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What you should be measuring to effectively tell your story

Measurement isn’t worth anything if you’re doing it for it’s own sake. It must tie into your organization’s overarching goals.

As Rachel Miller puts it in an article on All Things IC:

Too often I see communications teams working in complete isolation from the rest of the business. When I ask how their activities support the organizational objectives and what impact it has, answers are less than forthcoming. You don’t have to work in this way.

Everything you do as a communication team or practitioner needs to be directly linked to what the organization is trying to achieve.

Here are three common goals executives want to see from internal communications, and the metrics—beyond the typical metrics such as open rate, read time and checking devices used for access—communicators can keep tabs on to specifically monitor whether those goals are being met.

1. Increasing benefits enrollment.

According to a report from People Strategy, persuading employees to enroll themselves in benefit programs can lead to cost savings, save time for HR representatives and increase employee engagement. So there are clear benefits to persuading employees to do it.Often, communications encouraging employees to sign up for benefits come in the form of emails extolling the value to employees of the particular benefit or benefits.

At the start of an email campaign, measure the current level of employee enrollment, the compare it against employee participation as the campaign goes on. Keep tabs on the number of messages it takes to engender substantial behavior change. Also measure whether employees are engaging with the messages.

A few more questions to answer through measurement: Are employees asking human resources more questions about particular benefits or programs? Is interest spiking, even if enrollment hasn’t increased yet? Is traffic up on your wiki or information page about a particular benefit, and are your emails driving employees there?

2. Strategic alignment.

Recent research in the International Journal of Production Economics found that “operations’ strategic alignment to the firm’s objectives is the single most key contributor to firm performance.” In brief, when employees know the key messages of the organization they work for, the entire organization performs better, full stop.

Repeated communication of those key messages, from executives in all areas and at all levels, is the path to ensuring everyone is aligned with the overarching strategy. But how do you know if the messages are getting through?

One sure sign is clickthroughs. Are employees clicking on the links in the emails and other communications explaining the organizational strategy? If they are, then they’re invested in the message and want to know more.

Also, can your employees demonstrate their familiarity with the key messages? Surveys, polls, and participation in forums or other forms of two-way communication about the strategy are all indicators that they know the messages and want to offer their own input into how strategic goals can be met.

3. Heightening engagement.

Communicators all know engagement is linked to employee productivity, but how do you really keep tabs on it? It takes not just the basic, day-to-day measurement, but also measuring outcomes, such as whether employees participate more in organizational activities—which likely fall out of the scope of their basic job description—more this year than the year before.

Another area to keep tabs on is whether employees are more willing to share their stories. If they are, it creates what you might call a cycle of engagement. Hearing stories about how other employees gained fulfillment and recognition makes their colleagues more engaged, and thus willing to share their own stories, which will then inspire others even further.

Are surveys effective for determining employee engagement?

Administering surveys is one of the oldest and most common ways internal communicators measure the engagement of employees. According to CEB, 92 percent of companies use them.

Do they really work?

Absolutely. However, they can just as easily paint an inaccurate picture of how employees are really feeling and if they are engaged in the way that matters to the performance of your organization.

Whether you choose to an employee engagement survey vendor such as the firm that started the trend (and currently claims we’re in an engagement crisis) or roll your own, a lot of effort goes into creating a survey that provides the answers communicators need to get an accurate look at the state of things and make decisions about how best to move forward.

Here are a few of those essential ingredients:

1. The right questions

 You can’t find out if employees are engaged just by asking them, “Are you engaged?” You have to find the specifics that make it clear that they’re engaged or not. The International Association of Business Communicators offers this advice: “Survey questions need to be precise, unambiguous, efficient in the way they capture information and, in most cases, should employ answer categories that can be used to quantify responses.”

Given the results of 2016 election surveys, we all understand how the nature of the questions will determine what you are in fact measuring. Testing has shown the precise wording and order of questions will impact your results.

Some survey question sets, such as the Gallup G12, which asks, “Do you have a best friend at work?” tend to be focused on employee satisfaction. For more of an organization performance angle, a very good place to start would be the CEB’s list of the top nine survey questions.

Yes-or-no questions provide the clearest measurement results, yet not every question can be black-and-white. Engagement questions can be quite broad reaching, so it’s important to keep in mind some employees may be intimidated to honestly answer questions like “Do you understand the strategic goals of the company?” While open-ended, comment-style answers are quite difficult and time-consuming to measure, instead you might ask employees whether they agree or disagree with certain statements,  have them rank options or make value judgments on a scale (“excellent” to “poor”). Other companies have borrowed from the Net promoter score concept, and ask, “How likely is it that you would recommend working at our company to a friend?”

