When we think about great writers, we do not make any analogies with marketing.
But this story is about how a group of bank experts at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia has significantly improved the clarity and effectiveness of their written records.
The Case of the Bank of Philadelphia
250 people control commercial and retail banks located in their area. They write detailed reports to the heads of banks and boards of directors, indicating the changes that must be made to fulfill state banking norms.
Bank employees who create these reports are experts in banking regulation, and not in writing. Many employees work on reports, skipping from a review of the review several times in a few weeks. Such a process does not promote clarity and clarity, it even hinders to write well. Such an approach can cause a lot of confusion, so it is extremely important to focus on transferring important information to the target audience. As a result, bank managers need to understand what problems they need to eliminate.
The Philadelphia Federation hired Jessica Weber to improve the work of bank employees – focus on productivity, streamline the analysis process and make the documents as a whole more clear and understandable.
The technique that Weber used to improve the compilation of documents at the bank is unusual for the corporate world, but is common in colleges and universities: it is a writing technique.
In the university environment the writing center is a place where students can work with the teacher to improve their writing style (Weber was an assistant to the writer’s center director at the University of Salisbury, where she received her master’s degree). In coaching centers, two objectives are usually pursued: to improve the edited document and to teach the best methods of writing.
In the Philadelphia Federation, Weber decided to apply the same methods of coaching to bank employees. When the 23-year-old girl entered the bureaucratic organization, she faced some skepticism. Employees were incredulous about the fact that the letter could somehow improve their reports. But the managers from the federation were inclined to its unconventional approach.
Weber made several careful selections before launching the program:
- The program was voluntary. This guaranteed that no one would perceive sending to the writers’ center as a kind of punishment or coercion on the part of their leaders.
- The feedback was in person or by phone. Weber edited the work of the staff, tried to evaluate one draft for half an hour. She used special techniques for this.
- The feedback was anonymous. Except in rare cases, the results of written works were not advertised. This allowed the participants in the program to speak more openly about the problems that they were having.
- The Writers’ Center encouraged repeated visits. About 63% of those who came to the training, returned to the next lecture. They concluded on the results.
To prove that the program worked, Weber and her managers have found ways to compare the quality of the letter before and after coaching. Looking at 20 samples of works before and after the training, positive dynamics and changes were visible. To eliminate bias and subjectivity, the writing center removed the names and surnames of bank employees from the samples.
The ratings showed:
- 36% improvement in the overall quality of text documents,
- 56% improvement in report structure,
- 48% improved clarity of presentation,
- 38% improvement in the textual analysis of the situation,
- 20% improvement in grammar.
These results convinced the Weber managers that the program works. Now the writing center has expanded and includes a second letter consultant, and the center has completed more than 400 written consultations.
Taking over the experience
Does your organization need to improve the quality of internal and external documentation, increase the level of writing skills and literacy of employees?
The writing center can improve the culture of writing in any company.
What is to be done?
- Believe in the effectiveness of writing improvements. Problems with writing destroy the performance of your organization. Poorly written materials leave a negative impression on your customers.
- Collect similar authors. Weber’s program worked partly because the work of specialists in the banking sector is not too different. The same can apply to technical writers, analysts or people who are engaged in copywriting. When you have several similar “authors”, you can develop a set of criteria, materials and teaching methods to help them.
- Create a voluntary program, which is encouraged by management. Perhaps, a compulsory program for the staff will also work, but the voluntary program will gather around them motivated people. We need to make sure that those who voluntarily pass the program receive any benefits, then the information will reach the rest of the staff, they will also be interested. But you will not achieve anything until managers see the value of the program and join it.
- Focus on editing. “Letter training” does not sound very attractive. But editorial coaching sounds quite different. Editing will help in the work of documents, and the results will be clear, they can be evaluated.
- To draw conclusions. Unqualified success is not enough; Try to reasonably prove that you managed to raise the level and effectiveness of written communication in the team. Weber’s program did this, which is why she received a license allowing her to conduct similar coaching in other organizations.
The Writing Center is an effective way to raise the company’s text culture. As a result, each employee will spend less time deciphering obscure messages, and more time to achieve business goals.