Memos for Workplace Communications

At this time when the COVID-19 pandemic has overturned the usual way we do business, we are faced with multiple overwhelming changes that make requires a lot of communication. If we are to drive people toward success in the middle of this crisis, it is important to keep them informed at all times. They need to know about new business strategies and considerations. If you are an HR practitioner, memos will be your good friends.

These are one of the most common and simple means of communications in the workplace which provides a short and direct communication to your staff in regards to important matters and reminders. There are two reasons why we create a memo: to bring attention to issues and to solicit actions toward issues. Memos are used to share updates and new processes within the company. They can also be used when providing more information about company decisions. They can also provide information for trivial items that people need to be reminded of, for example, cleaning up the pantry sink after use. Memos are truly versatile and important so everyone needs to know how to write them professionally and with clarity.

Here are some tips that may prove helpful when you are creating your memo.


  1. Purpose Must Be Clear and Brief.

 When creating memos, it is critical that you use simple words and phrases. Your purpose is not to impress people with your wide vocabulary, instead you want them to take action on certain workplace issues and reminders. It is okay to use jargon only when you know that the intended readers will be able to understand the message despite using these. When using acronyms, it is also good to define these so that everyone can fully understand, for example, it is better to write down “To Be Announced” than put TBA and get too many employees asking the same question. Using simple words can definitely make more impact for your memo.

 Other than clarity, it is important to have brevity. This means that your memo should not take too much of other people’s time to read. Get the fewest number of words you can to express the most number of thoughts. There must not be any room for words that do not add meaning. Putting such as, as a matter of fact, needless to say, in terms of, the fact that, in order to, all of the, at the end of the day, are some phrases that may either be eliminated from your memo or shortened using a word. As most writers would say, KISS – Keep it short and simple!

  1. Audience-Focused

 Memo is not creative writing, therefore it should be made with your reader in mind. You need to clearly determine what kind of readers are going to find your memo on the pantry wall or wherever you may post them. You need to use this information to decide the overall tone of your memo. For example, if you know that your readers are likely managers, you must use a formal tone with much attention to details. If you are targeting a group of sales person to convince them to send their sales reports on time, you may need to use a bold tone that can persuade them to act quickly. If you know that your employees are too busy at work, you will want to create memos with two or three quick sentences so that they do not need to read for a long time where your posted memo is. What words can your reader most clearly understand? What can they easily relate to? There are many other factors you can consider, but writing for your reader and not yourself  is one of the most important things to keep in mind in writing a high-impact memo that achieves its purpose.

  1. Objectivity

 Your memo should not have opinion, preferences, emotional language, and subjectivity. Saying, “The management would truly appreciate if everyone can wear the proper protective gears before entering the laboratory…” is less than ideal. Instead say, “The management requires the use of proper protective gears when entering the laboratory.” This sends a very clear sense of the action that you would like the employees to take. The first sentence makes it appear like it is a mild request where employees still have the prerogative to follow or not. If you want people to take action, do so.

Emotions should also not be present in a memo. Saying, “Our manager was very angry with the late submission of reports last months. Please do not disappoint him further by repeating the same this month. All reports need to be submitted on time.” Is very counter-productive. Some people may take it the wrong way. Saying, “Please submit all reports on time to avoid delays in processing” could replace the entire paragraph. This also provides a more objective deliver of information that should call for action.

  1. Friendly but Professional

 While it is okay to have a formal tone for the content of your memo, it is a much more informal approach to sharing information in the workplace. Compared to a business letter, it has a more relaxed and easy-to-follow structure. It is sometimes used to address unofficial speculations from the grapevine, so it only makes sense that it should be much more forward and relatable for your employees. Being informal, all the other tips can be easily achieved as you do not need highly technical terms when creating it.

At this time of crisis, it is definitely important that we keep communication lines open while considering social distancing. One possible way of sharing information without having to consistently call a meeting is through memos. Any HR or professionals in the area of leadership need to make sure that their skills in creating memos is in tip-top shape so that information can effectively be passed on to employees as we go through various changes in the way we work.

If you would like to refine your Memo Writing Skills, you may also attend our webinar sessions on Business Writing: Creating Memos, Emails, and Other Office Communications. Our next Communications for HR e-Workshop will be on 5 June 2020. For more details, you may contact us through the following:

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