What’s the best way to communicate with a coworker?
The answer depends on what you’re looking to share. You might talk to them in person, send them an email, message them via an app like Slack, or even write them a note.
One method for communication that’s been around since the 1800s is the memorandum, or the memo. In the workplace, this is a formal form of communication where you can send out official information and important policies for organizational development.
Let’s dive into the memo, the elements of a good memo, and how HR can best utilize it.
Breaking Down The Basics of a Memo
A memorandum, commonly known as a memo, is an official document used for internal business communication. Its purpose is to quickly and effectively alert employees about important information in a concise manner.
Memos can play a valuable role in countering poor communication within organizations, which is a significant challenge to organizational development. When widespread, poor communication can lead to issues such as "quiet quitting" and decreased employee morale.
By utilizing memos, you can enhance communication transparency, maintain improved record-keeping, and minimize disruptions while keeping your team well-informed. Other advantages of using memos for official internal communication include:
- Increased transparency: When you document changes or policies in a memo, you promote communication transparency within your workplace. Memos serve as a centralized source of official information that can be referred to by everyone in your organization.
- Improved record keeping: Memos create a documented trail of communicated information, which can be valuable for audits and conflict resolution. Having a comprehensive record of official communication allows for easy retrieval of information when needed.
- Lower disruption & ease of creation: Memos are relatively easy to create and distribute. Unlike meetings or message notifications, memos are less disruptive to team members' workflow while still delivering important information effectively.
By harnessing the power of memos, HR leaders can enhance internal communication, foster a more engaging work environment, and ensure that essential information reaches all team members efficiently.
Elements of a Well-Structured Memo
So now that you’re sold on the benefits of using memos, let’s look at how to write a well-structured memo:
A good header gets you started on the right track for your memo. It’s your first impression. A good memo heading will include the date, who the memo is to, who it’s from, and a subject line.
For a great subject line, consider one that’s short and snappy. Shorter subject lines are easier to read. Plus they get your teammates’ attention and let them know already what the memo will be about. Try to get specific! Here are a couple of non-descriptive subject lines unlikely to capture the attention of your teammate:
- “Please read”
- “Important update”
Instead, try these specific subject lines:
- “Parental leave policy updates effective Friday”
- “Information about upcoming company gala next Tuesday”
- “Changed policy for health insurance”
Let your team know what the memo will be about—both for your own documentation and to really show how your information is important.
Once you have a stellar and specific subject line, it’s time to write the introduction. The introduction should be short and to the point—only two to three sentences. This is your time to set the context and introduce the purpose of the memo. The intro can explain the problem at hand and the solution you’re proposing—all right there for your team members to quickly digest.
The body of the memo is where you get into all the nitty gritty details. This section is where you’ll outline everything that your employees need to know. You’ll give background information, outline the plan moving forward, and any other information your team needs. When writing the body of a memo, try to:
- Provide clear and concise information. Keep it clear, right? A memo is for official communication internally, so the entire goal is to transmit information. Keeping your information as clear as possible helps accomplish this. Keep in mind that you only need to include the necessary information because team members can always come to you for more information if that’s relevant to their job.
- Organize information in bullet points or paragraphs. Bullet points are actually essential for readability. They’re going to help information stand out and make it easier for the reader to pick out the important bits. Paragraphs are another great way to increase readability. Don’t just include a wall of text, or you might see some people skipping your memo.
- Use headers and subheaders for easy navigation. Headers and subheadings can also help make your information readable. They’ll signal to the team where certain pieces of information are located, so they can find it there and reference it later.
The conclusion should reflect the intro in brevity, but it’s where you’re going to include actions you need taken and any closing remarks. If you need people to fill out a survey, remind them here. You might also consider including who to reach out to if they have further questions.
Example Memo Template
Those were the basic building blocks of a memo. To get even more into the nitty-gritty of writing a memo, here’s a wireframe you can follow to help you write a clear and effective message.
Section 1: Introduction
- A brief and welcoming greeting.
- A statement that important news and updates are forthcoming.
Section 2: Purpose
- A concise explanation of what the memo is about and why it is important.
- A summary of the key points that will be covered.
Section 3: Details
- A section that provides more detailed and relevant information about the subject matter.
- A list of new policies, procedures, or initiatives, along with the reasons for their implementation.
Section 4: Timeline
- A clear and comprehensive summary of any deadlines, schedules, or timelines related to the updates or changes.
- An explanation of any actions that employees need to take and by when.
Section 5: Call to Action
- A directive that instructs employees what to do next.
- Contact information or resources if they have any questions or concerns.
Section 6: Closing
- An appreciation or acknowledgement of the employees for their understanding and cooperation.
- A sign-off from the HR leader and/or the company’s senior management.
By following this wireframe template, you can draft effective company-wide memos that are precise, informative, and engaging. It can also help to ensure that all employees are informed, engaged, and aligned with the company’s goals and values.
Memo Format Best Practices for HR Managers
Using the memo format in the HR department can be powerful. After all, you’re likely in regular communication with everyone at your company. Since memos are for internal communication, they’re definitely something an HR department can use! We have three tips for making the most of your memos as an HR manager:
- Choose the right tone and language. A memo is typically a formal form of communication, so you want to keep your tone and language formal. These typically use more formal language than a one-off chat with a direct coworker.
- Personalization, address the recipient appropriately. Not every memo will be for everyone at the company, so you’ll want to make sure each memo is addressed to the right audience and recipients.
- Keep memos brief and focused. Some of the appeal of memos is that they are short. It can be good to keep your memo to about a page. That helps ensure most important messages are conveyed.
Tailoring Memos for HR Purposes
When might you use a memo for HR purposes? Here are some times when a memo could be a great way to communicate:
- Employee announcements and updates. When you have new information or any announcements, you want to get that out to everyone at the company. A memo is a concise and official way to do just that.
- Policy changes and reminders. Let’s say you change your vacation leave policy (maybe to unlimited PTO). That’s a change that needs to be communicated. A memo is a quick way to get that information out to people, so they know all of the latest updates.
- Meeting agendas and minutes. Taking notes in meetings helps you remember and know what actions to take. You can send out meeting notes and agendas via a memo for everyone who’s involved in the meeting to help them document their meetings and action items.
- Performance feedback and appraisals. So you’ve gathered all of the performance reviews. Now you need to get that feedback to the employees. A memo is a succinct way to do that and get the information to the people who need it.
- Disciplinary actions and investigations. During disciplinary procedures, documenting information helps you make more objective decisions and be compliant. Memos are a way for you to document information that you’ve communicated.
Support a Positive Company Culture
Memos are one way to improve workplace communication. Effective communication is an important part of creating a positive company culture, but it can’t deliver a positive employee experience on its own.
Your employees also need resources and benefits that truly support their wellbeing, both physically and mentally, which is where a wellness program comes in. There’s a reason 93% of c-suites consider wellness programs important for employee satisfaction!
Talk with a wellbeing specialist today to learn more about how Gympass can simplify workforce wellness.
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The Gympass Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.