South-Western - Management  
Make Yourself Heard: Are There More Effective Ways of Getting Your Employees' Attention than E-mail
Topic Communication
Key Words Information overload, e-mail
News Story

In today's business environment, PDAs, Internet access to e-mail, and text messaging have all led to the ability to be in touch at any moment. Many people feel they don't know how to disengage. The resulting problems are information overload and negative effects on our mental and physical health. With all the communication clutter out there at all times, it is becoming a significant challenge to get important messages heard.

Employees are particularly struggling with e-mail overload. In just a short time, e-mail has become one of our most important business tools, yet few people really know how to manage it well. "Reply all" messages have become a primary way of sharing information and covering our backs. For employees who travel, the amount of unanswered e-mail he or she has to face can be especially overwhelming. Where does this leave important internal communication? With e-mail, just like a newspaper article, unless you can attract the attention of the viewer in the first five seconds with your subject header, you may be sent to electronic oblivion.

Valid messages are competing for attention with spam messages and unsolicited mail as well. Research by the ePolicy Institute in 2004 found that people are spending as much as 20% of their day reading and responding to e-mail. Filter technology can help with some of the spam messages, but the "reply all" syndrome seems to be getting worse and managers are doing little to improve the situation.

Yet, the importance of keeping employees informed cannot be underestimated. A study on workplace communication showed that 90% of those employees who are kept fully informed are motivated to deliver added value by working harder and longer and of those that are kept in the dark, 80% are not. Employees want more direct, succinct corporate information, with freedom to access more content if needed.

Some companies are utilizing screensavers to deliver eye-catching messages and to break through the clutter of information overload. Amsterdam Schipol Airport has integrated the use of screensavers with their company intranet, so that when new information is added, a message pops up. If users are interested, they can click to read more. The number of users on their site has increased by 50% since implementing this technology. Other companies are using screensaver technology to help them to connect with those that don't have access to e-mail on a regular basis, like workers on a factory floor or production line. Jaguar uses the technology as a means of keeping employees up-to-date with what is happening with the company. The better and more immediate the communication, the more a part of things everyone feels.


List three challenges facing those who need to communicate important messages in today's workplace.


Name three methods managers could implement to make sure that important messages get through.


Why is it important to communicate information like marketing and sales strategies to those that aren't directly involved with creating or implementing these strategies, for example, to workers on a company's assembly line?

Source "Make Yourself Heard: Are There More Effective Ways of Getting Your Employees' Attention than E-mail," Communication World, March-April, 2006, v23 i2 p35(3).
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