May 30, 2009

The good, the bad, and the ugly about email managment

AIIM’s research…

The survey was taken by 1,109 individual members of the AIIM community between March 23rd and April 3rd, 2009, using a Web-based tool. Invitations to take the survey were sent via e-mail to the AIIM community of 65,000.

On average, our respondents spend more than an hour and a half per day processing their emails, with one in five spending three or more hours of their day.

Over half have hand-held access by phones, Blackberries and PDAs. Two thirds process work-related emails outside office hours with 28 percent confessing to doing so “after work, on weekends and during vacations”.

“Sheer overload” is reported as the biggest problem with email as a business tool, followed closely by “Finding and recovering past emails” and “Keeping track of actions”.

Email archiving, legal discovery, findability and storage volumes are the biggest current concerns within organizations, with security and spam now considered less of a concern by respondents.

Over half of respondents are “not confident” or only “slightly confident” that emails related to documenting commitments and obligations made by staff are recorded, complete and retrievable.

Only 10 percent of organizations have completed an enterprise-wide email management initiative, with 20 percent currently rolling out a project. Even in larger organizations, 17 percent have no plans to, although the remaining 29 percent are planning to start sometime in the next 2 years.

Some 45 percent of organizations (including the largest ones) do not have a policy on Outlook “Archive settings,” so most users will likely create .pst archive files on local drives.

Only 19 percent of those surveyed capture important emails to a dedicated email management system or to a general purpose ECM system. 18 percent print emails and file as paper, and a worrying 45 percent file in nonshared personal Outlook folders.

A third of organizations have no policy to deal with legal discovery, 40 percent would likely have to search back-up tapes, and 23 percent feel they would have gaps from deleted emails. Only 16 percent have retention policies that would justify deleted emails.

Download the entire, 17-page report, containing 21 graphs and charts.

May 26, 2009

Why do companies need e-mail use guidelines?

At the workplace e-mail is a resource that belongs to the company. But sometimes people forget that because of labor rutines, work overwhelming, or because individual professional effort is so personal.

e-Standards could helps people have a better idea of the formality of using e-mail in the workplace, as documents that have direct legal implications for the company and for each employee.

In other words, companies needs more employees with more awareness of the consequences messages can have and a better effort to use the good practices of written communication.

To achieve this goals, companies must permanently and didactically show to each employe best practices using e-mail, and what behavior is expected from he or she, as a senders or receivers of digital messages.

Most people assume writing e-mail as something "natural", and take for granted that if you can write (if you know write) you can communicate efficiently by e-mail.

But with no doubt is harder to communicate by written than face-to-face. Written messages don't have the communicational advantages of body language, facial expression or tone of voice, which are part of a regular face-to-face communication.

If people at workplace suppose that they execute their responsability by sending e-mails, they wouldn't take in consideration the negative potential impact of certain written messages. So, they wouldn't care e-mail is not the propper means for team work in many cases.

That is why e-mail companies guidelines can help employees a lot. I offer you many ideas and electronic mail good practices in my book.

May 18, 2009

Other conditions for e-Standards success at the workplace

Standards on the use of e-mail (e-Standards) can be part of a document that also includes policies on computer security and the correct use of software and surfing Internet.

From a communication and practical point of view, we must remember that each topic will be dealt with more effectively if we approach them in a segmented way. This must be taken in consideration for the internal marketing of e-Standards.

e-Standards must be reviewed carefully with every employee at all levels in the company: newly hired as well as more experienced personnel, managers and supervisors, full-time, part-time, or temporary workers.

In many cases, it is also convenient to inform or update all suppliers of the company on the policies of the use of e-mail.

Since the company is interested in conveying the importance and formality of this issue, each employee should sign a copy of the e-Standards as proof that they have read and understood them. Although this adds commitment, training and internal information programs are also necessary as backup.

Since e-mail is a resource that belongs to the company, you must permanently and didactically remind employees of the company’s right to monitor and review the use of e-mail and Internet, whenever it is deemed necessary. Work tools and work information belong to the employer.

May 12, 2009

Companies should promote e-Standards

What does e-Standards means? Good practices using e-mail. Not only "norms" or "policies".

e-Standards are comprehensive written guidelines on the corporate use of e-mail, to advise positively employees on the behavior expected from them whem are using e-mail at the workplace.

e-Standards must not only establish what people "shouldn’t do" and the sanctions involved, as usually happens. They must neither be biased by the technological or security issues of e-mail.

When speaking of the duties of employees regarding e-mail, e-Standards must highlight individual advantages for fulfilling them (essential key for the success of their marketing inside the teamwork).

The following are ideal conditions for company’s e-Standards to be more effective and taken in consideration by employees:

* Explain their origin and purpose as widely as possible. People will be more sensitive to the subject if they know details about risks, costs, good practices, real cases, and possible consequences.

* This shouldn’t be perceived as an issue only for the legal, security or human resource departments. e-Standards involves everybody in the company, and they are a bussines priority. So, the commitment must start at the upper management.

* Bosses and employees must follow the same e-Standards, a minimum consistency expected by employees in order to believe and implement them.

* The dissemination of these e-Standards must be done in a constant internal marketing and training plan. The effectiveness of this induction depends on the proper company’s initiatives to maintain them in the long term.

May 11, 2009

Hey you, supervisor, don't use e-mail in this situations

I can tell you many others situation which e-mail is not the best means for communicating with your team players, but these are the practices that you have to avoid using e-mail at the workplace as supervisor:

1. Don’t use e-mails to give bad news or fire an employee.

Remember that this channel doesn’t have the communicational advantages of body language, facial expression or tone of voice.

Employees feel more respected when bad news are given in person.

Face-to-face meetings give employees the chance to ask questions, “digest” information better, and identify their options.

2. Don't use e-mail to discuss the performance of an employee with other managers.

It is a matter of simple professional courtesy, and there is no risk that the information will become public.

The best way to have these kind of conversations is in personal, closed-door meetings, or through a telephone call.

Written negative comments about an employee can later be used against the manager to erode team spirit and the feeling of identity with the company.

3. Don't minimize face-to-face contact in your daily work.

E-mail is a fantastic resource that allows us to save a lot of time, and although some work mates feel fine with having almost all communication electronically, many others feel devalued if they don't also receive personal attention.

E-mail must not replace the personal contact between supervisors and supervised.

Even in the Internet age, nurturing healthy human relations is still an essential skill for the success of all types of businesses.

May 6, 2009

E-mail doesn’t communicate: It is only a media

With e-mail as a tool, informing doesn’t automatically mean that we are communicating with our recipients. Communication occurs when our recipient reacts in accordance to our purposes and intentions. E-mail does not communicate, you communicate (or not).

All the fields in an e-mail have meaning for the recipient, from the time the message was sent, to the way in which it was signed (Too formal?... Informal?... No signed?).

Each e-mail element affects our perception of every message pertinency, which in turn reflects the level of effectiveness of our communication effort.

The sender has the responsibility of generating bidirectional written communication through the computer. It is the position where the interaction condition is created and stimulated. With e-mail, everything start at the fingers of senders.

The chances to be effective are very low if we send e-mails covered by the investiture of a corporate position. And the opposite happens when we communicate trying to nourish the legitimacy of our personal leadership, because we write with more humbleness and assertiveness.

The e-mails we send most positively affect our recipients when we write them using a perspective that is committed to excellence in customer care and service. This approach provides a more creative view to give responses (written or not) geared to help our interlocutors.