2. A well-defined schedule and distribution strategy

Considering it can take two to three months to create, execute and report out your survey, timing is critical, as are your distribution methods.

Will it be available via email, on your intranet, at kiosks, on paper or all of the above? Will you attempt to survey every employee, or take a randomized sample approach? How will you ensure your sample is random and representative of the entire population?

While some companies conduct surveys every two years, Quantum Workplace offers research which suggests one survey per year is optimal. Others find a continuous feedback approach allows them to be more nimble and ahead of the curve given today’s rapidly changing economic and social environments. Companies such as CultureIQ and Agency BB&A offer reminders that focus groups, flash polls and asking for feedback on social media provide other useful ways of taking the pulse.

3. A statistically valid response rate and effective reporting of results

A survey isn’t worth much if not enough people answer it. That’s why it’s important to conduct outreach and conduct follow up that encourages employees to complete the survey for their own benefit as well as the company’s. This includes non-digital follow up with people in order to get a representative sample of responses.

To get accurate results, you don’t need everyone to respond to your survey, and the larger your organization the lower percentage of participants you actually need.

Generally, the larger the responding sample is, the higher your confidence will be, and the lower your margin of error. Simply speaking, the more response you get, the more accurate your results.

Many surveys aim for a 95 percent confidence level, which simply means that for every 100 people in the population, 95 will answer the same as your survey results. For an organization of 10,000 employees, for a 95 percent confidence level and 5 percent margin of error, you only need 370 responses. If you increase your accuracy to 99 percent confidence with a 2.5 percent margin of error, you will need 2,103 responses. For an organization ten times larger, those response numbers are just 383 and 2,594.

Sample size is important, but not as much as randomization. With surveys it is most important that you gather responses from a representative sample of your population. When you rely on only one method of distribution and allow a broad population to self-select their participation (such as a large email blast where you just take whatever responses you get), you can easily introduce selection bias errors. Perhaps only the more engaged employees respond or only the employees active on email, or only those with more free time. Obviously such bias may significant skew your results.

Communications teams play a critical role in the success of the employee engagement survey, as well as overall employee engagement.

To get higher levels of participation, it’s important to explain why you are doing the survey and provide examples of how you have acted on the results previously. Then follow up diligently and include data regarding your participation objectives and current status, but only send reminders to those who have not yet completed the survey, and send thank-you notices to those that do. When it comes to reporting out the data, CultureAmp offers good suggestions which include providing an overview of key findings, presenting results to executives first, and publishing an action plan.

Remember: Your survey is just one part of the larger whole of communications activity to help foster higher levels of employee engagement.

How Strategic Communications Can Generate Maximum Business Impact

Strategic messaging is a communication method many marketers, advertisers and other external communicators will sing the praises of the second you give them the chance. And there are good reasons why.

Here’s an excerpt from The Routledge Handbook of Strategic Communication, a textbook communications graduate students often use, that gets to the heart of it:

An effective communication manager must engage with multiple interactants (i.e. consumers, publics, audiences) and should, therefore, understand how different interactants require different strategic messaging approaches. This is the unique domain of strategic communications.

To put it in less academic terms, not every audience is going to engage with every type of message, so messages must be tailored to target audiences. They can’t be one-size-fits-all. Strategic messaging is all about getting the right message in front of the right people at just the time they need to receive it.

That doesn’t just go for external communicators. Numerous different audiences reside within an organization, and a human resources manager may find a particular type of message compelling, while an IT architect may respond to a totally different method of communication.

Just like the goal of external communications is to generate awareness and positive feelings about a company or product, the goal of internal communications is often to create shared goals and a community culture within an organization. But you can’t tell everyone the same story the same way.

In a post on his consulting firm’s blog, communications expert David Grossman lays out seven keys to a strategic messaging methodology:

  1. Define and prioritize audiences
  2. Identify where those audiences are coming from
  3. Develop compelling messages
  4. Outline what you want from your audiences
  5. Make connections with your audiences
  6. Deliver messages with confidence
  7. Identify gaps in your plan

Grossman goes on to lay out a long list communications tools that could be used to implement such a plan including email, voicemail, speeches, brochures, social media posts, website copy, and so on. Communications managers should keep all these tools at the ready so they’ll have them on-hand when they recognize an audience for whom one tool might be preferable to another.

Many organizations take a scattershot approach to communication, and as such, much of the effort is wasted. Taking a little more time to strategically target messages to the people who are most receptive to them will undoubtedly pay off in the long run.

