Employee Communication: Get smarter about email


Despite ongoing proclamations that “email is dead or dying,” nothing could be further from the truth. Email continues to be a primary means of communication, not only for social connections but in workplaces around the country—and the world. In fact, according to Statista,While roughly 281 billion emails were sent and received each day in 2018, the figure is expected to increase to over 347 billion daily mails in 2022.”

So, no, email is not dead, or dying anytime soon. However, email inboxes are growing increasingly cluttered, meaning that managers—even CEOs—attempting to connect with employees via email are increasingly challenged to get their messages seen, understood and appropriately acted upon. 

While internal communicators—whether they be company leaders, HR or communication professionals—have an edge compared to those outside the organization in terms of cutting through firewalls and spam filters, there’s no guarantee that just because your email shows up in an employee’s email box, it will be read. 

Here are seven ways to make sure employees notice your emails and act on them.

1. Use your name, not a generic mailbox.

An email that comes from “newsfromhr” is far less likely to get attention than one that comes from Chris Cooper, VP of HR. With office email boxes filling each day with literally hundreds of messages from a variety of internal and external sources, clout matters. 

Certain types of messages lend themselves to being sent from a function instead of an individual—benefits updates, for example. But being specific can boost the odds the email will be opened. Don’t bury these important messages beneath a from address like “HR department.” Instead, consider setting up specific mailboxes to address specific communication needs: “ImportantBenefitInformation,” “BenefitsNews,” etc.  

2. Write it for the phone.

About half of the email messages read these days are read on mobile devices—and that number is growing. Consequently, it’s important to make sure that your email messages are optimized to be read in the mobile environment. 

In addition, because many of the emails sent internally within organizations include links to other content, enlist the assistance of your IT department to ensure that these attachments are both accessible and secure.

3. Pay attention to the subject line.

If there’s one place to really focus to create emails that get read, it’s the subject line. Think about it. The subject line (second only to who the email is from) is what will prompt an employee to open the email. Your subject line needs to stand out from all of the other emails sitting in the employee’s inbox in some compelling way.

While you should never try to be tricky or misleading in your subject line, you should strive to pique interest to generate curiosity and interest—enough curiosity and interest to prompt a click. That needs to be done quickly, of course. Our research suggests that the optimum subject lines are either under five words or between nine and eleven words. Certain abbreviations (e.g. FYI, FAQ, ACT, REQ) can help you cut back on words while conveying the desired action.


Keep it short and simple. We recommend that emails be no longer than 500 words. We’re all busy these days. We don’t have time to wade through a long email missive to get to the crux of the message. The longer it is, the less likely it will be read.

Think, also, about how your email looks when the recipient opens it. Long blocks of grey copy is off-putting. Instead, break up the copy with short paragraphs, bulleted lists, underlining and bolding to emphasize main points.

But keep it short and get to the point quickly. 

5. Limit your links.

Too many links in the body of your email creates too many choices. When this occurs, the most common choice for email recipients is to choose none! The more links you include in your email content, the lower your click-through rate will be.

Instead, focus on one link that represents the most significant call to action or attachment relevant to your goals or objectives.

6. Compel action through images.

While most business emails will be text-based, certain types of internal emails can benefit from authentic images. Corporate communication messages, for instance, will benefit from the use of images. We’ve found, in fact, that pages that are more than 50% images generate the highest readership. 

7. Think carefully about timing.

Certain days of the week, or times of the day, are quieter, and you can take advantage of that to boost the odds that your email will be read. 

The best time for your email to show up is at the beginning of the workday. If you operate across multiple time zones, keep this in mind and stagger the emails across locations so people are likely to receive them at the beginning of their day.

Email boxes are cluttered, and likely to continue to be cluttered. But, you can make your messages stand out—and generate action—by following the tips offered here.

Disclosure: PoliteMail was a Solution Provider session sponsor for the 2019 IABC World Conference. This content was selected as a separate contribution.

Michael DesRochers

Michael DesRochers is the founder and managing director of PoliteMail Software, which provides enterprise email analytics, responsive design and list management tools for Microsoft Outlook and Exchange. He was formerly founder and CEO of MicroArts Corporation, a 75-person communications and technology marketing agency that was acquired by a global agency. Contact him at

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