Stephen LaFata first experienced Email Excellence® while completing his MBA at Wharton. "I thought I knew how to organize emails well," he says, "but this really took me to the next level." Now Chief Compliance Officer at Alethea Capital Management, LaFata describes the training as "immediately useful and executable."
"The creator quickly goes through the basics," he says, "and then delves deeply into advanced topics that will benefit all of us."
The creator of Email Excellence is Connecticut-based Salient, Inc. According to Salient, email is, "the single greatest unaddressed productivity issue faced by business today." The company's new website, http://www.EmailExcellence.com, aims to transform business email in large organizations.
Numerous studies have shown that employees today spend anywhere from one third to one half of each workday in email. Salient president and founder Roy Speed points out: "That's one third of each year. So in most companies, at least one third of payroll is financing email activity. Yet few companies have any email standards at all."
For more than 20 years Speed has consulted with large organizations on writing processes and writing standards. He says the problem with email is that it is a community challenge, one that spans the entire organization. One part of that challenge is about how each employee writes; the much greater part is what's in that employee's Inbox — everyone else's lousy writing. So in large organizations, the email challenge will yield only to community solutions, approaches that include everyone in the company.
"We all need to do three things," he says. "Write less; write more efficiently; and, for the sake of our colleagues, write better." To illustrate how bad email can be, he points to a recent study containing this finding: Among emails requesting action from the recipient, fewer than half actually stated what that action was.
To tackle these challenges, Salient deploys a simple approach: 1) Set corporate standards for email. 2) Train everyone. According to Speed, "the challenge is to teach new skills and change old habits, but it is also to institute values." Speed says, "which is why we use the word excellence. The new standards must raise the bar, and employees must see that the company means business."
Salient points to a decade of success with this approach in the pharmaceutical industry, where more than a dozen companies have made Salient programs required training for all employees. To date, more than 130,000 employees in pharmaceutical companies have received Email Excellence training as part of corporate initiatives.
At Cephalon, Inc., Salient's email training "was universally well received by employees," says Valli Baldassano, former chief compliance officer at Cephalon, which is now part of Teva Pharmaceuticals. Even though the program was mandatory, employees seemed to welcome the email guidance: "Our employees appreciated that they weren't just told to 'not write bad emails,'" she says. "The course taught how to write good emails." She adds: "You know you've provided valuable training when you hear employees discussing it and talking about putting the tools into practice."
One clinical scientist who completed the program praised its use of humor: "[The humor] made it easy for me to laugh off my past mistakes and vow never to repeat them." Salient Chief of Design Kay McFarland says that humor is an important tool in Salient's arsenal: "At the core of our business is getting employees to break old habits—which is no mean feat. And laughter has turned out to be our best ally. You can transform an email behavior that's commonplace into one that's inconceivable; just get the whole company laughing at it."
The website EmailExcellence.com offers free previews of the eLearning program, free email models and templates, and two different blogs: Email Writing, which discusses writing issues and offers free eLearning nuggets, and Email Leadership, which discusses email as a business process now much in need of management attention.
For more information, contact Salient, Inc., at 203.748.9078, or email us at info(at)emailexcellence(dot)com.