If anyone tries to convince you that the abbreviated language known as “social media slang” is appropriate for business, DBTS (translated: don’t believe that stuff). I’m not saying that it has no use — it might be helpful if used judiciously in a tweet from your company Twitter account or in a quick text message. But anyone who represents your company needs the capacity to write correctly — and exercise a degree of courtesy and respect during face-to-face communication. Unfortunately, smart phone mania may be robbing younger workers of these abilities, known as “soft skills.”
Of course, during a time when customers want everything right now, employees with 24/7 connection via smart phones can be major assets to your business. But just as you have to train them about the processes that they need to know to do their jobs, you may need to include a little education in soft skills as well.
Re-teach the Basic Writing Skills That They Have Forgotten from School
These days, no one expects electronic messages to be error-free. In fact, now that many email messages are written on smart phones, many people put a tag at the end, warning, “Sent from my smart phone. There will be typos.” But when typos, misspellings or grammatical errors make it into formal business documents such as bids and proposals, your business can be significantly affected. At the very least, unprofessional wording can alienate prospective customers. Even worse, your business can take a major financial hit when an unclear sentence is misinterpreted to your company’s detriment.
Everyone in your company needs to adhere to basic writing standards. They also need to understand that spell check is an absolute necessity, but proofreading is equally important (unless you have managed to remove every dirty term from the word processing dictionary). For formatting and overall tone, you can provide them with samples of great documents or even a style guide for documents. But until they have your complete confidence, have a designated person with strong writing skills review all documents and have the employees make corrections so that they can learn from their mistakes.
Texting Does Not Replace Face-to-Face Communication
The brevity of a 140-character tweet or a text message does not lend itself to highly courteous communication. Tweets in particular are known for their often-snarky tone. But when your employees interact with the public, you don’t want anyone to flash back to a certain soup seller from Seinfeld. Your employees may need a few verbal communication lessons in a safe environment before you release them to represent your company in the real world.
Role play sessions can be fun (or at least tolerable) and educational for employees. Whether you set up activities in lunch sessions (you bring the pizza) or as part of company meetings, everyone can learn something new about interacting with others. You can run the gamut of scenarios — from greeting customers at the door to cold-calling prospective customers. Then, encourage group discussions to gain benefits from the viewpoints of a variety of people with their own personalities and sensitivities.
Everyone Benefits from Feedback
You have probably heard the old adage, “praise in public, criticize in private,” but well-placed public critiques can help improve the communication skills of your entire work force. Unless every employee is a Miss Manners fan, there may be occasions when you receive a valid customer complaint. Of course, you don’t want to gather the troops together to announce that Customer A complained because John said this or Mary did that. But complaints can point out the need for more finesse in one area or another, and everyone can benefit from this type of feedback. By all means, make it public.
Soft Skills Begin in the Workplace
Putting a group of employees in close quarters for 40 or more hours each week can add stress to the environment. Unless you want your workplace atmosphere to resemble a dysfunctional family Thanksgiving dinner, everyone in your company will benefit by learning how to communicate effectively. AAMOF (as a matter of fact), they may be 4ever gr8ful.