get in the professionals and spend more time doing the stuff you’re great at!

But, it’s not all doom and gloom for the humble email – there are instances when they should be your go-to vehicle.

  • They’re great for reaching everyone in your workforce.

  • They are crucial if there needs to be a paper-trail/evidenced.

  • They give information which can be recalled at a later date.

  • They’re an easy way to send attachments.

Let’s consider other ways to deliver that all important message effectively.


It’s been proven that making accessible videos increases the number of people hearing the message. Putting a face to a message makes it more meaningful, more personable and more effective than the written word.

I’ve had some clients ask me why I tell them to use video – ‘surely you’re doing yourself out of a job’.  Hmmm, so you think words can only be written do you? Words are spoken too as you well know. Someone has to write these carefully crafted words and make them fit with the campaign, to appeal to the audience and to ensure the message is inclusive.

  • Listening to someone speak is the perfect medium to understand complex pieces of information or sensitive messages.

  • Videos eliminate the risk of someone speed-reading and missing out any important bits.

  • The speaker’s body language can be picked up which sets the tone for the message.

  • The message will remain with the individual longer than something they have read.

Face to Face

Communicating in a one to one situation or in a group setting has so many advantages.

  • There’s less chance of misinterpretation as it encourages two way conversations which eliminate misunderstandings.

  • It’s great for instant feedback or providing solutions.

  • Communicating in this way instils trust and credibility between employee and manager.

  • The ability to give eye-contact is a very reassuring way to communicate a message.

  • Messages given by a speaker who holds themselves in a relaxed stance puts the listeners at ease – making sensitive issues easier to digest.

  • Your organisation knows who and who has not received the message.

Mobile Apps

Admit it, this is the way the world is going. We use mobile apps every day (sometimes every hour) to interact, engage and communicate with our network. It’s becoming second nature to us all to check for messages on our small devices. Just think how you react to social media notifications – effective right?

  • The workforce can receive push notifications about work-related news the same way as they receive notifications that a friend has posted a picture of their kitten for the 10th time that day.

  • Phone users habitually check for messages frequently.

  • It forces messages to be short, clear and succinct – perfect

Enterprise Social Networking (ESN)

I’ve known companies who have been using ESN successfully for years, but for some reason it hasn’t caught on as quickly as I thought it would. If you’ve not heard of ESN, maybe you have heard of Slack or Yammer?  Still no – here’s a brief description.

ESN works in a similar way to Facebook. It openly connects employees and keeps them engaged. Individuals can create their own profiles making it easier to start a conversation – ‘oh you like mud-snorkeling too, I thought I was the only one’. It encourages open, transparent communications and when you get a ‘thumbs up’ from the leadership team you can quite rightly walk around the office feeling smug. *see the rush from others to come up with an innovative idea to impress everyone with.

Research has proved that using ESN provides a less stressful, more connected workforce with a feeling of belonging.

ESNs, like other social network platforms, have a really useful search facility making the retrieving of information quick and easy.

And Finally, The Phone

I like talking over the phone. I know not everyone does. It’s probably more to do with the fact that this was my only way of communicating when the fax machine had a jam that no-one could fathom out! I’m used to it. It’s always reliable (at least it is when mobile phones are not running low on battery – you can bet a call will wipe out 10% in an instant).  I’m in the Samsung 6 camp so maybe the fear of ‘Battery-Runningouteth’ is just me – feel free to offer any upgrade options!

  • Ok, so it’s not great for wide-spread messaging, but it can be an organisation’s most effective tool for keeping remote staff, and those on long-term sick for example, engaged and feeling valued.

And there you go. My brief introduction to alternative ways of communicating to your workforce to keep on top of your employee engagement and stop those pesky competitors poaching your staff.

I hope it got you thinking about what else you need for the perfect communication strategy.  If you fancy tapping into my years’ worth of experience hit the contact me button (dare I say it, to send an email), or call me on 07807 346264.