The Management Writing Conundrum
Do you have a crack team, college-educated, who just can’t get their act together with writing? Don’t be surprised. According to Inc. over 25% of college graduates lack good writing skills.
If your business hires college grads, you may still have a staff writing deficiency. Poor writing prevents clear communication and impacts upon business perceptions.
Internal communications like memos, emails, manuals, and reports guide company policies and procedures. They need to express clear objectives for maximum efficiency. Poorly written messages may mislead staff, resulting in system breakdowns and inefficiencies.
External communications like web pages, email sequences, and social media channels represent your brand. Inadequate writing reflects negatively on your business brand perception. Would-be customers may perceive poor writing as inattention to detail and a laissez-faire attitude toward your products and services. If you don’t care about spelling or grammar, do you care about your product?
Help Employees Write Well
Clear writing fosters brand identification and trust. Human resources technology company, CakeHR, recently said:
...helping employees improve their writing skills helps them to feel more secure because they know exactly what is needed of them. It also makes your departments more efficient and increases the success of your marketing campaigns.
The good news is, you can help your employees become better writers. Improving corporate writing requires time and money, but it's worth it. Your business will join others facing the same issue – investing in your team's writing will stop you from falling behind.
The Inc. study also found:
Blue chip businesses are spending as much as $3.1 billion on remedial writing training – annually. Of this budget, $2.9 billion was spent on current employees – not new hires.
Assess Your Team
Before you begin writing training, take the first step to assess the current writing skills of your employees. Assessing writing involves two separate evaluations:
- Substance: the content of the document
- Syntax: the style of the language used in the document
Substance refers to the content and organization of topics and ideas in the document. It is the aspect of writing that distinguishes a well-written text from a poor one. Essentially, it’s your employee’s ability to skim information and data to prepare content with only relevant information.
Use these four indicators to measure the substance of writing:
- The content matches audience awareness. It’s not too difficult for beginners, or too elementary for advanced users.
- It is customized to the reader/target audience.
- It is logically organized with headings, subheadings, and bullet points.
- It is sequenced, with transitions between thoughts and a logical flow of ideas.
The language in the document comprises the syntax. Aspects of syntax include:
- Grammatical errors
- Correct verb tense use – e.g. active or passive
- Sentence structure
- Spelling errors
Employees who are strong substance writers may still have syntax errors. While substance evaluation is challenging, syntax is easy to evaluate. Syntax errors are also simple to fix.
Check Your Team's Writing With Editing Software
ProWritingAid's editing tool will allow you to assess which areas of your team's writing need the most work.
Run some writing samples through the editor to generate a Summary Report. This will highlight readability issues, repetition, lack of sentence length variation, and more.
By working out which areas most need improvement, you'll be able to start planning a tailored training program that will make the most improvement in the shortest amount of time.
Your assessment will provide accurate details regarding employees' writing skills. To improve writing and help employees who currently struggle with substance, syntax, or both, implement an employee training program.
Your business has three choices for implementing a writing training program:
1. Internal training: train and mentor employees with current staff members
2. External training: hire a business writing trainer/expert to train employees
3. Build up in-house training: hire a business writing trainer/expert to train certain staff members as writing mentors
Option 1: Internal Training
Internal training takes time and requires a business writing expert on the staff. Just because someone is a strong writer, does not mean they will function well as an instructor. You need someone with instructional experience because they will break down employee documents for syntax and content.
If you identify someone with expertise and experience and want to appoint them as an instructor, they will need to let go of their current role. Then, you will need to replace them with a new employee to take over their current tasks.
Option 2: External Training
Although hiring a writing coach for employees is an expenditure, you will assure results. Your business keeps current employees on task. A professional trainer also will improve efficiency of writing, so your employees will become more productive.
Take steps to find the right instruction program for your business:
- Credentials: identify the training experience and corporate success of the trainer
- Program structure: What components of writing are included? How are materials delivered?
- Customized training: Can the instructor tailor training to your business needs?
- Ongoing support materials: What materials does the trainer offer for continued education?
- Flexible delivery options: make sure the preferred learning styles of employees are met
Explore options, methods, and materials during the recruitment process to identify the best trainer for your business.
Option 3: Build Up In-House Training
Hire a trainer to work with a select management team to mentor employees. Your business will benefit by incorporating excellent in-house writers to mentor other staff members. The trainer's focus will be how to mentor other employees to improve their writing skills.
The management team will then mentor employees by:
- Modelling business writing so that employees can follow management style
- Incorporating writing skills as a component of performance evaluations, nurturing those employees that need improvement
- Establishing a regular review of sample emails, reports, and other documents to maintain strong employee writing
Use Software to Keep Writing Consistent
Everyone on your team will have different skills, areas of expertise, and writing styles. This is great – you want to be able to assign people to work that they will be best suited to in order to get the best results. But, when it comes to your team's writing, there are some areas that you want to keep consistent.
Every organization has certain writing standards that they want their team members to follow. Maybe your CEO has an unusual name that people often misspell, or you use acronyms that need to be punctuated correctly every time. Enforcing these standards across a team can be very difficult. Writing a detailed style guide may seem like a great first step – but ensuring employees use it (or even look at it) is another thing entirely.
ProWritingAid's custom style guide allows you to automate your rules so that your team’s writing is always on-brand.
Let's say someone at Google wanted to make sure their team was spelling the CEO's name correctly. They can add the rule to their style guide:
And a message will appear if anyone in their team uses the wrong spelling!
Easy! Now you can be confident which mistakes your team won't make, and use those trainers you hired to help with more important issues like developing your brand's individual voice.
Support your entire team with a ProWritingAid business account. Every member of your team will have access to the writing style check to apply to every document, and access to multiple reports to help overcome writing weaknesses like grammar, spelling, syntax, and readability improvements. Discover how we can solve your writing needs. Explore our reports.
Good Writing Takes Practice
The type of coaching and training you choose for your business depends on budget, time available, and your business writing improvement goals. Whichever route you choose, the end result will be professional-standard internal and external documents that reflect the quality of your business while increasing employee productivity.