Compliance Communications Blog

The Catch-22 of E-Mail


The global workplace changed forever when e-mail as a communication medium was introduced in the early 1990s. Ease of use, speed of distribution and almost zero cost led to its universal appeal.

Fast forward to modern times, the number of e-mails sent and received per day totals over 205 billion in 2015. The average worker receives approximately 122 e-mails per day --  approximately 15 e-mails every working hour. These figures are expected to rise at an average annual rate of 5% over the next four years.

Ironically, its popularity has made e-mail a victim of its own success: with so much traffic arriving in inboxes, there’s a risk that critical communications – such as compliance – are getting lost in the noise.

Increasingly, staff are suffering from "infobesity," finding it difficult to understand an issue due to information overload. It’s easy to spot the tell-tale signs: e-mails get ignored; partial responses to messages; procrastination (often with best intentions to read later); and selective reading -- i.e. focus on the what the main message is, ignore the stuff that’s not. And the problem is getting worse: the average human attention span in 2000 was 12 seconds. Nowadays, it’s closer to 8 seconds.

Communication experts maintain that the e-mail format will continue to be popular, but more dynamic and engaging styles of message delivery are needed. Messaging software designed specifically to garner employee attention, regardless of their location and whether they use mobile devices or desktops, is rapidly gaining approval from internal communicators.

Desktop alerts pack a power punch in small doses.

Pop-up desktop alerts deliver a powerful interruption to employees’ screens. This is particularly effective for urgent messages, important reminders or validation comms. They’re perfect too for short, burst drip communications for driving behavioral change.

These alerts can be set to either stay on the screen or continue to reappear at scheduled intervals, prompting the employee to act or acknowledge the message. Communicators have the ability to track readership and interaction, so that each campaign can be measured. This is particularly valuable for compliance messaging which has a legislative requirement to ensure staff have been properly informed.

Interactive sequencing screensavers act like mini billboards around the office. Similar to normal screensavers, they appear when staff are in downtime and more likely to be receptive to messages. Highly visual but non-intrusive, interactive screensavers are replacing the traditional paper and poster signs previously on the staff noticeboard.

Desktop news feeds (also known as scrolling headlines) is a ticker-style format, great for breaking news or updating staff quickly, particularly those in call centers or on the front line. This style of "push" communication gives control to the employer about who, what and when should receive the news feed.

Quizzes, surveys and other gamification tools that pop up on employees’ screens help to reinforce important information in an engaging, fun way. The responses reveal where any knowledge gaps are, providing a useful guide for future improvement.

All of these are examples of high impact, visual channels proven to help with habit formation, memorization and comprehension.

Faced with the quandary of shortening attention spans AND information overload, is it time to think beyond e-mail?

SnapComms is a global leader in internal communications software, serving 350 major organizations in more than 45 countries. Its products enable organizations to communicate more effectively with staff by ensuring message deliverability directly onto devices.

The Catch-22 of E-Mail

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