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Internal email culture

Hello 

I am investigating the use of internal email at my organisation with a view to reducing stress, increasing productivity and potentially changing the culture of internal communication. I have encountered some interesting initiatives so far relating to social technology platforms. My organisation have a 'Yammer' platform (Microsoft) which is currently not utilised fully and I am aware that ATOS have fully transitioned to a similar programme (bluewiki) for their internal communications. The advantages seem to be around more connected and available information, networking possibilities and great flexibility to communicate in a different ways. 

I have read previous discussions around limiting internal email or 'no email days' and acknowledge the difficulty of a communications embargo especially when operational work is often heavily reliant on this tool. I wondered if anyone has experience of an organisation using a tool such as Yammer or the ATOS 'bluekiwi' example to replace internal email so that instead of banning email to force people to call or walk, there is a viable alternative.

I am interested in the potential positive impact a reduction in the volume of internal email might have and also by communicating in different ways. I think that utilising a social technology platform, aligned with a robust guideline on best practice for internal communication, might be a strong way forward.

This topic also aligns with the companies such as VW and BMW and French government policy who have discouraged and restricted the use of email outside of core hours. This has mainly been for the benefit of work-life balance and reducing stress. Again, if any people have positive reports of this in practice or any research reports related to it, it would be great to hear about it.

Thanks in advance

Mark 

  • Steve Bridger

    | 7272 Posts

    Community Manager

    2 Mar, 2016 10:11

    Hi - I know this topic is of particular interest to , and here at CIPD,  and

  • Lesley

    | 393 Posts

    Chartered Member

    2 Mar, 2016 10:51

    Yes, definitely of interest to me and I've posted tips on yammer and Enterprise Social Networks in the past.

    I do think it is a great tool, but I am not sure it will replace operational email any time soon - I think if anything it is more often used like a virtual water cooler. It is a space where people can share ideas, chat and meet others they wouldn't normally interact with on a day-to-day basis. The beauty of it is that it can be truly global and without boundaries, so people can build their network and reputation in a particular field with no regard to organisational status, location or role. It can flatten hierarchies and gives everyone a voice.

    I don't think I've really seen internal social media pushed as part of a wellbeing initiative yet, although I do think it can help. That said, any tool has the power to become stressful and it can be a distraction just in the same way as email can be. The book 'Working Out Loud' by John Stepper looks at this idea of using social media/collaboration tools to build your profile and a better working life and definitely touches on some wellbeing aspects of ESNs.
  • In reply to Lesley:

    Thank you for your reply Lesley.

    'Working out loud'  looks really interesting and certainly could be a useful angle to pursue when selling the likes of Yammer to other colleagues. 

    I am intrigued by the possibilities for broader collaboration and sharing ideas that these platforms can offer. How have you used an ESN in your own organisation? Did it have an effect on the use of email or was it purely seen as an additional communication method? I could see how topic threads and project updates could be coordinated through this platform.

    I am hoping to gain some formative feedback from colleagues via a pilot to ascertain if this platform can change the culture and tone of internal communication. 

    Best wishes

    Mark

  • In reply to Mark Gatto:

    Hi,

    We attempted to implement Yammer but staff felt it wasn't all that intuitive so it was popular for a couple of weeks and then tailed off. We have now been using slack for 5 months and it is hugely popular though. A lot less complex than Yammer, and has really made a huge difference to the way we communicate. Email has become a tool for backing up important messages or deadlines, all of the "clutter" that used to come through on emails - 6 people brainstorming an idea, notes to say there were cakes in the kitchen... that is all now done on slack. We are also going to be integrating it with our ATS, wrike, our staff intranet and other platforms.

    Rona
  • Steve Bridger

    | 7272 Posts

    Community Manager

    3 Mar, 2016 15:07

    In reply to Rona:

    Agree - Slack is good.
    https://slack.com/
  • In reply to Rona:

    Hi Rona

    Thanks for your reply. Slack looks excellent, I have just started using it with my team to get an idea of the functionality. I agree that it seems much more user friendly than Yammer which, although I can appreciate does have useful features, seems to be a little counter intuitive and unattractive to navigate.

    How would you say the use of slack has impacted on you staff productivity and networking? Have there been any benefits or issues that you didn't expect?

