Write for Business - Blog

UpWrite Press understands the importance of writing skills in business: We're business people just like you. On this blog you'll find tips to improve your writing, along with topics of interest to our staff.

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Write for Work

Our newest book Write for Work, a practical guide to writing and communicating in the workplace. This 8½ x 11 inch work-text is designed specifically to teach writing, grammar, and communication as it applies to the workplace.

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    Business Writing in the Information Age: The 2020 Workforce

    Wednesday, February 08, 2012

    More than half of the U.S. workforce will be independent by 2020, according to a forecast by consulting firm MBO Partners. That's 70 million people, compared to a reported 16 million today. Members of this expanding independent workforce include

    • people with fixed-term contracts,
    • freelance consultants,
    • people working through temp agencies,
    • on-call workers, and
    • business owners with fewer than five employees.

    Nor is this increasing shift simply a matter of a depressed economy. Among those currently independent, the vast majority say they intend to stay so.

    The 2020 forecast makes four further predictions:

    1. The future workforce will reflect a "growing demand for experts and seasoned skilled workers," including people aged 55 and up, who are moving their on-the-job knowledge to independent careers.
    2. "Independence [will be] fueled as new social communities and collaborative technologies continue to rise."
    3. State and federal governments will respond with "increased regulation and tighter enforcement" of labor laws.
    4. "Independent workers will require a 'passport for independence'" to carry benefits such as retirement and healthcare from project to project, employer to employer.

    Seasoned Skills
    Obviously, one of the "seasoned skills" mentioned is clear communication, especially given increased "social communities and collaborative technologies." Writing skills will be especially valuable. While increased bandwidth and interconnectedness will certainly improve videoconferencing, scheduling meetings won't be any easier (especially across time zones). Nor will need for textual documentation decrease.

    As people use cloud computing and shared applications more extensively—working on project documents at whatever time best fits their schedule—they'll undoubtedly leave notes for one another, connecting in real time only for brainstorming or clarification. Naturally, the better the written communication, the less the need for clarification.

    Implications for Individuals
    Implications for individual workers are clear: Learn to communicate well, including in writing, and adapt to evolving technologies.

    Implications for Businesses
    Businesses will also need to prepare, of course. Beyond putting new technologies in place, they'll need to establish best practices for communicating with this independent workforce. Some of their own full-time employees may become independent contractors, so training invested in them will pay off in the long run.

    As Ben Cashnocha points out in "When Talent Can Easily Find New Opportunity, How Do You Retain Talent?" by fostering employee skills—even knowing those employees may then move on—companies encourage an alumni spirit, create goodwill ambassadors, and expand their own business connections. Weigh the cost of training against these benefits, together with the reduced overhead of a smaller office, and the equation looks pretty simple.

    This then is a glimpse at the working world of the near future. The Information Age is truly dawning. It's an era of networking and communication. Are you ready?

    —Lester Smith

    Photo by Ross Angus

    What’s my motivation?

    Wednesday, August 11, 2010

    That’s more than just a line from a method actor. In business it’s the customer’s unspoken question. In writing it’s the reader’s “Why should I care?” In training it’s the audience’s “How does this apply to me?”

    As the San Francisco Chronicle reports, educators in California are experiencing remarkable results from addressing this question with a “Linked Learning” program. When math, writing, science, and so on are taught within the context of students’ career interests, those students perk up, pay attention, and more easily grasp what is being taught. The U.S. Department of Education’s new Elementary and Secondary Education Act parallels this idea with its own call for “college/career ready programs.”

    UpWrite Press’s Write for Work takes that same common-sense approach, asking trainees to practice writing within the context of their own jobs. (Career-path students are asked to write for a company where they wish to be employed.) Workplace forms, e-mails, memos, business letters, summaries, instructions, reports, and proposals are all covered in this fashion.

    If you’re a trainer, we highly recommend tailoring your presentations and exercises to each audience in this way. Instead of showing hypothetical examples of memos and instructions, get your audience involved by presenting them with real-world situations. Write for Work provides plenty of direction in that regard, and for a limited time, trainers can apply for a free review copy.

    - Lester Smith

    Photo by Apenas imagens - Marília Almeida

    If They're Not Listening . . .

    Wednesday, July 14, 2010

    Recently on Facebook I saw a post about a new study accusing not only TV but also video games of interfering with students' ability to concentrate on schoolwork.

    It was followed by a biting response along the lines of "Who could have predicted, given a choice between self-directed problem solving in an imaginative video environment, and dull rote-work for no apparent reason in school, young people would prefer to spend time with games."

    Of course, it's not just school children. Adults around the world are being accused of too much TV time, too much Internet, too much texting, and too short an attention span in business meetings or training sessions.

    It's time to face facts. The problem isn't a generational lack of focus. It's that the old lecture model of conveying knowledge has outlived its usefulness. Information today is expanding too rapidly for any one person to take it all in, evaluate it, and try to pass it along to others. By the time trainees receive it, it's old news. That it's presented in a hypothetical example just makes it more pointless.

    What's needed is a mentor model that teaches how to find information, evaluate it, and apply it. Trainees need to be empowered, not merely certified.

    The first step is to make training matter to them. A high school student learning "f of x" to calculate a tennis ball's trajectory during a robotics competition is better prepared to understand calculus than if she were staring at a theoretical problem on a page. So too is an employee better able to learn effective writing while working on an actual memo for his company than while watching a trainer point out features on a white board. The closer a trainer can get to that real-world experience, the more quickly a trainee can perceive the gap between his own writing and truly effective writing, allowing him to step across.

    Do you have any tips for making training real instead of hypothetical? If you speak to groups, what tricks do you use for getting the attendees involved? We'd love to hear your comments.

    - Lester Smith

    Photo by Orange Beard