CC: Can’t Connect – Navigating the Maze of Employee Disengagement in Emails.
According to Gallup, employee engagement is in decline. In 2022, only 32% of full and part-time employees are engaged, with more than 15% actively disengaged. And the ratio of engaged to disengaged employees continues to rise. Having excellently designed internal communications plays a key part in the battle against employee disengagement.
If you’re tired of your internal communications disappearing into the email abyss, unnoticed and unappreciated, you’re not the only one. Poorly designed emails seem to possess an uncanny ability to teleport essential information to a distant corner of the universe, leaving you bewildered and clutching your “reply-all” button like a lifeline.
My name is Joseph Griffin. I work as a designer at a company called Poppulo – a company focused on revolutionizing the future of communications and workplace experiences. I spend my workday trying to address the elephant in the inbox: the lackluster design that often accompanies internal communications, and how best to overcome the unique challenges that email design for internal communications presents. The solution lies in mastering the art of internal email design and communication tools that truly stand out amidst the clutter.
The Pitfalls of Poor Design
Internal communication serves as the backbone of a well-functioning organization. However, the design aspect of these messages frequently takes a backseat, leading to a series of issues:
Lack of Engagement: Mundane and unattractive designs fail to capture employees’ attention, causing messages to go unnoticed or disregarded. Employees are inundated with information on a daily basis, some of it relevant, some of it noise – your email needs to be distinctive, and clearly indicate it’s importance and purpose.
Cluttered Layouts: Overloaded with information and lacking visual hierarchy, these communications confuse rather than clarify employees, leading to disengagement. The old rules remain the same, users read in L-Patterns, and scan for content. Make it easy for them.
Missed Message Alignment: Poor design may misrepresent the tone and importance of the message, causing confusion or misinterpretation among employees. Differentiate your email’s masthead designs for different campaigns or audiences.
Inconsistent Branding: Neglecting to align the design with the company’s branding can lead to a disjointed and unprofessional appearance.
Raising the Bar: How to Enhance Internal Communications Design
Improving the design of internal communications is not only about aesthetics but also about delivering information in a way that resonates with employees. Here’s a comprehensive checklist to help you transform your internal communications design from subpar to spectacular:
1. Sender/Subject line/Preview text
A well-thought-out email design begins before the user even hits open. The initial glimpse of an email in one’s inbox includes the sender’s identity, subject line, and content preview. Are you optimizing these crucial elements in your newsletter?
45% of readers say they open a work email based on who it is from. 33% say they open it based on the subject line. Be sure to use a recognized and respected sender rather than a generic address. Craft a concise, captivating subject line that aligns with the subsequent content to avoid disappointing or misleading readers. At Poppulo, we always encourage our users to do A/B testing on their subject lines, to allow them to see what is most effective. The preview text right after the subject line should provide an enticing peek into the upcoming content. Construct it persuasively to motivate readers to fully explore the email’s contents. Use personalization, humans are a very self-absorbed species, we love reading our own names. A subject line like “Joe—all hands meeting” or “Joe—lunch break yoga sessions” will stand out and prompt an employee to read the email.
2. Segmentation – Keep It Relevant And Personal
Many employees get bombarded with emails every day. To enhance engagement with workplace communications, it’s crucial to deliver tailored messages directed at individuals, not a generic audience. People ignore emails when they are redundant, unimportant, or irrelevant to them. Avoid sending multiple emails in one day and make sure the right messages reach the right audiences.
One best practice is to segment your audience and start creating targeted, segmented messages. By doing this, you will see an increase in email engagement.
3. Visual Hierarchy and Clarity
Prioritize essential information with bold headings, bullet points, and succinct summaries. Employees will thank you for not making them search for the hidden treasure of information. As your reader moves down the email, content can be de-emphasized by using smaller images, smaller headings, and links instead of cta buttons.
It’s amazing to me how many clients ask to reduce whitespace in order to maximize content above the fold. This is not the best way to look at it. Utilize whitespace to create breathing room and prevent visual clutter.
Incorporate a clear call-to-action to guide employees on the desired response.
4. Consistent Branding
Infuse your communications with the company’s branding elements: colors, logos, fonts, and visual style. Fonts in particular are something you can use to your advantage in internal communications. Contact your IT team and have them ensure any custom fonts are deployed to your users machines.
Consistent branding and messaging builds trust and reinforces the company’s identity in employees’ minds.
5. Engaging Visuals
Incorporate relevant images, graphics, and icons to break the monotony of text-heavy emails. Images of people, or even better, images of co-workers is a great way to keep up a readers interest and continue to read an email.
Visuals should complement the message, making it more relatable and memorable.
Match the tone of the design with the message’s content and intent.
Use language that resonates with employees and aligns with the organization’s culture.
The self-container nature of internal communications also offers to the designer the distinct advantage of knowing the specific email client the email will be viewed on. This offers you the opportunity to craft your design tailored towards the specific email client. Your company uses Gmail? Consider making the email as lightweight as possible to overcome the 32kb size limit. Outlook – be aware of using strong background colors that may show up the dreaded Outlook 1px line bug.
6. Mobile Responsiveness
Mobile responsiveness is crucial as more and more employees access emails on smartphones and tablets. Design your communications to be mobile-friendly, ensuring a seamless experience across devices.
7. Interactive Elements and gamification
Introduce interactive elements like buttons, surveys, or embedded videos to increase engagement. Your email should not be purely a reading exercise. There is only so much you can do with email, but an element of gamification can be very beneficial to engagement.
8. Feedback Loops
Encourage employees to provide feedback on the design and content of internal communications. Act on this feedback received to continuously improve the design approach.
According to studies funded by the National Eye Institute, the number of people with vision disabilities in the U.S. will double to more than 8 million by 2050. Ensure that your design is accessible to everyone, including those with visual impairments. Use alt text for images and choose fonts that are easily readable. Also ensure your text is appropriately high-contrast.
10. Testing and Iteration
Experiment with different designs and measure the engagement rates to identify what works best. Iterate and refine your design based on real-time data and employee feedback.
Effective design is the key to unlocking the potential of your internal communications. By addressing the shortcomings of poor design and implementing the best practices mentioned above, organizations can foster a more engaged, informed, and motivated workforce. In the end, it’s about transforming communication into a visually appealing and meaningful experience that employees genuinely connect with.