Why internal comms needs more than email to engage employees

Reaching and engaging employees with internal comms can be a battle at the best of times, but many enterprises are still relying on email as their primary comms channel. Find out why an email-first strategy puts you at a disadvantage and how modern alternatives could be the answer to reaching your engagement goals and transforming corporate comms for the future of work.

Phone app screen

The rise and fall of email in internal comms

It’s human nature to default back to habits, processes and paths well-trodden. Email is one of the oldest and most traditional digital communication methods for businesses, and still to this day, is something internal communicators frequently resort to. In 2022, around a third of internal communicators said they relied on email as their primary tool for communication. 

Since the pandemic, businesses have continued to operate in a hybrid or fully remote fashion, so it’s natural for internal communicators to lean heavily on digital means of communication. In fact, 79% of internal communicators relied on email more in 2022 than they did in previous years before. 

The rise of email usage as a key internal comms channel might be explainable, but an overreliance on email should be taken as a sign of lagging comms maturity. Since the advent of email more than half a century ago, comms technology has undergone a profound evolution. Just as email transformed speed and efficiency in the 70s, today new comms channels offer even more powerful advances. Internal comms still relying on email as their primary comms channel are missing opportunities to personalize, measure, and evolve comms practices for the new age of work. 

Email is useful, but it has limitations 

Let’s dive deeper into how using email as your primary channel of communication might be holding you back: 

Inbox overload leads to engagement fatigue 

The average person received an average of 100 emails per day. It’s a hell of a lot to sort through, and most employees would agree that sifting through and replying to emails takes up too much time. If 67% of employees are feeling overwhelmed by their inbox, it’s worth taking a step back as internal communicators to consider whether adding to that mountain of emails is really the best way to engage employees.  

Important information is easily lost 

The sheer volume of emails employees are receiving also means important information is often buried: 82% of employees say they miss important information because it gets lost in the great pile of emails. What’s more, around 37% of these emails that employees are receiving are unnecessary, irrelevant, or not immediately valuable to them. As a result they’re more likely to get into the habit of skimming subject headers rather than opening every email, which means important information gets missed. If anyone knows these drawbacks, it’s Flight Centre: 

"Previously we had to channel the vast majority of our communication via email. This meant a lot of inboxes were becoming extremely cluttered and it was very hard to get business-critical information to our teams."

Tessa Buckman - Head of Internal Communications at Flight Centre

Documents get lost, erased and forgotten 

Email conversation threads with large groups of people are another culprit for burying and muddling information. We’ve all experienced it – different versions of a document are bounced back and forth in one long email conversation, to the point where everyone’s working on a different document and no one’s aligned. Furthermore, once an email is sent, it can’t be changed or deleted if there is inaccurate or updated information. Finally, knowledge retention is an issue as information that exists in emails has a shorter lifespan than information preserved on an intranet. 

Information isn’t equally accessible for all employees 

Another big limitation for emails is not reaching every employee. Frontline workers are at a disadvantage as they are on the move and more likely to miss out on information. To reach everyone individual in the company and provide a good company-wide employee experience, internal communicators need to look at using more than just email. 

Engagement metrics don’t show the whole picture 

Measuring engagement is one of the biggest challenges for internal communicators, and email analytics are often the go-to gauge. But despite there being so much reliance on email in the last year, 80% of internal communicators find measuring engagement to be a big challenge for them. Many IC’s use open-rate as a primary measurement of engagement, but just because an email has been opened, doesn’t mean it has been digested. 

So what’s the missing link? Perhaps this is an indicator that they need more than just email to communicate and engage with employees. 

Moving on from email - where to go next

In reality, emails are today’s digital equivalent of snail mail. It's like posting a letter to share updates with your friends when you have other options like using a phone or social media. There are so many other ways to communicate today that there’s less need to rely on those traditional methods, and it’s the same when it comes to the workplace. The evolution of tools and channels means a changing landscape for internal communicators. 

Since the onset of the pandemic, the workplace has undergone aggressive digitalization. The adoption of new tools to facilitate hybrid and remote working has not bypassed internal communicators, with new channels being added at an unprecedented rate. For many businesses, the result is a complex matrix of channels that feels unwieldy to manage, leading many to fall back on email.  

Employees using internal comms software on laptop whilst working remotely

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Falling back on email is a natural stopgap for internal communicators who need to get important updates in front of their people, but in reality, new channels present big opportunities to transform comms efficiency and upgrade employee engagement.  

