As a business owner, you understand the importance of having your company’s written communications convey a positive impression: knowledgeable, trustworthy, and professional. But let’s face it, aiming for excellence is one thing, actually pulling it off is a whole different ball game.
According to Josh Bernoff’s scoop in the Daily Beast, poor writing is costing U.S. businesses a jaw-dropping $400 billion every year! Yep, that’s billion with a ‘B.’ And guess what? Bad writing isn’t just burning money; it’s dragging down productivity too. No business owner wants that, right? So, how do you help your employees improve business communications and increase productivity? Here are a few tips that might just do the trick!
1. Provide flexible templates for email communications
If you ask workers which written items they spend the most time on, email is likely to top the list. It’s not unusual for employees to spend a lot of time drafting outgoing messages and responding to incoming emails. Why not make life easier for them with some email templates? Whip up a document with ready-to-go content they can pull from and tweak as needed. No more reinventing the wheel every time they hit ‘compose’ and you’ll be helping to improve business communications.
2. Create a tip sheet to make it easier to “hit the mark”
Reports, docs, website content – oh my! Starting these bad boys can be a real struggle. A blank screen can intimidate many people, evoking responses that range from procrastination to panic. This not only leads to reduced productivity, but also results in a poorer quality product that doesn’t reflect well on your business.
So, how about a handy tip sheet? Give your employees a roadmap to tackle the daunting task of creating a masterpiece. The tip sheet should offer practical, useful advice designed to support the employee and improve both the process and the product. Here are a few ideas to help you create your own tip sheet.
- Most people need a little time to get warmed up when they start writing. To get going, suggest that your team members start with the easy stuff they know well, like the middle or conclusion. Then, they can tackle the intimidating beginning once they’re warmed up.
- Include suggestions to make the task less daunting. For example, team members can check out past reports or docs for inspiration on format and tone. In many cases, it’s easier to replicate something that was effective than to start from scratch. This also promotes consistency.
- Remind your employee to think about the audience and how much information they need. Too much info overwhelms, too little means more work later.
- Encourage your employees to give their first draft a rest, then revisit it the next day with fresh eyes. It’s like magic – errors pop up, and improvements flow. It’s also helpful to have them team up with a co-worker who can proof-read the draft. It tends to be easier to proof-read others writing.
3. Improve business communications with a style guide
Style guides may sound like fancy pants stuff, but trust us, they’re game-changers. A style guide typically includes:
- commonly used words and phrases and indicates how these should appear
- formatting information; such as how bulleted lists should be formatted, rules for capitalizing headings in website content. This increases productivity by reducing the amount of time the employee spends deciding the “right” way to do something.
You may want to develop your own style guide or adopt an existing guide; several are widely used, including the Associated Press Stylebook and APA Style. Some are available online for free and others require a subscription.
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4. Plan ahead and build in time for review and revisions
Deadlines creeping up? Avoid the panic mode by planning ahead. It’s important to get your managers on board with this approach. Build in margins of safety are critical so important documents and content are not produced in a crunch, which typically results in errors, frustration, decreased morale, and a poorer quality product. While this approach may sound like it delays deliverables, it actually increases productivity and improves business communications.
5. Get your team members opinions’ on how to improve business communications
Setup check-in sessions to let your employees spill the beans on what’s working and what’s not. Listen carefully to their suggestions for improving and streamlining content and communications production. These meetings can be informative, build morale, strengthen teamwork, and improve effectiveness and efficiency.
In summary, these tips might seem like no-brainers, but you’d be surprised how many businesses miss the mark. Solid planning, attention to detail, and a sprinkle of creativity can be the key to help employees improve business communications and increase productivity. Looking for other opportunities to increase productivity? Check out our other blog articles on productivity and employee management.