Rewarding Futures

Email: The longest goodbye?

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The death of email has long been announced. Given the dizzying rate at which social media has evolved and become part of daily life, it’s easy to regard email as having the same archaic characteristics of ‘snail mail’ which it all but replaced. But are we being too hasty in writing off email, blinded by the hip new applications all around us? For our latest blog, we’re checking the health of workplace email, getting the verdict of users and expert insight as to its future.

Irrespective of where we work, we share a common bond that is our love-hate relationship with email. Overflowing inboxes, those ‘reply to alls’, and messaging outside business hours have become standard bugbears, with efforts to address poor practice seemingly futile. It’s these things that people point to in their valedictory articles on email. And yet, despite all of this, it remains stubbornly integral to everything we do.


Recent research commissioned by Adobe asked 3000 ‘white collar’ individuals across the EMEA region about their email usage. Their report revealed that;

  • 80% of work emails and 65% of personal emails are opened (with an almost identical percentage read),
  • most respondents expect their email use (both personal and work) to remain the same over the next two years.

The Guardian’s computer editor, Jack Schofield, also believes that email is going to be around for a while longer in spite of its shortcomings.

‘I don’t think anything is going to replace email in the near future, and probably not in the far future. It’s virtually impossible to use internet technologies without an email address. Email’s unbeatable advantage is that either everyone has an email address, or can easily get one. There are hundreds of different ways to communicate… but not even Facebook (1.86 billion monthly active users) has the same reach. Email has an estimated 2.7 billion users with 4.6bn accounts.’

Schofield argues that changing our relationship with email offers a more realistic future compared to one where we dispense with it altogether. Evidence from the ‘office floor’ also points to email’s continuing hold over workplace communication.

“For business-important and actionable updates, people know this is the channel,” says Tony Cox, Global Communications Business Partner with Imperial Brands plc. “After line manager conversations and team meetings, corporate group email is high up on people’s preferences for receiving information. This is how we make the big announcements.” According to Tony, Imperial have embraced enterprise social networks similar to Yammer, and these are helpful collaboration tools at team level. Yet whilst they can link to headline messages, they’re not relied upon as the key channels for disseminating them. “There’s still a role for business email,” Tony adds. “It’s the one thing you know that people will be regularly checking throughout the day. You wouldn’t get that with the intranet!”

It’s a similar story at information and communication technology company, Logicalis, who also heavily rely on email across the group according to Justin Kearney, Group VP Human Resources. “We introduced an intranet (called ‘Connected’) mainly for internal collaboration and storing some policies, but I would say that 80 to 90% of communication is still by email. We’ve made a point of ensuring that company-wide messages only go via Connected but if you really want to know that all employees see something the temptation is to also use email.”

These views are consistent with that of Rachel Miller, Director of All Things IC – an award-winning communication consultancy. “For many organisations, email is a communication tool. Whether it’s an effective one is another consideration altogether,” says Rachel. “If email is used as a call to action to encourage employees to join conversations and amplify employee voice, it can start to shift from one-way to two-way." (Research such as Gatehouse Group’s State of the Sector report 2017/8 revealed email is still cited as the most effective digital channel (79%), followed by videos at 78% and electronic newsletters at 75%).


Rachel (pictured above) has encountered organisations who’ve made attempts to change email behaviour, for example shifting conversations to more visible spaces such as Enterprise Social Networks (as we saw with Imperial Brands). But, as with any cultural change, transformation will take time. So can she envisage a future where social media and real-time chat applications overtake email as the primary means of communicating within an organisation?  

“Yes, I hope so! There’s constant grumbles from employees about volume of email and noise of communication channels. More often than not it’s because the timing doesn’t fit with our requirements for real-time conversations and connections. The rise of ‘shadow comms’ applications such as WhatsApp and WeTransfer within organisations is growing because employees are filling gaps between corporate channels. Where they don’t enable real-time conversations and problem solving, employees are using their own channels. I hope we will see a future where there is a choice of options for our employees to explore, from voice to chat bots and enterprise social networks.”

