My Three Cents

You are sitting at your desk staring out into space when, suddenly, an email appears.  It’s not from a client.  It’s internal.  You debate about opening it—then opt not to, because you have “better ways to spend your time.”  

Management’s aim is to optimize communications with employees.  So what does it take to motivate the action management wants?

Enter NCR Corporation with a fascinating analysis on organizational behavior based on big data with regards to emails sent by internal sources…and the factors that motivate click-through vs. the decision not to open an email. 

At NCR there are hundreds of emails sent a week to its 29,000 employees.  NCR wanted to understand what variables directly influence the effectiveness of those communications. Traditionally, they may have looked at a survey to gather direct opinions from employees. However, by running a statistical analysis on aggregated data, NCR is able to understand actual responses and test multiple variables based on behaviors. Among the variables tested regarding opening/ignoring emails included:  whether the emails were action-oriented or information-oriented; target audience segmentation; day of the week (e.g., Friday mailings used to be considered less impactful); tone (i.e., formal or more casual and chatty); and many other qualitative aspects of each campaign.

Here are some of the learnings (some may surprise you):

  • Contrary to what it previously thought, NCR found that the day of the week the email is sent doesn’t impact open and click-through rates.  Fridays are as good as any other day.
  • The time of day a message is sent does matter.  Action-oriented requests do better in the morning.   Information-based emails tend to perform better in the afternoon.
  • The single biggest factor influencing open and click-through rates is shaping your message to each defined target, rather than sending the same message to all 29,000 employees at once.  Employees are more likely to open emails that are targeted towards their specific group or area of focus.
  • Surprise!  There are typically higher open rates on messages written at a higher-level including business language and industry jargon, than on messages with casual, simplistic language. This is contrary to what most would believe, where many writers advocate jargon free language, and contrary to the findings of many secondary research studies. This is the type of information, unique to the NCR employee base, which allows the Corporate Communications team to make strategic decisions.

“We too often rely on survey instruments that provide opinions. While useful, I am more interested in understanding how people actually behave versus how they say they will behave,” said Anthony Piniella, Vice President of Corporate Communications for NCR. “It’s very human to respond differently than you think you will. Having tools that measure behaviors is mission critical for communicators in today’s environment.”

“The important part, now, is leveraging the insights gained from the analysis to implement and drive change. By instituting specific rules into our communications process based on the findings we have surpassed our annual open rate growth goal in just two quarters,” said Samantha Richey, Communications Operations for NCR. 

Communicating inside is as challenging as reaching targets outside.  This is just a taste of the surprising and powerful organizational behavior studies being conducted by NCR Communications.

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