WAYNE, PA – June 17, 2014 – According to a recent writing study initiated by two Philadelphia area college interns, employers and undergraduates aren’t on the same page when it comes to both the need for strong writing skills in the workplace, and the quality of Millennials’ writing. These gaps may negatively impact young job seekers’ ability to land a job and their longer-term promotional success. Students entering or graduating college, as well as parents, and teachers, should be aware that these young employee hopefuls can benefit by taking the initiative to develop effective business writing and communication skills early in the game. Just having the writing skills isn’t even enough, but understanding how to apply them appropriately to the workplace could make or break a young new employee.

The study developed to convey to other Millennials what intern Keith Robb, of Temple University, learned from his employer, Pragmaticus, Inc.: “Reliance on autocorrect is fine for spelling; however, it won’t help you get that big promotion because it cannot structure sentences or convey ideas properly.” He and fellow intern, Kayla Cooke from Villanova University, gathered and analyzed survey responses from 138 students at six universities. Their employer conducted a related survey of 38 employers.

The study identified that students generally consider the quality of their own writing higher than employers rated it.  While surveyed students rated their writing skills as ‘excellent’ 28% of the time, employers gave an ‘excellent’ rating a mere 8% of the time. On the flip side, only 18% of the students thought their writing skills were ‘fair’ or ‘poor’ as compared to 41% of the employers. These results are consistent with earlier studies. Respondents to the National Commission on Writing survey (2004) commented, “The skills of college graduates are deplorable – across the board; spelling, grammar, sentence structure…”and “Recent graduates aren’t even aware when things are wrong.”

Since sub-par Millennial writing skills is not a new problem, why does the gap continue to exist? The answer may be that while students and employers tend to agree that writing is vital in the workplace, students and employers aren’t on the same page in terms of why writing is really important. Student responses like “because I want to keep my job” and “It’s my job to please my employer” indicate a lack of understanding that writing skills are essential to producing tangible business outcomes. Employers expressed a more critical tie to their organization’s bottom line, and preventing an “expensive waste of time” when clarification and rework are needed in response to poorly written email.

The majority of the student respondents said they would improve their writing skills if their employer told them to, but employers want new hires who arrive with the right writing skills and use them. One of the employer respondents who rated Millennial writing skills as ‘excellent’ commented that “I may only see excellent young writers because we screen out the poor ones.” When asked how a poorly written resume, cover letter or job inquiry impacts hiring decisions, another employer said, ”the waste bin doesn’t hire.” Most of the surveyed employers do not offer on-the-job writing instruction. Cooke shares that while “Lexington High School developed our high-level writing skills at a young age, we must take it into our own hands to understand how to apply that knowledge to the workplace appropriately”.

Young job seekers must be aware of the gaps highlighted in the study so they know what they will face as new hire hopefuls. Cooke advises other college students, “Even if you think your writing is already excellent, take the initiative to improve your skills for the workplace.  If you wait to see if they’re already good enough, it may be too late.”
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Pragmaticus, Inc., based in the greater Philadelphia area, provides consulting, training and coaching to help employers quickly get the most from their Millennial employees. Pragmaticus Co-founder, Andrea Dolph, is co-author of Hit the Job Running (2010) and editor/publisher of Hit the Job Writing (2013). For more information, please call (610) 291-9209 or visit www.HitTheJobRunning.com

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