Is ‘reducing email’ a realistic measurement of intranet success?

Clients often come to us with the objective of reducing emails as one of their reasons for getting a new intranet. With an astounding 347.3 billion emails sent daily you can see why.

Email overload is real. The higher the email load, the more stressed and inefficient it can make people, says research by Cary Cooper, organisational psychology professor at Manchester University.

Telling the BBC he said, “the problem is, there aren’t good guidelines on what is the best use of email and the things we should not do.”

Communications strategist, Jenni Field agrees. The founder of Redefining Communications says email isn’t as effective as it should be.

“People haven’t been taught how to use email. Bad habits have therefore happened,” she said.

However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for it. Email is part and parcel of the whole digital workplace, which author of The Field Model™ says we’ll “never get away from”.

It’s about taking a step back and looking at the whole digital workplace and the strategy behind it and what you’re trying to achieve.

Speaking to Fresh, she said: “I don’t understand the objective of ‘we need to get rid of email’ because for me, that’s a symptom of behavioural or cultural change.

“I don’t see it as an objective of a new intranet, I think email will always have a place.”

And we agree. Email IS a valid part of the digital employee experience, especially for those who’ve been at work since the 1990s/2000s, who use it as a default task list; something to be completed by end of the day.

However, email isn’t a place for content to live. Nor is it necessarily a reliable comms channel in its own right. Sending an email doesn’t equal communication because it requires both the sender and recipient to sign-up to this outcome.

Additionally, communicating via email is only as a good as your distribution list was at the time you sent it. For example, say you sent an important email with information about policy, strategy or news on a Friday afternoon. By Monday morning several new accounts were created for a batch of new joiners.

These people won’t have received the email you sent and will not have this information in their inboxes. If this content doesn’t also exist elsewhere, such as on your intranet, then ‘communication’ hasn’t been achieved.

Plus, you can’t account for the number of people who automatically exclude emails “from internal communications” or redirect them to another folder (infrequently checked).

So, how do you get around this?

Ways to use email with your intranet

One way is to create a strategy for your comms team about how to best use email alongside other tools such as your intranet.
Combining email with your intranet and/or other channels can be a powerful part of your communications strategy, but only if you’re careful about how you use it.
Take notification emails as an example. Whilst they’re a good way to attract email-orientated colleagues to your intranet, they can simultaneously irritate them by over-communicating irrelevant “junk-mail” (if you’ve ever switched on all Viva Engage notifications, you’ll know what we mean).
Yet, there are several ways you can use email effectively and in synergy with your intranet, here’s some ideas how:

1.Email newsletter

Like how ‘live tv’ shows do, you need to book a regular timeslot for your email newsletter to share news, updates and relevant content. Whether that’s weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, your colleagues should expect it on a set time and day and with regular segments, such as the message from the CEO, people news and upcoming events. The idea is, you curate snippets of the stories and content, linking back to the original, from your intranet.

2.Targeted email alerts

There’s a place for email alerts, but like with car alarms, if they’re too frequent, people will ignore them. So, save these for urgent or important information. As a rule of thumb, only send these emails if there’s a need for immediate attention or action. And always link back to the intranet for more detailed information.

3.Personalised content recommendations

Your people are busy, so it’s important to send them relevant content related to their role, department or location. Gone are the days of mass-broadcasting, where one size fits all. This is where you’ll need the help of your IT guys or an employee experience partner. They can develop an algorithm or use an intranet feature that allows you to send personalised emails to your employees based on their interests, past interactions or role-specific needs. As before, linking back to articles, forums or resources on your intranet, to increase engagement and usage.

4.Integrate email with collaboration tools

It’s now possible to integrate email notifications with intranet-based project management or collaboration tools. This will help to streamline comms and project management. For example, any time a new document is uploaded or a project update is posted on your intranet, an email notification can automatically be sent to relevant team members.

Email best practice

There are several ways you can make the most of email as a communications tool, but you need to do the groundwork first.

  • User preferences: Create a quick video tutorial showing employees how to customise their email notification preferences to avoid inbox overload.
  • Mobile optimisation: Make sure the emails you send and the intranet you share content on is mobile-friendly, as many employees now access these resources on mobile.
  • Analytics: Use the analytics tools in your intranet to track whether the emails actually drive people to the intranet. For example, you should notice spikes in engagement correlating to when you send out regular emails, such as your newsletter.

Ultimately, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to employee communications, that’s why it’s important to consult employees experience specialists to tailor the approach to fit your company’s needs.


Contact the Fresh team to find out how to maximise the benefits of email and intranets in your digital workplace.

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