What is good writing really worth? We know that writing can drive improved business outcomes, but is it possible to actually model the direct return on investment (ROI) of improved writing?
This is a tricky question because much of the benefit of greater skill in producing written documents is difficult to quantify, or the financial benefits manifest in unpredictable or untrackable ways. For example, if clearer, simpler documents make it easier for end-users to find information, staff have more time to devote to revenue-generating tasks. That can be very difficult to quantify, however.
So, our question today isn’t trying to develop a universal ROI calculator that can assess all the value that more skilled writers can produce – because we already know they can produce a lot of value.
Instead, we want to focus on a much more specific question: the relationship between speed of writing, writing skills training, and return on investment. If we assume that a more skilled writer can produce written documents faster, what cost savings and ROI will skills’ development for an organization’s writers generate? Spoiler alert: it’s shocking how quickly the cost benefits aggregate.
- Step 1. Determine the cost of the training. First, we need to know the number of people to be trained. Here, we’re going to assume a class of 10 manager-level staff members. Then figure out the cost of training. This can vary widely, so always inquire, but the Association for Talent Development’s State of the Industry Report suggests an average annual training cost per employee of $1,252, so we’ll use that figure.
- Step 2. Determine the average annual salary of the trainees. As of this writing, Salary.com lists the average salary of a sales manager as $123,551, so we’ll use that as our basis.
- Step 3. Determine the time spent writing. This is where the calculation can start to get tricky, because it can be hard to tell how many hours people spend writing – and easy to undercount. According to “The State of Business Writing” report, the average business writer spends 20.4 hours each week writing, which we’ll round down to 4 hours per day.
- Step 4. Determine the annual labor cost of writing. Here’s where we start to get into the calculations. If we have 10 people at $123,551 spending half their day writing – emails, memos, reports, proposals, procedures, marketing, sales materials, etc. – over the course of the year the labor required to produce all that writing adds up to an eye-watering $617,755 just for writing, just from those 10 people.
- Step 5. Calculate the time savings from improved writing skills. Though actual outcomes vary widely, in our experience it’s reasonable to expect writers to shave about 25% off their total writing time by improving their writing skills. A skilled writer simply writes faster and requires fewer total rounds of editing and revisions. That yields an annual cost savings for our 10 managers of over $154,439!
A brief note before we proceed to Step 6: Though we’re not incorporating opportunity costs or revenue generation into our calculation here, it’s worth taking a moment to think about them. By improving the speed of writing, we’re not just talking about time saved but also time reallocated. If those sales managers are spending an hour less each day writing, that’s an extra hour for finding new customers and making more sales.
Additionally, better writing itself is going to produce better results, e.g., better-written sales proposals will make more sales. We just want to emphasize that time saved is not the only way to think about ROI, it’s just the easiest to quantify. If each sales manager made one additional sale each month, quarter, or year because of the additional time they’ve opened up, how much would that be worth to your organization?
- Step 6. Now let’s get at the direct ROI of faster writing. If we’ve spent $12,520 to train those managers (again, a figure that can diverge wildly depending on circumstances) to produce $154,439 in labor savings, then we’ve generated 1,233% ROI over our initial investment.
Now it’s your turn! We did our best to plug in reasonable numbers, but your team and circumstances are unique and will necessitate varying the figures to align with your organization. If you’d like help figuring out the ROI, please reach out for more information – we can help you figure out the right numbers for your specific situation.
|Steps 1||Step 2||Step 3||Step 4||Step 5||Step 6|
|Determine the total cost of writing training.||Determine the average annual salary of trainees.||Determine time spent writing each day.||Determine the annual labor cost of writing.||Calculate 25% time savings from faster writing.||Compare cost savings over the training expense.|
|$12,520||$123,551||4 hours/day||$617,755||$154,439||1,233% ROI|