At times companies do not have state of the art communication technologies. For example: sometimes just to know if my colleague is at his desk or not. We have to call through two boards and be prepared to have his phone ringing forever. I run the risk of disturbing the people around my colleague if I do not hang up.
The sub-par communication technologies (my boss calls these 20th century ones) do influence communication among staff. However, do we make full use of whatever technologies we have? The answer is an emphatic “no”.
Just as phone is no more just phone, email is no more just email. We are not making use of added features of email. This article is to give some tips on how email can be used more effectively regardless of we have state of the art communication technologies or not. By adopting these tips, you will create an aura of a polished communicator.
Send meeting: Invite through calendar if you are going to discuss something. It shows that you are an organized person; you plan for your activities. On the other hand, if you pull people just before the meeting it shows you do not respect others’ time, and you have highhanded approach. Send a meeting invite and give at least a day’s notice. Urgent production break-fix meetings can be an exception.
Accept or decline: Meeting invite. Do not keep others’ invites in limbo. There is a reason why you have received the invite. If you cannot make it, decline with reason—courtesy. If you cannot make it on the time/date proposed, propose another time/date as opposed to declining.
To: and Cc: Keep only those in the To: who need to act, and those in Cc: who need to be just informed. I have seen email with To: to project manager, Access Control and ISS. The email is about asking for mouse replacement. There is no way to know whom the sender wants to act. To make it more difficult there was no addressing in the email body either.
Email body: Readers’ attention span is short. If your email is longer than 10 lines please do create tension (variety in look); make use of color, bullet etc. I have seen 15 line emails without a single line of space. The mail reminded me of cramped room. In home decoration, space contributes to preventability, email is no different.
Align subject: With the body of the email. People read emails based on subject unless it is coming from the big boss. I once received an email with the subject, “Fundamental Research App Sign-off”. I did not read for 6 hours. Later, I came to know that the sender was asking my team to arrange a VC. The sender picked up a thread and forwarded to ISS. In such cases, change subject to something like “Arrange VC”.
Mind your grammar: Consistent wrong English creates negative image. Some common grammatical mistakes are: a) “Please excuse my typo errors” b) “I can able to ..”, c) “I will revert back”. Human beings cannot revert back unless he/she is frog-prince.
Mark calendar busy: Before you go on planned leave, mark your calendar busy so that it shows you are “Out of Office”. You can do this well before the leave. This way, others will know that you are out of office on that day even before you go on leave.
Set out of office: In office, we are inter-dependent. People depend on you; this is why they send email. When you are not in office they should know that (your absence) within seconds of sending email so that they can take alternative action. In addition, suggestion for alternative should come from your Out Of Office message. If you do not set Out Of Office message you are telling loudly that you are not so important. Oh, yes, do not write, in OOO message, “I am on leave today”. You do not know what will happen tomorrow; I just mean you may remain on leave. Write the date(s) on which you will be on leave.
Cancel/decline invites: If you have sent the invite, cancel the invite before you go on leave. Also, if you have accepted any meeting invites that will happen while you are on leave, decline those. Write comments like “I am on leave” while cancelling/declining.
Use sensitivity: When you send email to HR or on money matters for example set the flag “confidential”.
It is incumbent upon managers to improve email communication of their staff. They have to invest time on staff’s communication. If improvement happens on aspect of communication, the other aspects will also be cared for by staff. Within no time, a company will be a greater place to work in, and we will become better at communicating.