Something’s “Wrong” with the Top 12 Employee Learning Content Areas

When we recently read an ERC article on rising trends in employee training and development, we couldn’t help but think that something was “wrong” about this ranking of learning content by content area in the Association for Talent Development’s State of the Industry Report:

  1. Managerial and Supervisory 13.0%
  2. Profession or Industry Specific 10.6%
  3. Mandatory and Compliance 10.3%
  4. Processes, Procedures, and Practices 9.4%
  5. New Employee Orientation 8.1%
  6. Sales 7.6%
  7. Interpersonal Skills 7.3%
  8. Executive Development 6.9%
  9. Information Technology and Systems 6.7%
  10. Customer Service 6.5%
  11. Product Knowledge 6.5%
  12. Basic Skills 5.5%

Where’s writing on the list? We’d argue that no business skill is more important. Perhaps writing falls under basic skills. And perhaps written communication is covered somewhat in some of the other content areas, such as managerial and supervisory, interpersonal skills, and executive development. But there’s no doubt that writing is underrepresented in organizations’ learning priorities—it’s critically important, and needs to be more than “somewhat” covered in training.

Here’s the big issue: poor writing is costing organizations dearly, and many organizations are doing little or nothing about it. Writing expert Josh Bernoff has emphasized the importance of writing by quantifying the annual cost of poor writing to U.S. businesses at $396 billion—and that could be an understatement of the effects of poor writing skills.

Why Do Many Organizations Fail to Provide Effective Business Writing Training for Their Employees?
This is a question we ask ourselves all the time. It’s not that it’s hard to answer, but this failure leaves us shaking our heads. The answer itself has a few components, including

  • Some organizations don’t recognize how important quality writing is for success.
  • Many don’t think writing training can significantly improve employees’ writing (they’re wrong).
  • Others seem to just rely on the educational system to have given employees sufficient writing skills (clearly, this isn’t happening—our observation is writing skills have declined in recent years, likely due to texting and social media).

Why is Effective Writing Critical to Organizations’ Success?
Writing is the primary way business gets done and is done in today’s collaborative world. When it’s done well, business gets done well, and when writing is not done well, it creates a slew of business problems. That’s why we believe it is the most important business skill. Skeptical? Take a look at this small sampling of how effective writing can benefit an organization.

1. Effective writing drives sales.
Marketing copy and proposals play a huge role in the sales process. If poorly written, these materials make your organization seem unprofessional and incompetent, creating a terrible first—and often last—impression. If written effectively, however, they show that your organization is smart and capable, helping you generate more leads and convert more sales.

2. Effective writing boosts your brand reputation.
Most people experience your organization through your written content—your website, your social media, your email blasts, emails, and reports. Writing also heavily influences clients’ experience of your organization, with written communication from or with your employees and your written deliverables both coloring that experience. Clearly, improving writing quality will make a positive difference in how people experience, and therefore view, your organization.

3. Effective writing bolsters efficiency, productivity, and innovation.
What work task, on average, do people in your organization spend the most time on? There’s a good chance it’s writing. What work task do people in your organization struggle the most with? There’s a good chance the answer here is also writing. Improving employees’ writing skills means they do a huge chunk of their jobs better (usually faster, too). And because effective writing means employees are communicating clearly in documents and emails, readers are much less likely to need clarification or to make time-wasting misinterpretations. This efficient communication also ends up improving innovation, as team members collaborate better and fewer delays gum up the process.

4. Effective writing powers quality management.
Effective written communication is an important component of quality management. When managers write clear emails and work instructions, not only are employees more likely to produce the results that managers expect, but it can also improve employee relations because clear managerial communication promotes a collaborative atmosphere.

5. Effective writing aids bench strength and retention.
Because quality written communication is important for good management, helping employees hone their writing skills prepares them to rise in the organization, thereby strengthening your internal talent pipeline, and in turn aiding in retention, as employees are happy that they are learning valuable skills for their career and have prospects for advancement.

For more on the importance of business writing, read our white paper “The ROI of Effective Writing” (no registration required).

If your team needs help honing their writing skills, contact us today! We can create a customized onsite, online, or webinar that’s sure to fit the bill.

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