To find out more about how internal communicators are messaging to employees, download PoliteMail’s 2016-2017 Internal Communications Survey Results.

When Practical Communications Trump the Bleeding Edge

By Michael DesRochers, Managing Director at PoliteMail

I spend a lot of time talking with communicators in large organizations. They are usually time and resource strapped and have large, nebulous objectives to meet, such as “increase employee engagement,” while at the same time running numerous communicators programs. They are writing executive messaging, producing stories and content for company news, and delivering HR and benefits information to vast numbers of employees.

Recently, I was interviewed by HR Examiner’s lead analyst, John Sumser, and walked him through the capabilities of PoliteMail. John led off by saying, “Email is dead to me.” That wasn’t surprising. As a reporter who writes about the bleeding edge of technology, he doesn’t work in a large corporate office and spends most of his time communicating with and writing about the dreamers pushing the next shiny new thing.

Fortunately, John is a smart, polite gentleman who is willing to check his rear-view mirror while driving forward. Chances are, John still checks his inbox and sends email like the rest of us. 

What corporate communicators want is to write something once, publish it everywhere and reach everyone in their target audience. Yes, they need to communicate where the audience is.  We all know multi-tasking millennials dis email and flit from Facebook to Instagram and, as independents or small work groups, are Slackers.  These new communications tools may or may not last, but they certainly do not have the breadth of employee reach most corporate executives demand.

If you want to reach all your employees with an important strategic message from the CEO, what is the fastest, easiest and most effective way to do so? What communication tools do all employees already use, and which require no training or much in the way of technical skills?

The answer is email, and for the majority of corporations, Microsoft Outlook in particular. There is a reason that Facebook and LinkedIn use email to communicate with their own users, and loop them back onto the platform. There is a reason for the growing push-back against Slack as creating a multitude of inboxes instead of just one. 

Corporations today struggle even with reaching non-desk employees on their mobile devices. Hundreds of start-ups are publishing new mobile apps, which communicators and employees will have to learn and adopt, and which often cost more than simply giving non-desk workers their own company email address. There is a reason the most popular iPhone app is email: we all get and check email on our mobile devices. We might text subsets of people, and regularly check our LinkedIn messaging, but we all have email and use it every day.

Anyone working inside the enterprise will realize email is far from dead, and with Office365, is actually evolving at a rapid pace. Certainly more and more people access email via mobile, and Outlook and Office are already there. Office is the corporate communications platform, Outlook is the hub, and SharePoint is the newsroom and archive. New, email integrated social, video and workflow tools are arriving daily inside Office365.

John, and others who have their eyes on the next shiny thing, can rest assured knowing Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Predictive Analytics will be coming to email sooner than they might realize.  Anyone else notice how very effective the Outlook Clutter folder is at reducing unwanted email?



9 Best Practices for Executive and Leadership Communication

For some executives, communication is an afterthought, or even a “necessary evil.” A Harvard Business Review/Harris poll found that a staggering 91 percent of U.S. workers see communication issues as a major hindrance for business leaders.

Thriving organizations have open lines of communication at all levels, including at the top. According to research conducted by the Project Management Institute, leaders who are effective communicators are five times more likely to be high performers than those who are minimally effective. Likewise, better communication means fewer company dollars are put at risk.

What can leaders and top corporate communicators do to ensure that executives are communicating effectively? Here are nine best practices, as laid out by communication experts, researchers and successful executives themselves:

1. Foster a culture of communication.

In a post on the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School’s website, communications expert Walter G. Montgomery writes, “It’s important for everyone to know that the CEO takes communications very seriously.” When everyone within an organization understands that communication is a key value—not just an afterthought—everyone will be more willing to listen and engage.

2. Don’t be afraid of training.

Montgomery adds that top executives should “insist on training initiatives to ensure people have the ability to carry out their communications duties effectively.” Those training mandates should apply to executives themselves.

3. Be crystal clear.

Employees are busy, which means they don’t have time to do detective work to figure out what an executive speech or email means. Dispense with meaningless platitudes and jargon. Say what you mean and let employees know in clear language what you want them to do.

4. Don’t just be a cheerleader.

The Institute for Public Relations suggests that employees today are looking for ways to demonstrate their “ethic of contribution” to go above and beyond normal job performance, so challenge them to achieve; don’t just point to what they’ve done.

5. Have a common goal in mind.

Everyone within and organization should be working toward the same thing, and it’s up to executives to make that goal apparent. The American Management Association’s David Hassell puts it this way: “When employees operate at cross purposes, communication is critical in setting things straight.”

