Taking control of the inbox – the corporate and personal responsibilities of HR

We
waste up to 16 days per year dealing with unwanted e-mails. Not the ones we
really need to do our job (the ‘information’ e-mails) but the ‘noise’ that
accompanies them. As the masters of personal development and change management,
the HR function is uniquely placed to help individuals and their organisations
reclaim those lost days.  By Monica
Seeley.  Taking personal control of your
inbox requires three simple and easy steps:

Step
1

Improve
your IT fitness – the confidence and competence to use the technology. Learn
how to create a calendar entry from an e-mail, change your signature,
automatically send new mail to folders etc.

Step
2

Audit
your inbox – discover who, how and why all that noise is being created. Ask
yourself ‘what value has that e-mail added to how I perform my job today?’ If
the answer is ‘nothing’, stop it entering your inbox. See step three.

Step
3

Improve
your e-mail management skills. Here is a well-tried, nine-point plan that will
help reduce the stress and time to deal with the inbox.

1.
Put aside time to deal with e-mail – stop dipping in and out every few minutes.
Checking your inbox two or three times a day is adequate for most people.

2.
Place e-mails in folders – use folders to store and sort e-mails (the ‘rules’
function in the e-mail software a useful tool).

3.
Post back unwanted e-mail – remove yourself from every unwanted circulation
list. Tell senders that you don’t need a copy unless there is something for you
to action.

4.
Protect yourself against viruses – take care not to open unusual e-mails.

5.
Pick the right medium – e-mail is one of many communication media. Your goal
should be to send the right message, in the right way, first time.

6.
Write your e-mail in plain English – write in a clear, concise manner. Before
sending the e-mail, ask yourself ‘do I really mean what I said?’

7.
Point out the purpose of your e-mails – insert a meaningful description in the
subject line, including the purpose.

8.
Provide time for the recipient – e-mail speeds up the delivery time of your
message but it does not necessarily shorten the decision-making time. Leave the
recipient sufficient time to do justice to your e-mail.

9.
Patrol your use of attachments – there are many ways to share information.
Increasingly, organisations are investing in document management and
information sharing technologies such as personal portals and virtual team
areas. These are often far superior for disseminating large amounts of
information rather than clogging up everyone’s inbox with attachments.

Managing
the e-mail office requires three related core competencies: personal
effectiveness, IT skills and written communication skills. The HR department is
well positioned to provide these in conjunction with the IT and marketing
departments.

Helping
your organisation deal with what has become the number one priority for many
organisations is a golden opportunity to raise your HR department’s profile and
make a real, measurable contribution to the business.

Dr
Monica Seeley is a leading authority on the management of information
technology and is a visiting fellow at Imperial College Business School. Her
new book, Managing in the Email Office, was published in April 2003. For more
information go to www.mesmo.co.uk

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