The first step in professionalizing your email communications is to publish a corporate email policy. This email policy accomplishes three objectives:
Before you create your email policy
Before you start creating an email policy, do some investigation into already existing company policies, such as guidelines on writing business letters, access to confidential information, personal use of the telephone systems and sexual or racial harassment at work. It is important that your email policy is compatible with your company's existing policies. You will also need to decide whether your company is going to allow personal use of the email system, and if so, to what extent.
The email policy should be drafted with the help of human resources, IT and board of directors in order to reflect all viewpoints in the organization. It is also advisable to have several employees look at the policy and provide their feedback. Make sure that your policy is not so restrictive that it will compromise your employees' morale and productivity.
What should be included in an email policy?
For the policy to be effective the document should use clear and simple wording and not be longer than 3-4 pages. You cannot expect employees to read a long complicated document, since you want them to remember what it says. List short bullet points, so that an employee can easily find rules in case they are unsure.
Commercial: guidelines on how to write effective emails
Productivity: rules on the usage of the email system
Legal: prohibit inappropriate email content and warn of risks
Finally, include a point of contact for questions arising from the email policy.
Publishing the email policy
When you have formulated an email policy, you should make sure that all employees are aware of the policy. You can do this by handing out printed copies, publishing it on your intranet and including it in staff handbooks. Also, when a new employee starts at your company, this employee should be given a copy of the document as standard.
It is a good idea to include the most important points of the email policy in the employment contract, so that employees must sign that they have read, understand and acknowledge receipt of the policy. Cover the most important issues in the employment contract, such as the personal use of email, possible email monitoring, and the prohibition of defamatory, sexual and racist remarks in emails. Also expressly state that breach of these rules can lead to termination of employment.
Furthermore, you could organize email trainings to explain the email risks to users and why the email policy is so important. If users understand the potential threats, most of them will understand why the rules need to be set up and will have less difficulty in applying them. A training will also help you obtain feedback to ensure that the policy is feasible and can actually be put into practice.
Updating the email policy
Since developments in email and the Internet are changing rapidly, it is important to review the email policy at least once every quarter. Keep an eye on new developments in email and Internet law so that you are aware of any new regulations and opportunities. When you release new updates, it is preferable to have each user sign as acknowledgment of their receipt of the policy.
Enforcing the email policy
Finally, when you have created your email policy, you must monitor your emails to ensure that your users keep to the rules. Email monitoring tools can help you accomplish this. For more information on the legaility of email monitoring, read this article by Red Earth Software.