It's no secret that the pandemic has ushered in an era of intranet modernization. At the height of the disruption, the need for a central comms hub where employees could go for real-time updates became pivotal. And it’s with this central hub that internal comms can begin to solve challenges around channel proliferation and bring corporate communications into the modern age.  

This is the tact that travel and tourism enterprise Flight Centre took. Having noted that over-reliance on email was leading to reduced efficiency, Flight Centre came to Unily looking for a way to transform internal communications. By launching a feature-rich employee experience platform, the enterprise achieved an 88% reduction in internal emails. 

"Our leaders are big fans of the intranet. It makes it far easier for them to roll-out and clarify new product strategies. For example, if we are promoting a new product range that we believe gives our customers an amazing experience, we can publish this online so all the important details can quickly be found. Emails can be lost or deleted, but the intranet remains an easy-to-reference information hub, where consultants can learn more about our product ranges or quickly clarify something they didn’t understand during a meeting or on an email chain."

Tessa Buckman - Head of Internal Communications at Flight Centre

Unily Flight Centre Intranet Case Study

Case Study

Flight Centre powers productivity for 19,000 employees with a Unily intranet

Flight Centre is one of the world’s largest and most successful independent travel retailers. Download the case study and discover the secret behind their award-winning intranet.

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7 reasons you need more than email to engage employees

If you’re looking to move away from email, there are a few things you should be looking to achieve with your new channel strategy. Here are the most important things email is missing, and where you can go to fill the gaps: 

#1. Mobile-first solution reaches everyone 

In today’s workplace, flexibility is everything. A comms platform – aka Employee App – that’s not just accessible on mobile but designed for mobile users gives internal communicators the ability to reach everyone, not just corporate, desk-based colleagues. It also gives employees who prefer to engage with comms on their personal devices the flexibility to do so.  

Employee App

#2. Comms need to be two-way 

The best communications are two-way. Today employees expect to be able to react, share and comment on content just like they do in their personal lives. Not only does a social comms platform satisfy employee expectations, but it also helps to turn single-point-in-time updates into conversations that can lead to new connections and ideas.  

Social Intranet Feed

#3. Personalization reduces the volume of irrelevant messages 

Information overload is a leading cause of employee burnout. Channels that don’t help employees to filter through irrelevant updates will lead to switch-off sooner or later. Where email fails to target and personalize, intranets bring curated experiences to the workplace, giving both employees and internal communicators greater control and precision over who receives what updates, when and how.  

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#4. Distractions are minimized when using a centralized information hub  

A centralized information hub on the intranet allows employees to easily find all the information they need, without interrupting their work like pinging emails do. Powerful, integrated search means employees can locate information quickly as and when they need it. They are also able to turn off update notifications and conversation channels can be muted, so employees can tune at their own pace. 

Intranet Search Feature

#5. Automation means everyone gains back more time 

With internal comms workloads growing by the day, the need to automate repeatable processes is pressing. Modern intranets are starting to embrace automation, giving internal communicators similar tools to their marketing counterparts. Campaign automation allows internal communicators to pre-schedule multi-channel communications campaigns and take advantage of intelligent workflows to target and nudge employees to engage over time. Instead of one-size-fits-all messaging, automation delivers highly personalized communications that meet people on their preferred channel at a pace that suits them. 

Engagement Automation

Build and track complex multi-channel campaigns with marketing-grade automation features made for internal comms.

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#6. An intranet provides enhanced security 

A private intranet network that only employees have authorization to access adds a layer of security. Sensitive information is safely shared and stored there, whereas emails might be more at risk of a security breach. 

#7. More data to track engagement 

Using an intranet gives you an opportunity to collect insights from multiple data points, as well as collect specific feedback through feedback forms, surveys and polls, giving a clearer picture of how employees are engaging with the comms. 

Intranet Analytics

A multi-channel approach is the future 

Email has been the go-to for 65% of internal communicators, with collaboration tools coming in second at 58%. As employee demands and the workplace environment continues to evolve, internal communicators will see more of a shift towards those other tools to engage employees in the future. The biggest challenge people face with working remote or hybrid is communication issues or barriers. A multi-channel approach is the solution to improve this and reach every user. 

A good way to get started on your multi-channel comms strategy and bridge the gap between email and the intranet is by using a broadcast center. Weekly digest emails with just the topline information creates a teaser for additional content, prompting employees to click through to the intranet to get the full story. This will get your employees starting to think about the intranet first and help to position the intranet as the go-to place for all company-related news, updates and content. 

To find out more about how the #1 employee experience platform could transform internal communications and end email overload at your enterprise, get started with a free demo today. 

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