6. Speak in your own voice.

Employees want to hear from a person. They don’t want canned, committee-written edicts. “The lower your pedestal, the more they’ll rally behind you,” Alexandra Levit of Inspiration at Work told Inc.

7. Engage in a dialogue.

Communication doesn’t end when you send your email or give your speech. Hassell writes, “Meet the enthusiastic sharing of ideas, insights, and concerns with positive reinforcement, never reproach, no matter how critical.”

8. Take a multi-pronged approach.

Different employees want different things when it comes to communication. Some may prefer face-to-face interaction with a manager, others may prefer to read messages in newsletters or other company-wide emails. Still others may look to the company intranet. Craft versions of your key messages to cater to all the audiences within your organization to ensure everyone is on the same page.

9. Measure your results.

The Institute for PR insists that “best in class companies relentlessly track strategies, tactics and channels.”

Want to know more about what works and what doesn’t in the world of internal communications? Download PoliteMail’s 2016-2017 Internal Communications Survey Results.

Data and Analytics Help Build Better Collaboration and Culture

Engagement isn’t just a buzzword. Research has found that companies with a culture of engaged employees who work together for a common purpose simply do better.

According to Gallup, companies with high employee engagement are more 21 percent more productive and 22 percent more profitable than those that aren’t.

Knowing that is the easy part. The hard part is figuring out how best to improve your company’s culture and spur collaboration so employees are as engaged as they can possibly be.


Communication and Engagement

Companies have tried lots of ways to keep employees engrossed in their overall goals, some of them at great expense: free food, company cars, in-office gyms, reward programs, flextime, bonuses, and so on.

But one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to keep employees engaged is through effective internal communication. Harris Poll found that employees who feel that their companies communicate effectively are far more likely to also rate their employers’ reputations as good and say their best days are ahead. Those sorts of optimistic sentiments are clear signs of a strong company culture.


How Data and Analytics Drive Collaboration

Even the best company leaders and communicators have a hard time effectively connecting with employees if they’re in the dark, trying whatever they can to get employees’ attention. That’s why gathering data and analytics about internal communications is so vital.

In PoliteMail’s 2016-2017 survey of 526 communications professionals in companies large and small, 76 percent said measuring communications efforts helps them engage employees better.

More engaged employees are more likely to collaborate and listen to executives and communicators’ messages in emails, videos, newsletters and other types of outreach. As writer Francois Pienaar describes in on CMS Wire, it’s a “virtuous cycle.” More engagement means more collaboration and better communication, which leads to even more engagement.


Fixing What’s Broken

Even with all that evidence, companies aren’t all necessarily committed to measurement. Most respondents in the PoliteMail survey said that their internal communications measurement budgets won’t increase in 2017 or that they don’t have a budget at all. As such, more than half of communicators are unsatisfied with their methods of measurement.

To start that “virtuous cycle,” organizations will have to take the leap of investing resources into measuring their communications with employees. The benefits are crystal clear: a thriving, collaborative culture.

Learn more about how communicators are measuring internal communications by downloading PoliteMail’s 2016-2017 Internal Communications Survey Results.

An Agile Approach to Office Layout

In the modern world, business happens fast. Office life has become a constant balance of managing customer needs while simultaneously managing your resources. Keeping your business’s integrity all the while dealing with a constantly changing market. Accomplishing your company goals while keeping your employees motivated and happy. Now, more than ever before, businesses must able to meet constantly changing customer needs in an incredibly dynamic and fast paced world. Today’s businesses need speed, responsiveness, and adaptability. A successful business must be agile, and the first step to an agile business is an agile office.

But how does a company create the ideal agile work environment? In a recent article from the Velocity Counts web site, they discuss how to build the ideal agile team workspace. Before one can begin creating an agile workspace, an agile team must be constructed. This is a team that is dynamic, collaborative, and there is a strong sense of camaraderie amongst its members. It has been found that smaller teams, 5 to 10 members, have a stronger sense of membership and as a result are often more collaborative than larger teams. Because collaboration is key to agile, the office must be designed to encourage this.

People love to ask questions, and are more productive for it. An agile office needs to have the space and openness to allow team members to quickly share ideas with the swivel of a chair. Yet, there must also be the availability to allow team members to zone in on their own work. A collaboration center located centrally within the office space is ideal for this. Here multiple team members can quickly organize a meeting to discuss ideas and then quickly return to their own stations. Finally, members must be happy. Happy team members are more open to sharing their ideas and communicating with other team members. Keep the room bright, with plants and art, and spending a little extra to keep employees happy (like a stocked refrigerator), has also shown to increase productivity.

