In business, when writing falls short, it can have a significant ripple effect on productivity. Managers often find themselves in the unexpected role of editors, diverting valuable time from their primary responsibilities. This scenario is far too common and is a major roadblock to efficient operations. Worse, poor writing can damage productivity and business outcomes all by itself.
Just ask FedEx. Their ground operations manual once proved so difficult to read and understand that readers would find the information they needed only about half (53%) of the time. However, after FedEx improved the readability of these manuals, the time taken to find information fell 28%, while the success rate in finding information increased 27%. The result? $400,000 in savings in just the first year, all thanks to improving the quality of written documents.
The Harvard Business Review puts it plainly: “Bad writing is destroying your company’s productivity.”
The Impact of Subpar Writing on Workers
Workers often face significant setbacks in their specific roles due to poor writing skills. For example, they might face an increased labor burden that decreases individual productivity, stemming from:
- Increased Time on Writing Tasks: According to one survey of work-related writing challenges, 38% of workers say they need to write faster. When workers spend disproportionate amounts of time crafting documents, emails, and reports due to inadequate writing skills, overall productivity is hampered.
- Heightened Need for Edits: Substandard writing requires multiple rounds of revisions, an iterative process that is time-consuming and diverts attention from other critical tasks, creating a bottleneck in workflow.
- Miscommunication: Poorly written communications can lead to misunderstandings, necessitating additional clarifications and corrections, further impeding workflow – and potentially impacting willingness to write at all. In fact, one respondent to the survey of work writing challenges said, “Many [of my colleagues] are so bad at writing that they avoid it completely.”
The Impact on Leaders
Managers and other organizational leaders also face an increased work burden due to subpar writing. Or, to put it more plainly, too many managers end up doing their writers’ work for them. For example, it can force them into:
- Roles as Unintended Editors: Leaders find themselves reviewing and editing documents, a task that, while important, distracts them from their core managerial duties.
- Delayed Decision Making: The time spent correcting writings delays decision-making, a critical aspect of leadership.
The Solution: Increasing Efficiency through Professional Writing Skills Development
Central to addressing these inefficiencies is strengthening workers’ writing skills. In fact, improving writing skills can
enhance productivity and generate measurable ROI.
- Time and Labor Savings: First, there's a direct saving in labor costs. For instance, a salesperson who reduces writing time by 25% frees up a quarter of his/her time, which can be redirected towards revenue-generating activities.
- Increased Sales: Second, these time savings can translate into additional sales opportunities. The salesperson saves money by being more efficient and generates more revenue through increased sales activities. This dual benefit – cost-saving and revenue generation – creates a “stacked” ROI, amplifying the overall financial impact on the business. The compounded ROI from these improvements makes a compelling case for prioritizing writing proficiency in the business environment.
- Improved Business Outcomes: Third, enhanced writing reduces the need for a lengthy revision process by streamlining workflow, while simultaneously producing clearer communications. This is how FedEx was able to generate such dramatic cost and time savings: better writing facilitated faster and more accurate information gathering.
The first step in strengthening writing output is implementing a comprehensive writing training program. To ensure this training will reliably—and significantly—elevate writing standards, look for programs specifically designed for your area of need, e.g., professional business writing, engineering writing, technical writing, etc. One-size-fits-all modules that focus primarily or exclusively on only basic considerations such as grammar and punctuation are less likely to produce business results, even if writing output is more grammatically correct.
If you’re ready to level up your organization’s writing capabilities, we’re here to help. Our team of experts can assess your situation, diagnose your writing challenges, and prescribe the perfect course to help you achieve your goals. Contact Hurley Write for a no-obligation consultation about your writing situation today.