Business Process Improvement: When Your Emails Aren’t Being Read

Business process improvement is the reason we send emails instead of memos. What do you do if someone doesn’t seem to read your messages because they ask questions you’ve already answered? What happens if they simply don’t do the work assigned?

It’s extremely frustrating dealing with people who ignore email. When messages aren’t being read it destroys any sense of an efficient business process. Improvement is possible, but not easy. If you’re the supervisor, there are two obvious approaches:

  • Reprimand the individual, and perhaps question whether they are right for the job.
  • Empathise and seek to understand what else is happening in their work life or personal life.

Neither of these conversations is likely to be very comfortable. But what’s worse is that usually, the lack of response is in the opposite direction. Typically, it’s bosses who fail to respond to emails from their employees!

Here are a few business process improvement techniques you can use to ensure your messages are actually read:

  • Write shorter emails – The less you write, the more that will be read. Some topics can be covered almost entirely in the subject line.
  • Avoid replying – People are less likely to pay attention to replies than new messages, because they already know the topic of the email. Where possible, save your replies for your next status meeting.
  • Schedule your sending – Promise your boss you will send her an email at 2PM, and the make sure you do it. Then they will be expecting that message.
  • Use the Urgent Flag and Text Highlighting – But do so judiciously.
  • Ask For Feedback – Tell your colleagues that you understand they are too busy to get to all of their emails, and want to know what kind of information you can put into other mediums.

Some companies have gone so far as to ban email entirely. But if you’re working for a company and you’re interested in true business process improvement, you probably need people to use this technology intelligently. Try these techniques and let me know how they go for you!

About the Speaker: Robby Slaughter is the founder of Slaughter Development, a workflow and productivity consulting company. After an extensive career in IT systems development, Robby realised that the principal challenges affecting individual workers are not technological in nature, but psychological. He discovered that to become more effective and efficient at work, we need to empower individuals with authority and responsibility. His consulting practice now focuses exclusively on assessing workflow challenges, helping stakeholders to design and develop new business processes, and implement systematic, stakeholder-driven changes throughout the organisation. Robby is also the author of a new book: Failure: The Secret to Success.