3 Tricks to Write Better Employee Emails - bettHR

As we continue to explore Open Enrollment communications along with how HR can be better marketers, it’s time to get down to the tactics of how you can instantly and easily change the quality of the email messages you send to your employees – whether it’s for Open Enrollment or any other HR-related project from here on out. Let’s get started.

1. Start with the subject line

You probably already know this little nugget – a strong subject line will entice more readers to open your email. But how does that really translate into the emails that you’re crafting?

First, don’t fall for the fallacy that because the email is being sent from the “HR mailbox,” that it will automatically be opened. That mind trick may work for a handful of your audience, but for most people who are overwhelmed with email, they’ll only open items that are urgent and important to them. A senior leader or HR may hold slightly more weight, but it’s not something to rely on.

Spend time on your subject line, to ensure that it has a call to action (more on this below) and is something that the majority of your population will feel invested in. Think about your personal email inboxes – do you open emails that have boring subject lines if you’re not personally acquainted with the person? Likely not. Your employees have the same reactions and behaviors as you do.

Make your subject line short and actionable, providing them a reason to keep reading. Some things to consider:

  • Ask a burning question in your subject line that your email can answer
  • What is the most critical part of your email, that the employee must learn
  • Is there a way to add humor to your subject line
  • Can you begin the story here

2. What is your ONE call to action?

The phrase call-to-action or CTA, is one used often by marketers and delivers exactly what it sounds like – what is the one thing you want your employees to do after reading the email? The ONE thing.

It’s been shown that when we provide people with several steps or action items in one message, people tend to get overwhelmed with the options and don’t take any action. I bet you have several emails where this has been the case for you… it’s often the biggest mistake HR professionals make when writing emails. It’s hard to limit it to just one thing. But it’s critical.

For example, if you received an email indicating that you needed to go to website a to review the options, then go to website b to see the pricing, then click this link to be taken to the enrollment site, and then confirm your enrollment choices on website c… what would you do? You’d probably do the first thing, but the nature of this multistep process would have you constantly referring back to one email to get everything done. And we all know how emails fall lower and lower in our inbox. Not exactly effective.

Let’s consider a marketing example, since most of us as HR people wouldn’t mind doing all of the needed steps for open enrollment. So instead, what if you needed to pay your cable bill on your cable provider’s website. And instead of having one place to log-in and then see the action button (pay bill now), you’d have to: land on the website, click onto choose cable screen, then click on something indicating you’re a current provider, then indicate why you’re on the site, then have to get your customer number to be allowed to view the screen, then log in, then hunt down the payment button. Not exactly an ideal process… and one that many people would simple give up on and place a phone call.

We don’t want your employees to feel the same way about what you’re asking them to do. Which is why it’s critical that when you do email them, in every single email, you include exactly one call to action.

What is the most important thing they need to do right now, in order to continue to the process or conversation? You can always add additional prompts or emails in other places, but by providing only one thing for them to do, you are removing all “thinking” and prioritizing from the employee and placing them firmly into action mode.

3. Remove all “HR Speak”

Wait, what? Yep, you need to remove all HR speak – acronyms, internal words/phrases, HR-driven project details, and so on. Your employees are not in HR… and should not be expected to understand how we speak. Not to mention, it tends to over-complicate many messages and create additional work and questions.

Instead, strip your messages of all HR-related speak and jargon. Use words that are standard business speak – so all of your employees can understand what you’re trying to say. Think about it – if you received an email from the Engineering department filled with strange equations or references to different solutions, you would lose your marbles. Your employees feel the same way… even though you are certain they “get” what you’re saying, they’re not.

Things to consider replacing:

  • Employee engagement or employee satisfaction rates
  • Any benefits-specific details as we refer to them internally
  • Performance management… and related terms that are not used by all employees during the process
  • Fluffy speak to soften a blow (it just confuses people more)
  • HRIS
  • Talent Management

This list isn’t even close to being inclusive and some of the items may be traditionally used at your organization – but the idea here, is to be sure to consider that any “lay employee” will fully be able to comprehend what you’re trying to convey without feeling uneducated because they aren’t familiar with the language.

Want to see how your messages stack up to the rules? Submit your message here – and within 1 business day, you’ll get a score with individualized suggestions on what needs improvement.