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I work in IT for a medium size distributer. We often have to make changes or inform employees of outages. So far we have been sending out global messages to every employee in the company informing them of the steps they will need to take, then informing the management team to reiterate to employees to read them.

The problem is that employees simply do not read these communications and the management team does not reiterate to them to read them. We have tried all we can think of, a few recent titles as we went though a migration.

"IMPORTANT: New Steps for Email Access"
"CRITICAL: EMAIL ACCESS CHANGES"
"Please read to prevent loss of access to email"
"Imminent email loss, please read"

We have sent these emails out over the course of ~2 months, many times sending them multiple times per week. Yet each time we perform a partial cutover we get hammered with calls, users simply stating "I never saw the email" or "I never read it."

We asked managers to distribute paper copies, to post messages on boards in remote offices. Yet each time employees say they have not seen any notices. In polls less than 10 percent said they read the message.

We are a small team so the ~200 calls we receive after EACH of the cutovers sometimes daily, causes massive issues.

Are we simply not doing this correctly? What is the best way to report changes to ~1000 employees as out current way reach. The instructions are simple, usually just "Use your email and password to login" but employees just do not read them.

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    Technical solutions won't work. You need political solutions from your common boss. I would suggest you escalate this problem to your boss and ask how this should be solved? – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Feb 11 '17 at 18:36
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    Then have the CEO send out an announcement that it is expected that all mails with a subject starting with for example "IMPORTANT" from management/IT/whatever are read and understood. This is still a political solution. – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Feb 11 '17 at 20:28
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    How many emails do people get with similar-sounding subject lines or content? Maybe they are overloaded with lots of "crying wolf" and they then ignore it? Send a voicemail to everyone, send paper to them. Get approval for the change from the top level. Schedule in-person and video conference trainings. Make the change. (I always find it strange when people say they didn't read an email -- If I don't read something of only minor importance, then I'd get chastised for it and other people don't read critically important things and get promoted. Always politics.) – MikeP Feb 11 '17 at 21:53
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    "Imminent email loss, please read" is the typical thing that scammers would say. People gets lots of emails every day that they will lose their phone line, bank account, and so on unless they respond to an email immediately. – gnasher729 Jan 12 at 14:11
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    What @gnasher729 said. Those subjects would all smell to me like spam. And just how often do you need to make breaking changes to a system? It sounds like you're doing that basically all the time. If so, that's the bigger problem, and it has nothing to do with how to get people to read a specific e-mail (which is what you're asking here, therefore this is not an answer). It sounds like this is happening several times weekly, at which point if I was working at such a company, I'd be discussing with my boss the constant loss of, and need to jump through hoops to restore, access to work tools. – a CVn Jan 12 at 16:50
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First, a disclaimer, if such technological changes to a company's infrastructure occurs too often then there is no method to communicate such changes. Employees require stability of infrastructure; if its changed too often they will deliberately sabotage such communication, and there is not a way around that. In fact, by sabotaging they are communicating with you.

Main answer: When communicating important updates to any group size, the key is to pair the message with its content. In other words, message and content must become an inseparable pair. If a message about email access is put inside of an email account, then believe it or not, you have separated the message from its content. The proof of this comes from the results which you have so clearly said in your post. You have a consistent and large percentage of employees not receiving your communication, this indeed is a result of a fault in approach. Posting messages on doorways or pop machines etc. Is also guilty of this separation fault.

Clarification of my point: an inbox is really a messbox of miscellany. Does that sound like a place to put important information? However, at the point-of-login, the actual login screen, you have a place of convergence of message and content. It is there that login and access changes must be communicated.

Just because technology for such an approach is lacking does not mean the principle is wrong. Just because there will be many naysayers that this is an overly specific solution to a simple problem also does not prove the principle wrong.

I am only laying out the principle, specific application for different platforms such as desktop and mobile will depend on the team figuring out their unique circumstances and finding solutions.