It’s reasonable to conclude that reports of the death of email are premature. Of course, different communication channels will work for different organisations; for example, younger start-ups or those in the digital sector may favour ‘real-time’ applications that instantaneously support collaboration and connect workforces over and above email. But overall, far from being replaced by new media, email continues in tandem with it and remains integral to how we communicate at work. And with many organisations still wrestling with the grey area of how far they use social media - in particular Facebook and WhatsApp - to engage employees, for now email remains the safe bet.

So what future for email in a business driven by the strength of human relationships? “The nature of what we do demands human contact, and we love speaking with people,” says Vana Resourcing Co-Director, Jo White. “Therefore our preference is always a phone call, and you can achieve in five-minutes what 10 emails back and forth can give. But whilst it’s a more effective use of our time, it’s not always appropriate or convenient for clients or candidates, for example if we need to send detailed or confidential information such as attachments, a compelling story on the client brand or our write-up on the opportunity. That’s when email comes in. Sometimes we’ll revert to texting (when a quick call-to-action is required, such as confirmation of interest, checking interview availability, or an urgent exchange on offer details), and we’re considering tools that can help us interact more efficiently in these circumstances and ensure our business moves quickly.”

The relationship with email throws up a parallel with another dependency of our time - the motor car. There are alternative ways to travel, and we’re only too familiar with the downside of cost and congestion, but it still dictates how we live. There’s no chance of us giving up the car any time soon, but innovation will eventually change how we drive. And so it’s the case with email. 20 years since it became commonplace at work, and as it comes out of its ‘teens’, likewise maybe our approach to this form of communication will similarly mature.

I’ve worked with the team at Vana on many occasions over the years, engaging them to hire senior talent in a number of businesses. Both Debbie and Jo offer great insight and expertise, but above all they deliver results. I would happily recommend their services.

Scott Fishburn, HR Director, DFS

“Debbie and Jo are high-integrity recruiters who take time to understand organisational needs; commercial and cultural. VANA have worked in partnership with us a number of times, enabling us to secure some excellent senior HR hires.”

John Burgess, Head of Talent & Leadership Development, AXA Group

“I have worked with Debbie both as a candidate having introduced me to ING Direct and Invensys, and as a client supporting me with key hires in both organisations and more recently at DAS.  Both Debbie and Jo are exceptionally well networked, I trust their judgement completely and would highly recommend Vana.”

Kate Banks, ‎Group Director of HR & Legal Services at DAS UK Group

'Debbie and Jo are first class headhunters of HR talent. They take the time to fully understand the brief and culture of the organisation before suggesting any candidates for opportunities. Thank you Vana for sourcing quality hires for my team.'

Helen Norris, Head of HR - Nationwide Building Society

I have worked with Debbie both in the search for talent and also as a candidate, in both situations Debbie has been faultlessly professional. Debbie builds strong relationships exploring briefs to ensure she has a deep understanding of what the business and candidate need, allowing her to deliver a real match.

Ian Marchant, Retail HRD, Greene King plc

Candidate experience is really important to me in recruitment, because that is someone's first experience of an organisation - your organisation. As I see it, the recruiter is part of YOUR brand and their actions impact on YOUR reputation when they act for you. The candidate remembers the experience of applying for a job and not always the recruiter involved.

My experience as a candidate of Jo's was exceptional. Jo kept me informed at every stage, questions were anticipated and I always knew where the process was. Also, Jo was present as a person and not as a remote handler. This shows me that any candidate that Jo places would be treated in exactly the way I'd want them to be. I recommend her without hesitation.

Geraldine Buckland, Director of People, Bristol Water

Debbie and Jo are great recruiters of HR talent; they have successfully worked on a number of key senior hires for us both in the UK and internationally.

Jonathan Wright, Group HRD, Murphy Group

Debbie has recently supported me in securing my first HRD role. Her observations and feedback were very insightful and assisted me greatly in navigating the recruitment process and learning about the company and environment I'll be stepping into. Totally dependable, unbiased and a good judge of character, I would highly recommend her to act on your behalf with prospective employers. I haven't worked with Debbie yet as the employer but wouldn't hesitate to do this if the need arises.

