Internal comms is more than just a company-wide email, and solutions that challenge the email-centric internal comms status quo are absolutely worth the investment.
When is an email-centric internal comms strategy the right choice? If you asked David Brady, one of our Product Managers here at Workvivo, this is what he’d say: “If I told you that, from the beginning, your communications strategy had zero chance of having the reach, impact, and accessibility necessary to engage all members of your organization, would you be happy?
“If yes, then a traditional email-centric comms strategy is a perfect fit.”
But it’s not just Dave who thinks sticking to a company-wide email and hoping for the best is a bad idea. Our team is passionate about truly engaging, inclusive, and exciting internal communications – the kind that helps your teams build meaningful connections, feel empowered to use their voice and enjoy their work.
So, here’s what we think about internal comms strategies that use email to do all the heavy lifting.
Because we can tell that you’re just dying to know.
It’s not just us!
But first, let’s take a look at some numbers. (Not from us – you’ll hear enough out of us later!)
According to Forbes, a 2021 survey showed that email fatigue could drive up to 38% of workers to quit their jobs. The same article says that for 89% of employees – yes, almost nine in ten – sorting through their inboxes is one of the worst parts of working remotely.
The best way to avoid email fatigue? Not sending as many emails.
What about engagement with internal emails? Another survey says that 61% of employees ignore emails in the workplace, and that 48% feel fewer emails at work would improve their job satisfaction.
At this point, you might be asking, ‘but what about productivity?’. While we don’t view productivity as the best measure of employee engagement and satisfaction, it’s an important factor to discuss here.
Some leaders might believe that communicating through internal emails is less of a distraction than giving employees access to a hub with a live feed where they can interact with posts from their colleagues.
In fact, the research tells us otherwise: it takes employees an average of 23 minutes to return to a task after being interrupted by an email, and the average worker spends 28% – yes, more than a quarter – of their time reading and answering emails.
And you can’t rely too much on what your email analytics are telling you either. One survey of 56 million internal messages found that while 77% of employees opened internal emails, only 37% read them and 24% clicked on links and images.
As our Enterprise Account Executive, Marlie Selvage, explained, “For comms professionals, it’s difficult to measure how messages are resonating over email. They don’t facilitate any sort of feedback loop.”
1. Email-centric internal comms isn’t inclusive
One of the biggest downsides to an email-centric approach is that it doesn’t make for an inclusive work environment. Our Chief Marketing Officer, Gidi Pridor, said, “60% of the employees in the world are frontline employees. The vast majority of these don’t even have email.
“So for workers in factories, in stores, in mines, in fast food restaurants, and more, email simply doesn’t work.”
Internal comms and employee experience apps like Workvivo make far more sense for companies with frontline employees, who frequently feel out of the loop – so much so that 45% plan to leave their jobs in the next three to six months.
Features like Workvivo Chat, for example, can go a long way toward turning things around. When a chat tool is combined with a powerful employee experience platform like Workvivo, it becomes the cherry on top of your complete, unified digital workplace.
It means frontline employees can report safety concerns at the touch of a button, that they don’t need a company email address or computer to stay in touch with their coworkers, and that they have every opportunity to embrace your company culture – just like your desk-based teams.
2. Email doesn’t speak to the relational elements
No matter how many hilarious gifs you put into your internal email – and trust us, we’re here for all of the gifs – it just can’t match the abilities an employee platform has in striking an emotional connection with your people.
Why? Because emails don’t support media richness, and that’s one of the most effective ways of resonating with employees.
Those new ways of engaging staff that are much easier for them to access, relate to, and enjoy, whether it’s live Q&As or polls, are worth your investment.
Let’s take podcasts as an example. As our CEO and Co-Founder, John Goulding, previously wrote for Fast Company, “Podcasts are popular for a reason. They let people into a conversation; fans of podcasts may feel like they know the hosts of their favorite shows.
“With an overload of content streaming by us every day, from our overflowing email inboxes to incessant news updates, a strong podcast will break through the noise.
“Unlike real-time video meetings and messages, which demand our presence and attention for much of the day, podcasts can be consumed on our own time, at our own pace. It’s easy to dip in and out of a podcast while driving, working out, or having lunch.”
Implementing an internal podcast series that introduces a different team member every week, for example, will go a long way toward employee bonding – a lot further than any email will.
And replacing emails that go out with updates from leadership with a regular podcast where employees can listen instead is much more personable and memorable.
Remember: limiting the ways your employees are able to get involved, talk to each other, and connect with the company is the opposite of engaging them.
3. Emails don’t allow for tailoring and relevant content
… Leading to email fatigue and information overload. It’s hard for people to engage meaningfully with their company’s internal comms when it’s not saying anything relevant to them.
And when leadership needs to send out important messages, emails aren’t always the answer; they don’t require acknowledgment from the recipient, they’re easily lost in busy inboxes, and their push notifications can’t be distinguished from those of other email alerts – all things an employee platform like Workvivo does ensure.
Kevin Moynihan, a Senior Software Engineer here at Workvivo, drew on his own experience to highlight the issue: “If you’re anything like me, these days your inbox is full of automated notifications, newsletters you didn’t sign up for, and marketing emails you won’t read.
“For there to be an important company communication mixed up in all that just doesn’t make any sense in 2023.”
And Harry Deane, Customer Success Associate, added, “Emails can be lost so easily in a busy inbox. By storing content in our news section or using our internal content promotion tools, you can ensure you reach as many colleagues as possible and they can keep coming back to that piece of content if there are any gems in it for them.”
4. Want to have an actual conversation? Don’t use email
Another strike against email-centric internal comms is that it fails to pave the way for two-way communication, which is a critical ingredient in any healthy company culture.
Our Director of Product & Engineering, Andrea Graham, explained, “Email comms is a one-way channel of communication; you don’t know how your employees feel.
“With Workvivo, your communications can come alive and employees can interact. They can be engaged in what your organization is trying to achieve.”
Harry added, “It doesn’t feel personal and it doesn’t open channels for two-way communication. Who in reality would feel comfortable replying to a top-down email sent in bulk? It just doesn’t facilitate conversation.”
CIPD lists the employee voice as a fundamental right for everyone. It says, “It allows employees to express matters that are important to them and is integral to good work. Employee voice can help improve the effectiveness and performance of an organization, by allowing employees to suggest ways to improve operations.”
If your internal communication strategy doesn’t leave room for the employee voice, it’s going to be
challenging pretty much impossible to figure out what it is they actually want.
5. Email-centric internal comms is so last year
To summarize, we think Gidi captured it pretty perfectly when he said, “Email-centric internal comms is old and obsolete. Usually the inbox is super noisy, so internal emails get lost among a million others. This means your message gets obscured.
“It’s one way, top-down, hard to reply to – it isn’t conducive to creating any sort of actual engagement. It’s very limited compared to all the things you could use instead.
“It’s basically writing stuff and maybe putting some images in. It has delivery issues. It looks much worse on phones than on desktops. It belongs more to the 1980s and less to 2023.
“I mean, think about it: how much of your communication in your personal life is based on email? Very, very little, and less and less.”