How do I train my employees on email writing and etiquette?
I know that email communication is important for many different departments, like sales and HR. What's the best way to train my employees in writing business emails and maintaining business etiquette?
Provide clear, specific subject lines that help the sender identify what he or she must do. For example, if you want someone to approve a funding request, try this: "Please approve SLM spectrophotometer purchase." Put key information at the beginning, limiting text to five words when possible.
Make them do the real work under supervision so they don't make any mistakes and will through the process.
I have seen Sue Hershkowitz-Coore speak, (http://speakersue.com/), and she is amazing. She has a couple books and does keynotes and sessions as well.
The easiest thing it so do a quick needs analysis to understand the types of issues or concerns you have with the current e-mail quality. From there it is rather simple to create a quick, customized training that can walk your team through scenarios, examples and best practices as it pertains to effective e-mail. Corporate Educators and HR professionals have basic training programs on these topics and can easily customize these to your needs. These are able to be delivered via web if you are virtual and live by a professional or one of your own leaders if you prefer. If this is something we can help you with, let me know.
A few tips to consider:
1) The subject line. Three choices: a) Time Sensitive: Immediate Action Required; b) Reply Required by: ___________; c) FYI
I receive a lot of email communications and never am quite sure about the urgency/timing of the reply until I read through the entire email. I think it would be great if every email had this type of information in the subject line.
2) The content. Identify the main points up front. If detail is necessary, write it out after the main points are identified first.
3) Clarity. Emails should be succinct. An email that is more than two paragraphs is not an email - it's a memorandum. Be careful not to be too lengthy. The recipient will lose interest in reading and/or get lost in unnecessary verbage.
Hope this is helpful.
Get the employees involved - see each employee as a potential trainer! Hold a "mini-training" - have each employee submit an email that can be discussed and viewed. Select 5 or 6. The "team" of employees dissects and discusses the writing and etiquette in each email - what worked, what did not work and why (will make for a lively discussion!) A designated person keeps tally of the do's and don'ts/pros and cons of the five or six email writings.
You will end up with an internal, employee generated protocol which they may be more likely to adhere to and remember (being actively involved in creating the rule structure facilitates memory and increases the likelihood of compliance) This may also be a good time for them to discuss how the writing of emails aligns with the company brand, etc.
There's a great pocketbook on Business Communications by Ashridge that we encourage our staff to download and keep with them for easy reference.
Or you could make it more interactive by creating a mentoring programme. Staff that need development in writing professional emails can register themselves in the programme.
You would then appoint a mentor in each office/ team/ floor that spends about two hours a week doing "spot checks" i.e. they would randomly sit next to a staff member,ask them what they're emailing and provide real time guidance on what they can do to improve it.
Run it for a couple of months, and see the difference!
Bhushan, a most interesting challenge you pose here. For over 25 years, I've been empowering business leaders to take some of the pain out of workplace writing. Here are some Best Practices I typically share:
* Simply put, 'etiquette' in the 21st century workplace is just interacting with uncommon courtesy with individuals and groups. So, our workplace writing should be reader-centric, focused, brief and courteous.
* Start with 'WII-FM' - ask the learners 'What's in it for me ... if I write more courteous emails at work? Help them see the personal and professional value proposition if needed.
* If your organization doesn't have effective workplace writing guidelines or a statement of best practices, get that process going from the top. If the big dogs define better writing as important, they can encourage their reports to model improved skills and coach their teams accordingly.
* Then, get your people involved in refining these guidelines. The more they participate in the process, the more they will buy in and embrace them.
The rest is just details - creating a learner-centric, engaging and fun experience where they can discuss the simple techniques involved and practice improvements with constructive 'plus/delta' feedback.
Best wishes for success - Phil Stella, Effective Training & Communication, Inc.
Start with Daily Activity Report and make it mandatory for each and every team-member. You can even consider making it one of the KPI. It is about the habit of writing, skills or finesse will follow, and only routine practice can make anything perfect. The advantages of this policy are manifold if you can employ it rightly with only one disadvantage... you will have to do much more reading than usual...! All the best!
This is an interesting question. There are some absolutes that should be followed (correct spelling and punctuation, limited use of jargon, no text speak etc.) but generally the rules are situational. This may be influenced by the culture of your industry, the social norms in your country, how long you personally have been doing business with this person, whether you are the customer or the supplier in this relationship and the information to be conveyed in the message.
In face to face communication we only receive less than 10% of the message through the words that are used. The rest of our understanding comes from tone of voice and facial expression/body language. Since none of this is available in an email you have to hope that the recipient reads it with the same tone of voice in his head that you had when you wrote it. This and a myriad of other factors are why getting right is so important, as you have identified.
My advice would be to engage a trainer capable of tailoring an email communication skills course to your particular business situation. Give your people the skills to prepare effective communications and develop their discretion, understanding and empathy for their business relationships to get the tone and familiarity right for each individual correspondent.