Anita Calverley, HR Director, Yeo Valley Farms

The thing about Vana Resourcing is that Debbie and Jo actually care – about you as a person, your career and your business. Yes they deliver great candidates and opportunities but they make sure that the fit / opportunity is right, challenging both sides in a positive way when needed. They’ve supported my career for the last 10 years, including introducing me to my current HRD role, and I have no hesitation that they will be my first point of call for future candidates and opportunities.

Suzie Noble, Chief People Officer, Brightside

“I have worked with Debbie and Jo several times, they stand out from the crowd as a sourcer of talent and when managing you as a candidate, I simply haven't worked with anyone better. Commercial, thorough, expert and with a sense of integrity that means you are only ever recommended to organisations that suit you - and as a hirer you only get talent that works for your organisation. As a hiring organisation, working with a partner like Vana is simply irreplaceable.”

Head of OD, Vodafone

Debbie brings accurate and current insight on HR Talent. Her ability to recognise top people in their field and actively nurture relationships over a long period of time sets her apart from her peers. Debbie is refreshingly honest , she keeps confidences and is not afraid to challenge both candidates and hiring Executives to ensure the right outcome for all parties. I would have no hesitation in recommending Debbie or Vana Resourcing for a critical HR hire.

Barbara Duffy, International HR Director leading on Talent, L&D, Resourcing,OD

“Debbie introduced me to OVO Energy, and she not only found me the right role, but an organisation whose ethos matched my values.  I have since worked with Vana to recruit almost my entire senior HR team! From HRBP's to a Reward Lead and most recently a HR Director. Vana really understand the importance of culture fit."

Kim Atherton, Chief People Officer, OVO Energy

I have worked with Vana Resourcing for a number of years representing me in my own search and as a client. Debbie and Jo are professional and efficient but unusually for this sector, genuinely caring about both client and candidate experience in equal measure.

Jonathan Edge, HR Director UK & Ireland at Ideal Standard International BVBA

“Jo is highly professional, knowledgeable and proactive. It’s not often that a recruitment consultant really interviews you in the same way a prospective employer would.”

Simon Amesbury, SuperGroup plc

What a refreshing delight to work with a commercial partner who understood my business, had national and regional awareness, a handle on the market, an effortless connection with candidates and could tolerate my Everest-like expectations.

I will continue to work with Debbie and Jo again on my incessant drive to solve the talent conundrum of the coming years.

Keep up the great work, you are a credit to the industry.


Stephen Robson, HR Director, Global O&Supply Chain at Kingfisher plc

"The team and I have worked with Jo now on a number of occasions for various recruitment assignments. I have always found Jo to be consultative and considered in her approach but above all honest and straight forward! She has a great understanding of her market place and is always at the end of the line to offer insight and market knowledge. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Vana and look forward to our continued relationship."

Resourcing Partner, Nationwide Building Society, Resourcing Partner, Nationwide Building Society

I've known Jo for a number of years and worked with her as a client and candidate. What's great about working with Jo is that you're guaranteed an honest perspective and terrific insight to the market. She nurtures her relationships in a natural and engaging way: put simply - she knows her stuff!

Marie Aitken, Chief People Officer

I initially engaged Debbie to undertake a search for a Head of OD. She is consultative in style, and took time to gain a comprehensive insight into our organisational culture and HR journey, delivering an excellent shortlist of candidates and a super hire. The feedback from our candidates on their engagement with VANA has been equally positive. Jo and Debbie has since supported me with several other senior hires within the People organisation at RLG, and we enjoy an effective working partnership.

People & Corporate Affairs Director, Royal London Group

“I have worked with Debbie as both candidate and client. In both contexts I have found her to be super-efficient, thorough and a pleasure to do business with. She listens really well, responds quickly and is flexible to evolving demands. Debbie is up there in my top 3 recruiters.”

Sue Round, Head of Talent and Organisational Effectiveness, BP

I have worked with Debbie and Jo for many years as a candidate looking for opportunities and a manager looking for talent.  I have always been impressed by how Vana strive to ensure that there is the best fit in terms of candidate values and company culture.

Sarah King, Head of HR, Triodos Bank