Communication. It is something we do every day. Whether it is a personal conversation or a teleconference or something we post on social media, we are communicating. Some do it better than others, and some do it so poorly that it reflects negatively on how we perceive them.
A lot of our communications come in the form of verbal contact, but a significant amount of how we reach out to other people occurs through some form of writing. The high number of emails we send out, the social media posts we write for our businesses, the reports we prepare for our businesses – they are all important and require a high level of professionalism.
Many people are quick to dismiss the importance of being able to write effectively, but they are routinely people who fail to use writing to their advantage. Long before Edward Bulwer-Lytton stated that the “pen is mightier than the sword,” it has been known that words can be a much more dangerous weapon than the physical symbols of violence of each generation. A young teenager getting beat up might hurt their feelings for a day or so. Posting something negative on social media about them could destroy them more than you could ever imagine.
Look around you. Do you feel that writing has improved or fallen by the wayside as you get older? Do you see signs of quality writing when you read tweets or text messages from friends or family? Does it get better or worse when you read “LOL” or “OMG” in an email sent to you at work?
CollegeBoard, a panel established by the National Commission on Writing, reported that blue-chip businesses are spending $3.1 billion on training employees on remedial writing. The bulk of that money is spent on current employees.
The report doesn’t take into account those small businesses out there that clearly don’t focus on writing. Whether it is a language barrier, lack of education or just a lack of time or effort put into the writing end, there are numerous small businesses that just don’t seem to get it done on the writing end.
But considering that top businesses are hiring employees that have poor or diminished writing skills is just short of embarrassing. Given the need for employees to be able to communicate via email or reports or even proposals, the ability to write should be among the most important skills considered when businesses are making hiring decisions.
So, the next time your employees send you emails that make you cringe or cause you to re-read the message so you can understand what exactly was written, just remember the choices made when it comes to making hiring decisions. Writing is a skill that is still at a premium in the world we live in and it is the job as an employer to recognize that and build around that knowledge.