Feb 23, 2009

How does functional illiteracy affects the effectiveness of e-mail?

Illiteracy is the condition of not being able to read or write. Even though, functional illiteracy refers to the inability of an individual to use properly reading, writing, and computational skills in everyday life situations.

One who is functionally illiterate has a basic grasp of literacy (reading and writing text in his/her native language), but with a variable degree of grammatical correctness and reading comprehension.

Since the computer and the Internet developed, some have asserted that the definition of literacy should include the ability to use and communicate in a diverse range of information technologies.

Illiteracy has long been viewed as a social and educational issue. But we have been challenged to understand the economic consequences of the lack of literacy skills. So, functional illiteracy has a significant impact on companies productivity.

A study done by the Northeast Midwest Institute and The Center for Regional Policy found that business losses, attribute to basic skill deficiencies, run into the hundreds of millions of dollars because of low productivity, errors and accidents.

How many times companies must face daily written endless debates through e-mail, because poorly written messages?

How many e-mails at workplace everyday are misunderstood because the message was poorly structured or for low levels of reading comprehension?

A research in a british company with 2.850 employees, show that 45% of e-mails were not easy to read or to interpret, by deficiencies of writing or because they were not clear on what the recipient had to do with them.

Does this percentage seem too high? I invite you to verify it with your own emails. I have seen this amount of messages deficiently written in many other businesses, larger and smaller.

The lack of abilities for written communication largely is a consequence of the lack of reading habits. Who has the habit to read thinks more and know himself better. This allows him to reflect on his reality and needs with more references. And this also lets him obtain enough resources to express himself by writing fullness.

We are facing an important quality reduction of written communication, and good part of the remedy has to do with stopping underestimating this situation.

We need to approach this subject at workplace promoting learning spaces where the employers and employees take conscience on the matter. They must assume the responsibility to improve their abilities to communicate better in writing.

If you would like to improve your e-mail efectiveness or to know more about this subject, consult my book at Google Books.

Feb 21, 2009

That e-mail could embarrass you?

Before you send out or forward any e-mail message, ask yourself if the contents of that message will become a boomerang for you or your company.

Subjects that are usually discussed in whispers at the office are best kept out of an e-mail.

Rumors, gossip, and other issues not directly related to the organization's business should be kept out of an e-mail.

Before you send out that e-mail, ask yourself "If this email were accidentally sent to everyone in the organization, would I be in some kind of trouble?"

When you send an e-mail to someone outside of the company, keep in mind that you represent the organization and not just yourself, and your company may be held responsible for your actions.

Remember: Any bussines or professional e-mail is a document with 100% of posibilities to be public. Be aware of this risk always.

Don't loose your time and money clarifiying messages. Pick up the phone or go face-to-face.

Feb 17, 2009

Treat email as a traditional printed document 

Likely the ease to send e-mails also makes us feel that they are somewhat "informal", making us believe that this attribute "lightens" the weight of emotionally charged messages.

An e-mail can be perceived as informal and harmless but it is basically a document, and as such, it has the potential of becoming public.

We might not think about this when we write an e-mail, but it is in our unconscious and sometimes it emerges when we find ourselves in front of the computer thinking "Is this too strong?", or "How will they take these words?"

What we say verbally, face-to-face, or by phone almost never has a formal backup, but what we write always has. This is a potential risk that influences the way we read what we receive.

It may lack the formality of a memo with a company letterhead, but an email can be just as legally binding as a traditional printed document.

There is no "secret" messages on e-mail. Every word that can be printed has pottential to be public. So, if you feel a publishing risk -even the smallest- in your e-mail, be already warned.

Some people even believe that the "coldness" of "strong" messages helps recipients process them better, because they can analyze their content "without thinking that it is something personal". However, the results indicate otherwise.

What we say verbally, face-to-face, or by phone almost never has a formal backup, but what we write always has. This is a potential risk that influences the way we read what we receive. That is why the content of some e-mails can “echo” before our eyes, whereas spoken words "are carried by the wind".

If you consider this you will write as better as less e-mails. As a result, you will receive less messages, and you will win a lot of time.

Feb 10, 2009

We are very little aware of how we use e-mail

In my seminars on how to optimize the use of e-mail, I ask to participants "which are the most important benefits from using e-mail?".

And after their answers I make another question: "what don’t you like about e-mail?".

This exercise is very interesting, because the answers are closely related.

For example, as senders, we like sending messages to many recipients at the same time, but we don’t realize that this is precisely part of the origin of the "chain mails" that are so annoying.

We also like sending as many e-mails as we want, but this is also part of the origin of the "spam" that causes so many headaches.

Every day there are more professionals that feel overwhelmed by the number of e-mails they need to read at work, but we are somewhat unaware of the abuse we ourselves make of e-mail, which in a way also generates the same volume that overwhelms us.

We also enjoy the possibility of responding whenever we want, but it also bothers us when our recipients don’t respond at the speed we want them to.

We also like having the possibility of sending attachments like pictures and videos, but many times feel annoyed when we receive those kinds of messages.

The same happens with the written record that e-mails leave. We like using them as a formal back-up in some circumstances, but at times we are annoyed when we receive messages from workmates that were written just to "cover their backs", and feel even worse when these mails are copied to the bosses.

It seems then, that we are unaware of the negative effects of e-mail that result from our own abuse of this medium. Not many people are able to see how they contribute to increase the same thing that they don't like...

Feb 4, 2009

Less than 9 percent of emails in 2008 was non-malicious

Out of 430 million email messages analyzed, 89.88 percent were spam and 1.11 percent were infected with some type of malware.

For companies, spam is more than just a nuisance: It consumes bandwidth, wastes employees’ time and can even cause system malfunctions. In the end, it all results in a loss of productivity.

According to data compiled by TrustLayer Mail, the clean mail managed service from Panda Security, sexual performance enhancers and pharmaceuticals were the most common subjects used by spam in 2008.

Spam relating to the economic situation also grew significantly throughout 2008. False job offers and fraudulent diplomas accounted for 2.75% of all junk mail in the year, while messages promoting mortgages and fake loans were responsible for 4.75%.

Spam promoting fake brand products, such a swatches, was responsible for 16.75% of the total. This last category nevertheless, dropped from 21% in the first half of the year to 12.5% in the last six months.

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