How do you help an employee with writing problems?

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Have you ever made a bad hire? Of course you have. But a bigger question remains: How do you help an employee with writing problems if you don’t want to fire them?

Not everyone knows how to write. But if you’ve hired someone to do that kind of work for you and they can’t manage it, how do you cope? Many employers want to throw such people out the window. And if that doesn’t work they’ll throw them into a course.

While this is marginally better than doing nothing, it’s not likely to solve your problem. Here’s the difficulty with courses: They are designed for the vast, mushy middle. That’s the nature of school (or most webinars, in fact). Put 20 people in a classroom and they’ll all have different strengths — and different weaknesses — and the teacher is going to have to figure out how to play to them. He or she may take a “majority” approach (most people can’t do X so I will teach X) or  may simply teach what he/she thinks is most important, the real needs of the students be damned.

If you have an employee with writing problems and you don’t want to fire that person, then your best bet is to get them some one-on-one coaching. A coach can quickly ID the problems and then teach directly to them. Be aware that the problem might not be what you think it is. For example, I find that many corporate writers don’t know how to interview. A brief skills session on how to conduct better interviews often leads to a dramatic improvement in writing. This is because   writers who are able to collect excellent raw materials are able to make their stories come to life.

If you think one-on-one coaching is too expensive, then consider the cost of not fixing the problem. Or the cost of having to fire (severance if they’re outside the probation period) and rehire (advertising, your time and the nuisance factor).

Training is one of the costs of doing business. It also improves employee loyalty.


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