How much do poor writing skills cost?
A lot. Well-known writing expert Josh Bernoff has quantified the cost of poor writing for US businesses at $396 billion. Yes, billion.
However, the full effects of poor writing skills may not be quantifiable to that level of precision. As Bernoff notes, “Poor writing creates a drag on everything you do.” Some of the drag — the consequences —are both very real and impossible to put dollar amounts on. That’s true of several of the following consequences that we examine in a new white paper (direct access, no registration required), “The Consequences of Poor Writing”:
- Poor writing costs sales and business
- Poor writing costs time
- Poor writing can damage morale and undermine respect in the workplace
- Poor writing can hurt your organization’s brand
- Poor writing can be dangerous
- Poor writing means lost ideas
One other area where poor writing imposes significant costs: your employees. Poor writing skills have serious talent-related consequences that are worth considering in more depth. In this post, we look at five such employee-related costs of poor writing skills and five ways in which writing skills development can help.
When Your Team Writes Better, Everyone Wins
What are the costs of poor writing skills for employees?
1: Lower Employee Productivity
When workers and managers spend time trying to understand poorly written materials or extensively editing poorly written materials, that’s time they aren’t spending on other tasks. Additionally, employees who struggle to write often take an inordinate amount of time working on emails and other written materials. Again, this is time that that could be spent on other tasks.
2: Poor Employee Performance
For employees in white-collar jobs, writing is a core part of their work. If they’re writing poorly or ineffectively, they’re failing at a core task, which hurts their overall performance and their value to your organization.
3: High Turnover
Poor performance, as well as low morale (discussed in the white paper), can result in employees leaving your organization or being let go due to ineffectiveness or lack of productivity. Poor writing skills, for example, can result in employees giving poor presentations or can contribute to your sales team’s inability to meet goals.
4: Low Bench Strength
Generally, promoting people to key roles in your organization, such as managerial, isn’t a good idea if their writing skills are substandard. If poor writing skills are pervasive through your organization, you’ll have trouble developing effective managers. The result is either dealing with the consequences of promoting people without the necessary writing skills to succeed as managers, or having to hire new managers from outside your organization. The latter can result in higher recruiting costs and longer time to hire.
5: Reduced Employee Engagement
If these consequences of poor writing are severe in an organization, they can reduce employee engagement which, in turn, can worsen many of the other negative consequences. This is one reason that pervasive poor writing in an organization is a major problem that needs to be addressed.
What is the purpose of improving your business writing for employees?
Coordinate between team members
You need to write to coordinate. If you need to manage or contribute to the efforts of a team, you have to help them understand the scope of your work and what you need from them. Written documents allow your coworkers to review requirements and updates whenever they need to.
Comport themselves professionally
Anyone interacting with your company, from contractors to job applicants, expects it to comport itself professionally. Even if they're not target consumers, how they see your company affects the quality of interactions you have with them. Writing skills enable your people to present themselves – and your organization – with the utmost professionalism.
Retain them over time and build loyalty
One fairly simple solution can help you keep great employees and make your company more attractive to prospective applicants: career development. Offering training, whether through onsite group classes, webinars, or individual online sessions, can yield numerous benefits for your employees and your organization. Inc. Magazine reports that employees see training as a benefit that can promote loyalty in current staff and boost your company image when compared with competing employers. In turn, your company earns a reputation as a great place to work. And your hiring staff might just see an improvement in the quality of applicants. After all, you want the type of talented people who continually strive for improvement.
Identify and correct skill deficits
How can writing skills help you distinguish between good and bad employees? They can help you to identify and address deficits and problem areas – especially poor writing skills – in your workforce. Time and again, managers and professional staff alike report that writing tops their lists of capabilities that need polishing. The National Commission on Writing report, which surveyed 120 U.S. corporations, dubs writing a “threshold skill” for employment as well as promotion. Half of respondents considered writing ability when hiring professionals, even going so far as calling it “your ticket in [or] your ticket out.”
Improve critical thinking skills
Here's something many frustrated team leaders might not realize: good writing isn't about grammar. It's about applying critical thinking skills. Research has even found that complex writing may help critical thinkers further improve their critical thinking skills. While many daily tasks require minimal processing (automatic or fast thinking), complex writing projects require more effort. The study "Learning to Improve: Using Writing to Increase Critical Thinking Performance in General Education Biology" reveals that although writing doesn't teach critical thinking by itself, the act of writing a complex document can actually hone those critical thinking skills.
The ultimate purpose of improving your business writing is to strengthen your workforce.
Poor writing impacts entire organizations, including talent. It’s why more organizations are turning to corporate writing training as a solution, especially as they understand both the costs of poor writing and the benefits of effective writing.
Your team’s writing doesn’t have to stink.
Help your team write more effective documents in less time!
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To learn about the benefits of effective writing, read our white paper (direct access—no registration required) “The ROI of Effective Writing.”