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    Fantastic response. Double-plus good (unfortunately, I have only one point). Let's face it: people have humoungous amounts of emails in their inbox, and, say, 30% of them scream "Read me! Remember me! Act upon me!" People have quite a few things to act upon on their plate, and nothing is more upsetting than change of an already mastered procedure. Thus, procedure and infrastructure should change as absolutely little as possible. If you keep repeatedly changing an infrastructure as vital as email, you do it too often. That being said, the idea of pairing message and content is great! – Captain Emacs Feb 11 '17 at 20:32
  • I would agree changes to infrastructure should change as little as possible. Unfortunately that has been the case to highly extreme levels. No patching for years on end, running software 15 years out of date. The company is terrified of changes. All of this documentation is for a single change, we have had such huge issues in the past that we have attempted to over communicate because employees will not read ANY of the dozen emails containing the same content. In this case the content is simply a very minor change to how they should log into email. simple had they read any of the 30 emails. – Nick Young Feb 14 '17 at 15:31
  • The over communication may have part to do with their ignoring any new emails. And their ignoring them in the first place (back when you first started sending emails) may either be because the method of communication was flawed or because of company culture. I would suggest to hone down which departments the majority of disgruntled emails are coming from, and then send one of your best communicators (from your team) to be scheduled into staff meetings for those departments, and they can present on what changes have happened and why face to face. – Ootagu Feb 17 '17 at 16:43
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You Can't

There is no perfect solution to communicating changes. I was with a SaaS company that performed a pricing change - we sent emails, we put popups in peoples' accounts, we put notes on bills months ahead of time - but still when the change came, people Had Never Heard Of It (tm) and were tripping. Most of our customers didn't provide details like phone numbers so even if we had decided spending a lot of money on calling each and every one of them (which to be honest, we would probably not do) it wasn't possible.

All you can do is:

  1. Clearly go above and beyond in communicating. You did this, with emails and memos. Maybe you can think of other things - if you have a phone mail system that can put a voicemail in everyone's inbox. You could get some high level manager to agree to tell his reports in their staff meeting and ask them to ask their reports in their staff meetings and "pass it down." But in the end, each additional communication path is going to mostly hit the people who care to listen to communications, so every add will get diminishing returns.

  2. Have plan for the day of. In this case, if people don't listen they don't listen, but so they don't get email for an hour - if when they show up to work there's a piece of paper on the door that says "Your email not working? Go read the memo on the bulletin board" then they really should be able to resolve it quickly. In my example, we had a script prepared for the influx of calls/emails so that people didn't waste time or give bad information in Customer Service. You could put a prerecorded message on your phone line that says "Email not working? You need to...."

In the end, the responsibility isn't all yours. If this has happened multiple times, then IMO you're fine to say "here's the email we send out to all hands N times before these happen..." It's their responsibility after that. It's unreasonable to spend a lot of time (which is money in a business) on trying to make everyone pay attention (and frankly, the more emails you send, the more likely they are to set up an email rule to dump them).

If they're not reading them - and their managers aren't bothering to do anything about that - then they don't really care from a business POV. You hear from a couple disgruntled people every time so you feel like something must be done, but apparently to them it's fine. So - it's fine. Put up some informational blockers to keep people out of your face on switchover days and move on.

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You need to establish accountability for people receiving and understanding the message.

This accountability needs to lie with Management - each Manager needs to be tasked with getting positive confirmation from their staff that the message has been read and understood.

This needs to be tracked, either by a simple online system or a spreadsheet. Management reports need to be available so that a Senior Manager can look and see that Alice reports 80% confirmation whilst Bob is at only 20%, and take whatever remedial action is required.

I would have an escalating pattern of emails - the first 4 (say) are to the individual, if they are still not flagged as having acknowledged then the next 2 are copied to their Manager, the one after that is copied to their Manager's Manager etc. People will soon get the message!

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Don't mess with a running system!

What kinds of changes to the email system do you HAVE to make to OFTEN inform people about email access loss ?!

You seem to literally spam them with "important, "critical" or "imminent" "threats to their email access".

Very bad habit and people become desensetized, eventually ignore.

Also, you should separate between messages about outages (put a status on the intranet and use a clear email message title like "OUTAGE FROM X TO Y date/hours") and messages about system changes (which should happen MAX 1-2 a YEAR).

Just before the changes go live, send out daily emails with a countdown to when they lose access.

Also, check the other answers about involving management and possibly using another service (like the log in or desktop) to inform people.

Again, don't do these radical system changes more than once or twice a year...

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    Also these radical migrations should migrate mail to the new system so no data is lost. This is a major part of implementing a new system – Mark Jan 12 at 19:44
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  • Limit the emails you send per week, e.g. summarize the downtimes

  • Make it selective to the circle of users affected, don't send all outages to all users

  • think about using RSS or another (company specific feed system) as a feed mechanism instead of emails

  • make an overview calender

  • be brief and concise

  • If you use exchange/outlook or another calender system, then always add as an appointment (e.g. outlook will show appointments in you calender even if they are not read/accepted yet)

After that, try to establish accountability. If somebody doesn't look at his/her calender, then the manager needs to set rules.

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