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Trying to Help Your Team Become Better Writers?

Five Things You Can Start Doing Today

A jargon-filled email from your team confused a vendor and caused a big project delay. So you arranged some writing training and cleared calendars. It’s a good workshop and everyone goes away energized, promising to swear off the corporate mumbo-jumbo. But the buzz fades, and the good intentions evaporate like so many New Year’s resolutions. Now you feel like you’re back to square one.

Effective communication – it’s the currency of high-performing organizations. Misunderstandings and errors increase when emails and presentations are badly written; teamwork and performance suffer. To fix the problem, organizations often turn to writing training. A one-off workshop can help but it isn’t a magic bullet. Everybody gets busy, team members leave, and the buzzwords and jargon start to creep back into emails.

To make the benefits of writing training stick, it has to be part of a broader effort to highlight the importance of communication. Employees need to see that the organization values clear, concise writing. This cultural shift requires leadership buy-in and support from teams like communications, marketing and human resources. Here are five things you can do to get started:

Run a communications audit: This will give you a snapshot of how your organization is communicating today. You need hard facts and data to convince management that a problem needs fixing. An audit also gives you a baseline to measure future progress.

The audit should include a writing evaluation, surveys and focus groups. Collect a cross-section of communication from different levels of the organization and rate it for clarity and impact. Surveys will give you data on, for example, how much time employees feel they are wasting on poorly written emails. Focus groups add qualitative feedback and a bit more nuance.

Hire people who can write: Organizations test for experience and cultural fit, so why not make sure your next employee has the writing skills they need to be successful? Reviewing a candidate’s resume, cover letter and writing samples can provide insights. But you can’t be sure they didn’t get some help. Give them a writing test that simulates a task they would perform in the role they’re applying for.

Highlight communication in employee orientation: You have new hires with strong writing skills – now set them up for success in a culture that values clear communication from Day 1? Employee orientation is a great opportunity to introduce the company’s mission and values, including the importance of clear communication. Tell new recruits about the resources available to help them with their writing and presentation skills, such as online learning and an in-house editorial style guide.

Provide training and resources: Online training modules and reference materials can offer tips and best practices for good business writing. You can run periodic “refresher” workshops. And your best writers can offer “lunch and learn” sessions or mentor colleagues. An editorial style guide is where your team can find guidance on punctuation, tone of voice, company-specific terms and writing tips. Making your in-house guide available to everyone helps to ensure consistency across all communication channels.

Make sure your executives and managers lead by example: If clear communication is a top priority, then executives and managers must set an example. Long-winded emails from leadership undermine the message; leaders should focus on brevity and simplicity when they write. This sets the tone for the entire organization and reminds employees that writing well will help them reach their career goals.

Creating a culture of clear communication requires a commitment to making writing training part of a broader cultural shift. It starts with solid management support and a toolkit that includes communication audits, writing tests, and plenty of learning resources. If you put these building blocks in place, the lessons will likely stick the next time you run a writing workshop. And you’ll see the difference in performance. So what are you waiting for?

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