create compelling employee communication content

For the past several months, my colleagues and I have been working with a client team to enhance internal communication at a large industrial company. Quite frankly, some improvements we’ve identified are complicated. A few require getting buy-in from senior leaders. One is dependent on IT support. Another will only be effective if HR partners follow a new process.

That’s why it was so cool when we were able to recommend a technique that our clients could make immediately. In fact, one team member told us that after we mentioned it, within five minutes he tried it out—and 15 minutes later, the change was complete.

What is this amazing technique? Using Microsoft’s Readability Statistics function (available in both Word and Outlook).

“Readability” is the quality of written language that determines how easy it is to understand. I’m not going to get into the geeky details here, but I will share three points:

  • The simpler the content, the lower the reading grade level. Most advertising is written at the seventh grade level.
  • When internal communication content is dense and “corporate,” you can bet the reading level is high. For instance, I just edited an organizational announcement written at the 14th grade level. Words were formal, sentences were interminable and paragraphs were endless.
  • Once you’ve determined readability statistics for a piece of content, you can quickly improve your score by taking a few quick steps: Choose simpler words. Be more specific. Reduce the length of sentences and paragraphs. And use bullets, numbered lists and subheads.

Improving internal communication is often hard. But this change? Easy!

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