Media type Carol Hassall, owner of Red Cat Communications & Business Services, hails the philosophers Spandau Ballet and makes a stand against the jargonauts...
What were you reading when you were 11-years-old?
I'll hazard a guess that you didn't come across phrases like "floor targets", "work-life balance" and "service development strategy" as you skipped through the pages of the latest gripping Famous Five book.
But here's an interesting thing.
According to a recently published Public Accounts Select Committee report, 12 million of our estimated 30 million working population have a reading age of 11 or under. Shocking, isn't it?
In 2003, around 26 million working people didn't meet one or both standards of literacy or numeracy considered necessary for all school leavers.
So what's that got to do with business? I'll tell you: absolutely everything. Not suggesting that all of those people who work in your organisation are a bunch of thickos. But clearly, many people have problems understanding language that isn't plain and simple.
Indeed, given some of the internal communications I've had the misfortune to read over the years, some organisations feel the need to speak to staff in a language that is so far removed from plain English that it might as well be in Cantonese for all the good it does.
In the words of those great philosophers Spandau Ballet, the result is inevitable: "Communication let me down."
For those working in communications, either in-house or like me, in a consultancy, the Government report merely backs up what we have been banging on about.
Namely, that the most effective way of communicating information effectively to staff (or anyone, actually) is by cutting out the boardroom jargon and speaking in plain English.
So why do organisations try to resist the advice of the experts? Do they think that, by articulating information in a clear way, it is a slight on their own intelligence or is, in some way, "dumbing down"?
Well, all I can say to that is that the dumb ones are those that continue to use business-speak.
Alienating a workforce by using unintelligible words and phrases can have a serious effect on business.
In audits and training that I have carried out for clients, a recurrent theme from staff is low morale.
This is usually directly attributable to either no communication at all, or the tortuous language used by 'the management' to its staff, that sets both apart and breeds contempt.
If staff aren't happy, they leave or the quality of their work inevitably suffers.
Word gets around. Posts don't get filled.
Your hard-fought reputation diminishes.
You lose contracts. You lose money. In the public sector, you lose the trust of the very people you have a duty to serve and you could end up cutting the services you provide.
You get the picture. Staff are the lifeblood of every business.
How an organisation communicates with its workforce should be a number one priority .
So here's a bit of advice for communications professionals: print off the Government report and keep it as an extra piece of ammunition in your continuing fight against the jargonauts. ..SUPL: