Magazine article Talent Development

Email for Good, Not Evil

Magazine article Talent Development

Email for Good, Not Evil

Article excerpt

Most of us spend a good part of our day tending to email--reading, answering, and deleting messages. Often, we wonder why some email messages were sent, or we wish they hadn't been. The volume of messages may make us long for the good old days before email: I had to walk down the hall barefoot in the snow to ask my boss for a raise.

As we chip away at the email glut, we tend to forget that email can be a great management tool. The traits of email that get us into trouble (instantaneous communication, broad reach) also make it a useful tool for creating a sense of community and exchanging ideas. The next time you're about to forward another joke or respond to the person who emailed a joke to you, consider sending a productivity-boosting email instead. Here are some ideas.

Use email to give praise. This is one way to get your employees or coworkers to read your email! Whenever you see an opportunity to congratulate someone for a job well done, dash off a five- to seven-sentence praise message. Instead of waiting until annual review time, congratulate your staff at the time of their accomplishments. Save those email messages to incorporate into their performance reviews.

Use email to solicit input. Collect input for a particular task or project via email. Review the information sent to you, and summarize. Then, send your summary of the best practices to everyone who contributed. You can incorporate the summary into an operations manual, a procedure, a policy, or a training course.

Use email to create community.

Write a weekly message or an informal email newsletter to keep people up-to-date on projects or initiatives. Use your weekly message to request input or announce accomplishments or deadlines. Email can facilitate collaboration between workers at different sites, on different shifts, and even in adjacent offices.

Use email to brainstorm. Email is a great help when you're in the conceptual or planning phase of a project. Do you need suggestions for a new training initiative or ideas on how to develop an online course? Send an email request for quick, open-ended input. Make it clear that you welcome random, short-burst thinking. This is one instance when people don't have to spend time sending a well-crafted reply.

As good as it gets

Institutionalize these techniques in order to facilitate quick and cogent email messages.

Respect others' time. Your efforts to foster community and boost productivity can founder if you overuse email. It should enhance, not replace, personal communication. You can still walk down the hall. Respect your staffs' and coworkers' time by editing your distribution lists carefully and sending messages only to those who need to know.

Develop timesaving templates. Does your work require frequent and routine emails, such as training or status reports? Streamline the process by developing fill-in-the-blank templates. You and your co-workers will spend less time compiling information and composing messages, and your email recipients will spend less time processing the information.

Communicate standards. Email that's badly organized, verbose, or incomplete wastes time. It forces the receiver to hunt or guess at the email's message or purpose, or to send an email asking for more information. Protect your staff from this time-waster by developing standards for writing email. Tell people you expect email that includes a subject line previewing the message, that is organized so the main point of the message appears on the first screen, and that tells the recipient what action to take. …

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