5 tips for writing better emails to employees
As the leader of your company, email will be among your most important tools for communicating with employees about key decisions, new initiatives and the progress of the business.
Your emails can help rally support for your strategic vision and build employee morale to tackle big challenges. Or, they can leave your team feeling confused, frustrated and angry.
“There’s an overload of information from a multitude of channels,” says BDC Senior Business Advisor Rony Israel, a former entrepreneur who now advises business owners in the Toronto area. “Your emails must be clear, of high value and help keep your employees engaged.”
To avoid the pitfalls of poor email communication, Israel offered some simple tips to follow, regardless of whether your email is to an individual, a team or the entire staff.
1. Grab their attention with a clear subject line
Your employees are busy and bombarded with electronic communications all day long. Your first job is to write a subject line that helps them quickly understand what your email is about and gets them to read it.
Your emails must be clear, of high value and help keep your employees engaged.
A generic subject line such as “announcement” or “newsletter” could leave your email sitting unopened and eventually forgotten. However, a subject line such as: “Progress on production KPIs” tells employees the topic and whether they need to read the message immediately.
“The importance of the email and the urgency of its content has to be very clearly defined in the subject line,” Israel says.
2. Start with what’s most important
Employees are used to communicating in shorthand these days via texts or instant messaging. They don’t have patience to wade through lengthy, unfocused emails.
That’s why your message should be brief and to the point. Israel recommends you state the key piece of information or request in the first paragraph. Then, you can follow up with secondary or background information. Using bullet points will make your email easier and faster to read.
“The content has to be short and, if there is a call to action, it has to be up front,” Israel says. “I will not read a lengthy email trying to figure out what the call to action is.”
3. Be transparent, positive and consistent
As president, you need to get your employees working together to achieve shared goals. To build the trust and employee engagement you need, it’s important to be transparent about major developments in the business and your progress towards achieving goals. And even when the news is bad, your emails should strike a calm, optimistic tone while remaining honest, realistic and authentic.
“The president is also the ambassador of the business and the one who always has to demonstrate a cool head in communications with employees,” Israel says. “The president’s responsibility is to motivate the staff and be encouraging on an ongoing basis to overcome whatever challenges we have.”
It is also critical to be consistent in sending regular emails such as weekly messages from the president, monthly newsletters and quarterly performance scorecards. Delivering scheduled emails on time will help create the habit of your employees reading them and increase their engagement with you and the company.
4. Brand your emails
Just as you brand external marketing emails, it’s a good idea to have a template designed for important company-wide emails with, for example, a banner and a stylized signature. This will give your messages a professional look and signal they’re from the president and worthy of attention.
You can even use different colours for regular announcements such as performance scorecards or key personnel changes. You can also create templates for the written part of regular emails. This will help with the writing and add consistency to your messages.
“For example, every staffing announcement should follow the same format,” Israel says. “Who is coming in; what their responsibilities will be; and why we are making the change. That way I know what I need to read right away.”
5. Make sure they’re well-written
Besides being clear and concise, you need to make sure your emails are free of spelling mistakes, grammatical errors or typos. A good place to start is to carefully reread every email before you hit send.
For important emails, such as those going company-wide, it’s a good practice to get someone with an eye for language to proofread your email. They might even have suggestions for improving the content and you should consider these with an open mind.