Most organisations use notices and notice boards to convey much of the information that they feel their employees should have, in order to keep them informed. Unfortunately, very often there is no control over the issuing of notices and many notice boards become swamped, with the effectiveness of new material impaired by numerous old notices, many of which may be well past their effective date. The challenge is to keep notices fresh and uncluttered so that notice boards are read, rather than passed by. This may be easier with electronic notice boards operated via an intranet but research indicates that most people do not like reading on-screen text.

Whether traditional or electronic notice boards are used, the following guidance may be helpful in attempting to keep the messages required to be displayed, fresh and pertinent.

Suggested Checklist

1. To be effective, data for display must be written in the language and for the understanding of the recipient, and be presented in a manner that will attract and retain attention. All notices should be approved for posting by [specify name] who will check that the content meets the above requirements.

Since the item will be posted on the [organisation] notice board, the very fact that it is posted will imply that the [Organisation] has approved the content. Someone at a senior level should therefore provide a check on this point.

2. All notices should bear origination and destruct dates. The destruct date being the date following which the notice should be withdrawn. To minimise notice boards becoming overburdened no notice will remain posted after its destruct date.

3. [Specify] will act as notice board administrator and will keep a register of all notices with origination and destruct dates, together with a master notice board which should show which notices are on display at any one time. (S)he is responsible for ensuring notices past their destruct date are removed.

4. All notice boards are numbered and numbered copies of each notice should be prepared to ensure that a copy of every notice is posted on every board.

5. Each week the administrator will post any required new notices and remove any notices which have passed their destruct date.

6. To aid employee recognition of subject matter, coloured paper will be used, red being used for safety matters, green for disciplinary items, yellow for benefit related topics, blue for social events and white for management initiated items.

7. Notices emanating from employees and/or their representatives will be displayed on the section of each board reserved for [non- organisational] matters. However, such notices will be expected to conform to the foregoing rules and must be controlled by this procedure. They will be required to bear a destruct date, etc. No notice will be posted which is poorly presented, is in poor taste or is in any way against the interests of the [Organisation]. In this respect, the decision of [specify] will be final.

8. Managers and those responsible for conducting team briefings etc.(see QUALITY CIRCLES and WORKS COUNCILS) are expected to check that notices are seen and read as part of the management or cascade briefing system, and to this end will be supplied with a copy of each notice posted.

Permanent Notices
Some notices are required to be displayed permanently by law. It may be preferable to post such notices on separate boards. The difficulty is that because they are permanent they tend not to be 'seen'. The following list of statutorily required notices should be displayed:

1. Certificate of employer's liability insurance (renewed annually). Since 1st January 1999 each certificate has been required to be kept for 40 years.

2. Corporate name and address where documents may be served. This is a requirement for the benefit of third parties rather than employees.

3. Health and Safety policy (permanent).

4. Such notices as are required to be posted under the requirements of the Fire Certificate covering the premises (permanent).

5. Details of how first aid can be obtained/is administered.

6. Factories Act 1961 notice (permanent for factories).

7. Offices, shops and railway premises guide and thermometer (permanent for facilities covered by the guide only).

8. Wages council notices (where applicable).

9. (If a leaflet covering the item is not given to each employee) A notice under Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 - 'What you should know'.

Few writers seem to appreciate that when committing ideas, instructions or guidance to paper, they should always try to compose the item to meet the needs of the target audience. Basically, if the reader does not understand the item written, then it is the writer's fault since they have not presented the information in a format capable of being easily understood by the target audience. Thus, having drafted an item the composer of a notice should review it and possibly even check it for ease of comprehension with a person from the target audience.

For my book 'How to be a great communicator' (Pitman 1995), the following guidance was provided on the presentation of written material derived from research within a number of organisations.

Written information should:

  • be well spaced with good use of headlines, sub-headlines and visual impact (that is leaving plenty of white paper to avoid the page looking too cramped);

  • use bite-sized chunks of text (say not more than 100 words in the average paragraph) so the content is easy to digest;

  • be written in language that is easy to understand at first glance - since only if initial attention is retained may the item be read at all. (This indicates a need to use simple rather than complex sentences.);

  • be presented using lines of type with on average no more than 65 characters (including letters and punctuation marks);

  • written in ordinary everyday English avoiding jargon or if this is unavoidable explaining any jargon as a footnote;

  • avoid presenting data in a way that makes the written page look dense. If it is, it will almost certainly repel the reader rather than attracting them, whereas the whole rationale of a notice is to attract attention - to more swiftly convey the message.