In the modern business world, companies must be agile and their office should facilitate this. Communication and collaboration are key. Sharing ideas not only sparks creativity but also increases employee productivity. An open office allows team members to comfortably ask questions and solve problems together as a team. Communication accelerates your business, and with an agile office your business can easily master the fast paced and dynamic business world that exists today.

Written by Paul Lovy, .Net Software Engineer 1
For more on this topic please visit Velocity Counts



Christmas in July

Big ships are slow to turn.  Large enterprise customers make very deliberate and careful decisions.  The benefits of measuring and improving employee email communications using Outlook email analytics are often understood within an hour.  The process of making business cases, technical and security reviews, and procurement cycles in companies of 25,000, 50,000, 100,000 and 300,000 employees occurs, due to the very nature of their size, in slow motion.

Which is why the end of the fiscal year and the beginning of the new one is so exciting.  Communicators may have been waiting literally years to get modern email communication tools.  The approval process crawls forward, as the email analytics project slips through the hoops to arrive as an item within the enterprise budget cycle.  Then, seeming suddenly, this month and next, the flood gates open.  Email measurement finally has a budget, the technical and data security light is green, we’re moving ahead.  Now, after months or years of evaluation, the question becomes how fast can we get it implemented?  Yes, it’s a joy to tear open the wrapping isn’t it?!

Study Reveals Recognition Drives Employee Engagement

Study reveals money is not the driver of employee engagement.

A recent study by BambooHR reveals what drives employee engagement and job satisfaction, and its not what you think.

The study, which polled more than 1,000 employees nationwide, revealed that money is not the driver of employee engagement.

Instead, employee recognition, a promotion without a raise, and employee perks can be just as, if not more, effective at boosting employee  engagement than a small raise or bonus.

Vice President of HCM strategy and intellectual property at BambooHR, Rusty Lindquist, said:

“Recognition needs to feel personal. If you strip away the personal nature of the recognition, you can also lose impact. So some of the most effective recognition approaches are also the easiest… simply pull someone aside and say thank you”.

The survey has also found that a fifth of employees would rather receive a promotion to a higher position without a 3% raise in salary instead of a pay raise without a promotion to a higher position.

Even something as simple as employee recognition can boost engagement within your company.

According to the survey, a third of employees would rather receive a company-wide email from an executive recognizing their accomplishments than receive a $500 bonus that isn’t openly publicized by a superior to their colleagues.

One interesting find from the survey shows some discrepancies between male and female workers when it comes to what signifies a career advancement. Female employees ranked “more money” and “a higher title” higher than men.

In comparison, male employees ranked “more direct reports,” “expanded responsibility,” and “more face time with company executives” higher than women.

The survey definitely shines a light on other ways we can recognize and reward employees other than monetary incentives. We encourage you to get creative and let us know how you recognize and reward employees at your organization. Let us know in the comments below!



Recognizing and Rewarding Staff: 3 Tips

A recent article on the iMedia Connection website explains how and why modern businesses should acknowledge the achievements made by their teams.

In today’s face paced business world, taking the time to recognize and reward employees for their hard work can significantly impact their engagement levels- and, as a result, how much effort they are likely to put into their next big task or project.

Numerous studies have found that having a clear recognition program not only boosts the morale and job satisfaction of those already working for you, but it can help attract new talent too.

Although this has been proven in many studies some leaders are still unaware of the benefits of recognizing and rewarding staff for their accomplishments. Also common is that leaders are having difficulty monitoring which member of staff has done what. This is becoming increasingly challenging as workforces are becoming more dispersed and remote.

By finding solutions that help leaders and managers track and reward these accomplishments, an organization can enjoy improved morale, increased productivity and higher retainment figures.

Here are some solutions:

Software that Offers Macro- and Micro- Visibility
Intelligent work and project management systems can provide a more detailed perspective on workloads, by capturing data such as completion timeframes and collaborative input. Managers and leaders can assess whether projects were completed on time and on budget, and who the top performers of each project were.

Social Elements
Adding a social intranet or using other work management tools with social style collaborative features can help employees share ideas and praise each other on completed projects. With these tools all this information is available for company-wide viewing, allowing others to recognize the group’s effort.

Streamline Process
One of the easiest ways to improve employee engagement and productivity is by making systems and process more streamlines, reducing any frictions or frustrations that may emerge. By making it easier to teams to do their work effectively, you will be encouraging them to stay with your company.


Read the full article here.