There is an old saying which goes, “The pen is mightier than the sword,” and therein lies a very powerful message for modern business management.
Written in 1839 by an English author, the sentiment expressed that the written word was a far more effective communication tool than a weapon.
Written over two hundred years ago, it is a lesson that still holds good today, and it would benefit the canny business manager to spend a few moments to ponder its significance.
A low literacy crisis
A study by the US Department of Education in 2020 found that 54% of the adult population of the USA – that is, 130 million people between ages 16 and 74 – lacked proficiency in writing and were graded as reading below a sixth-grade level. When viewed in this light, the question is just how this low literacy level impacts business and the overall economy.
This rightly raises several questions and can be viewed from both the perspective of the employer and employee alike.
Do workers with lower literacy levels in positions involving a high degree of written work output and/or a requirement for high levels of reading and comprehension cope adequately, or do they become unduly overwhelmed or dissatisfied?
Email and written communication
Email is likely to be the second most widely used communication tool after the telephone system for most business concerns. For many organizations, email is likely to be the first contact a potential new client will have with the company.
Based on the quality of outgoing emails, how exactly is the business being perceived by clients and potential new customers? A poor first impression can make or break a business relationship.
Consider providing staff with a deeper understanding of the importance of good communication skills. Ensure personnel makes avail of support applications like ‘Spell Check” or a communications editor like Grammarly. An explanation of how to use grammarly can be found here. For employees involved in the preparation of business letters, contracts, or reports, serious consideration should be given to the implementation of such support applications across the organization.
Social media – the new communication mode
In addition to lower literacy levels, professional organizations also face the intrusion of modern communication culture into the workplace. The mass uptake of social media accounts and communications apps has given rise to the popular use of abbreviations and emoticons, which have steadily found their way into more formal business communications.
Whilst their usage can be deemed acceptable in friendly, informal emails or written communications, the manager should maintain a healthy awareness of general business communication standards.
Deeper staff training and awareness
Given the importance of good business communication skills, management can further assist and equip their staff by providing a deeper level of guidance and training.
Consider providing a guideline to applicable staff members outlining best corporate practices with regards to written and email structure and presentation. The use of support applications to assist staff in meeting these guidelines can be recommended within these documents.
Remember that communication is always a two-way street – assisting staff by providing a support structure can not only assist in raising the bar with client perception, but it can also potentially contribute to improved levels of employee satisfaction.