Jun 30, 2015

Teach Your Employees About Career-Boosting Email Habits

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If there's one element of the workplace that is common to us all, it is email. From CEOs to interns, we are all email users.

In fact, the recent "FewClix Email Time Suck Survey" conducted by Kelton Global found that the average American spends 90 minutes with email every day! Pew Research found that 61 percent of professionals view email as a "very important" workplace tool.

Because email is so critical, and because employees are spending so much time with it every day, it is important that employers educate their staffs about email habits that could potentially damage their careers — and the organization as a whole.

The habits listed below are often exhibited by employees, but not often controlled well by employers.

When you consider training and education programs for employees, you might want to address these habits and start a dialogue about how they can be fixed — before it's too late!

1. Using the 'Forward' Function

It's tempting for employees of all levels to hit 'forward' on an email before considering what they want the recipient to do about the email. Once they send it on, employees feel a sense of accomplishment, as if the email is off their plate.

Forwarding a note Ignorewithout providing any context actually creates more work — both for the sender, who will have to explain the email once the recipient begins to seek clarity, and for the recipient, who will have to dig through a long chain of emails to try to understand the note.

Solution: Ensure that employees are trained to provide clear, concise summaries at the top of any notes they forward. Whether an employee is asking someone to handle a task or flagging something for input, they need to make sure they don't waste anyone's time.

2. Hitting "Reply All"

It's likely that your company uses aliases (contact groups) to communicate. These are great tools for teams collaborating over email, but you need to make sure your employees aren't abusing them.

Keeping the entire team on an email isn't always necessary. The back and forth distracts team members who don't need to be kept on the email — and it clogs their inboxes.

Solution: Let employees know that if senior team members are included in an alias, they should only use the alias when absolutely necessary. If they are going back and forth with an individual team member, they should take the alias off the note until it's time to share a solution or to ask for next steps.

The Fix: Ask that employees refrain from checking email during meetings or while engaged in other, more important activities. Declaring "no email zones" or "no email times" and encouraging leaders to lead by example are also great ways to keep email in its place.

3. Filing and Sorting

The Kelton survey referenced earlier found that one in six Americans say sorting through emails actually decreases their productivity. If your employees are striving to sort and file their emails, spending precious time deleting messages in a futile attempt to clear out their inboxes, then their productivity is taking a huge hit. In fact, filing emails results in a twofold time loss – first, when filing emails, and second, when trying to find them at a later date.

Solution: Make sure employees use your company's email client's native search function, or give them a set of third party tools to choose from. Also, talk to employees about how perfectly filing emails only becomes increasingly impossible as responsibilities and email volume increase, so it's important that they start using search functions to find emails now, rather than wasting time on organization.

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