    Mark
  • Robey

    | 1480 Posts

    Chartered Member

    7 Mar, 2016 09:53

    In reply to Mark Gatto:

    I like the look of Slack. But I've struggled to persuade our workforce to make productive use of Yammer. Slack bills itself as "no more email". Is this something (you people who use it) have done? Replace email with a platform like Slack? If so, how was that take by your workforce and how did you implement it?
  • Lesley

    | 393 Posts

    Chartered Member

    8 Mar, 2016 10:20

    In reply to Robey:

    My partner's workplace hasn't completely replaced email with Slack, but they are certainly heading in that direction. It does seem like a really nice simple tool and is very popular.
  • Johanna

    | 909 Posts

    CIPD Staff

    8 Mar, 2016 11:50

    Hi just thinking about how I use work email and other more social channels inc external and internal sites - one of the main reasons I'm motivated to go in and look at/participate in posts etc is because I get the email alerts reminding me of what's going on. So if anything, you can create more email not less by bringing on board the alternative platforms - although you can of course change your settings if you don't want the alerts coming in.

    What we've found with our intranet is it's popular with a certain demographic (inc 'communicators' like moi) but by no means everyone. The other thing is try to get a platform with a good app or mobile participation enabled (yammer is good for this) and then you can join in on your commute - time you're actively looking to fill. I heard a good case study at a recent CIPD Engagement Conference about a rail company that used a private company facebook group to very good effect which was also very inclusive for all the non office-based users.

  • In reply to Mark Gatto:

    There was definitely a period of around a week after it was fully launched where people were spending more time than we would have liked using the direct message function. We were expecting this though, so mitigated it by onboarding staff in stages so that there were some more savvy users who had got over the thrill of workplace im (we call them our slacktivists) who act as good influences, demonstrating good practice and helping people with questions. We started with our marketing team, as they are spread across a couple of different sites and comms was becoming a real issue for them, then rolled it out to other teams at a time until we had about half the workplace onboard, then introduced everyone else in one go. 
    It certainly hasn't replaced email for us - and I think it's naive of slack to say that they could - but it has drastically reduced our email traffic and has been hugely valuable for our internal comms. Our HoDs and Directors are active on there and their visibility is amazing, particularly for our remote teams and retail staff (who all have access).

  • In reply to Johanna:

    Agreed - slack's mobile app is brilliant, and is how about 60% of our staff access it

    Good thing about it is we have set standard "office hours" - so staff don't get slack notifications to their phones outside of 8am - 6pm. If anyone wants to get notifications beyond those hours they have to actively opt in. Minimises the impact on work-life balance which can be a danger with mobile apps 

  • In reply to Rona:

    Hi Rona

    I really appreciate your input with this topic. Have you recorded any evidence of reduced email traffic or is that anecdotal? Having started using Slack with a couple of projects at our organisation, I find the desktop app is really useful in addition to the phone app.

    For your full roll out, how did you ensure people were not simply invited tot he Slack group without fully engaging? Did you encourage the use of the app on phones and desktop?

    Thanks
    Mark
  • Lesley

    | 393 Posts

    Chartered Member

    25 Apr, 2016 09:10

    In reply to Johanna:

    I always find people who only engage through social platforms due to email alerts slightly odd! For me, the whole point is to stop receiving email - my first task when on a new platform is usually to disable all email alerts!

    I find it much easier to digest content directly within the tool on a regular basis. If the tool is well designed, the good content should "float to the top" as more people engage through comments/retweets/likes etc, bringing that content up to the surface. Anything else is likely to be not that important or very obscure, in which case if it did affect you it's likely that person can reach you directly.

    I think something I have learned recently is it doesn't actually matter what tool you use. The platform we have at my current employer is awful - unintuitive, slow, unreliable and difficult to customise, but the network is still thriving - it is all about bringing the right people together and encouraging the right behaviours.
  • Hi Mark

    I have read this post with interest, and I agree that emails can be a burden. However, just thinking about this, I guess for me I would want to understand what you want your other 'platform' to do in terms of communication - generally we communicate with each other via email at work to share information, allocate work tasks etc. Presumably these things will still need to happen whether they are shared by email or by another platforms/apps, so the same volume of traffic is still being received?

    In terms of bringing people together and sharing generic company information similar to the way an intranet would work, I can see the benefits of social media, however I'm not sure I can see how these would reduce workload/stress or create a better work/life balance if they are being used as an alternative to email and are still being used to communicate tasks, deadlines etc.? For example, if I receive a 'communication' from my manager asking for a specific piece of work or response by a given deadline, regardless of whether this comes via email or via another platform the request and the deadline still remains. Having said that, I'm not particularly clued up with technology so I may be misunderstanding the use of such systems!

    Sharon
  • Steve Bridger

    | 7272 Posts

    Community Manager

    25 Apr, 2016 16:48

    In reply to Lesley:

    I think something I have learned recently is it doesn't actually matter what tool you use. The platform we have at my current employer is awful - unintuitive, slow, unreliable and difficult to customise, but the network is still thriving - it is all about bringing the right people together and encouraging the right behaviours.

    100% agree,

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