Reframing how employees think about email

by | Mar 29, 2017 | Blog, Change Management |

Change management is simply the process of making things better. However, it is well known that driving change can be challenging. If employees don’t understand the need for changing to Office 365 they are reluctant to embrace it. Managers need to communicate the case for change with conviction and inspire people to believe in a better future.


Email pain


One of the most tangible ways of helping employees to understand ‘what’s in it for me’ is by targeting their problems with email. I’ve been inside many organisations where employees truly enjoy the work they are doing and the people they work with, but feel frustrated and challenged with how they work. Email is by far the biggest culprit.


Is email really the be all and end all?


For most employees, email has reached the point where it’s used for everything and anything. Sharing a document, diary invites, actions from meetings, questions, and even a one word response to something (copying others in the process). It’s not news that email makes the lives of employees miserable.

Email is a PUSH tool, where the sender of the message decides who will receive it and who to put on the To and Cc lines. The recipient gets no choice about whether they receive the message or not, and anyone who is not copied on the message doesn’t know of its existence. These are known as the dreaded email siloes.


What’s the alternative?


In contrast, a PULL information flow puts the recipient in control by letting them choose what information they want to receive from everything that is available to them. This is the way activity streams in social networks behave.

In your Facebook or LinkedIn feed you choose which people or topics to follow, and you can read as many or as few postings as you like. Enterprise social networks such as Yammer, chat based platforms such as Microsoft Teams and our own Fresh SharePoint intranet apply the same principles inside an organisation. Ultimately, employees are given somewhere to share their knowledge with as a wide an audience as confidentiality allows.

These PULL based environments allow information consumers to choose what they need, and when they need it. The PUSH / PULL distinction was first described in The Power of Pull by John Hagel, and is recognised as the way forward for business communication because it puts employees back in control of how they consume information.

Email pain really should be a thing of the past.


Moving from PUSH to PULL


This is far from simple for many employees because PUSH is so deeply engrained in their habits. Whilst they may recognise that their email woes can be addressed by pulling the information they need, their side of the deal is to be prepared to invest time and patience to learn other ways of working and to integrate it in to their default working habits.

With PULL, there is also a greater responsibility to stay informed and they need to make sure that they don’t over-consume and re-invent the reason that they moved away from email in the first place.

A PULL based information environment is similar to an all-you-can-eat buffet, therefore support needs to be given to help people experiment and learn how to consume the right amount. If they find their activity stream is full of content they are not interested in, they learn to tweak their stream filters.

PUSH and PULL both have a role to play in business communication. Too much PUSH leads to information overload; whilst too little PULL leads to a lack of accountability. The keys to success are getting the balance right and to be willing to give new tools a try.


Getting employee buy-in


When introducing tools and applications from Office 365 it isn’t enough to give employees the new tools and expect them to do things differently.

Employee resistance to change is the norm rather than the exception and the usual blockers will inevitably arise.


‘’I’m used to email’’

‘’I collaborate with external parties through email’’

‘’everyone else uses email’’

‘’email is important for audit’’

 ‘’If I move to other tools it’s no longer my decision who will read what I write’’

 “no one else needs to see my stuff”


Dealing with these blockers requires change management.  Moving away from habitual behaviours with email is hard. Especially when all you are moving towards is lofty collaboration ideals or names of unfamiliar software.

Office 365 adoption success depends on persuading sometimes hundreds or thousands of groups and individuals to change the way they work. People will only accept a transformation if they can be persuaded to think differently about the way they consume and create information.

Organisations need to reframe how their staff think about the ways that they work and support the transition across to more productive tools and ways of working.

In any organisation, people model their behaviour on “significant others”, for example those they see in positions of influence. Within an organisation, people in different functions or levels choose different role models— e.g. a partner, or a senior manager. So, to drive a critical mass of changed behaviour across an organisation, there must be role models at every level that “walk the talk”.


You will need the right mix of PUSH and PULL


Email is not going away, but truly effective business communication has the right mix of PUSH and PULL mechanisms. As an organisation, you need to position and communicate to your employees why, when and how to use each channel available to them, whether that be Outlook, Skype, OneNote, Yammer, Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, a Fresh Intranet or a combination of all of them.

For highest impact, you need to focus on highest value activities and use a structured process of change management to deliver that change.

At Content and Code, our Prosci® accredited Client Success Team help organisations like yours overcome employee reluctance to change and incorporate powerful new Office 365 tools into their working lives, making problems such as email pain a thing of the past. Speak to Content and Code today.

Overcome the reluctance to change

Content and Code can help you incorporate the powerful tools that Office 365 offers into your way of working and embrace change within your organisation.


About our author

Natalie Inwood

User Research Lead | Content and Code

Natalie is passionate about User Research and has many years experience with the BBC. She leads the User Research Team at Content and Code and is responsible for ensuring that end-user high value activities are identified and represented on client engagements. Natalie has helped many clients such as Mott MacDonald, Sony Music, Pizza Hut, succeed by simplifying and making technology easier to use, through change management.



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