How Professional Report Writing Skills Increases Employee Productivity and Efficiency and lead to Making Better Decisions
With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, many businesses have opted to allow staff to work remotely to adhere to social distancing requirements, and the results for the year 2020 have been impressive.
A 2020 Study by Stanford University of 16 000, average corporate workers have found that working from home increases productivity by 13%. This increase in performance and productivity was attributed to the fact that there was an increase in call volumes, uninterrupted workflow, more time to focus on the task at hand, and far less distractions, from other co-workers, needing to socialise. Employees also commented on being able to work for longer periods of time, as their two to three hour commuting time per day was cut out completely with many only having to take a few steps to their “office” or “hot desk” to work.
Whilst studies showed that productivity increased there was definitely no increase in efficiency or ability to better manage an ever-increasing workload. A 2020 study conducted by the Cape Town Central Improvement District (CCIC) stated that data collected showed that many people felt that efficiency suffered due to “screen fatigue” brought on by the sheer volume of virtual meetings that they conducted daily.
It seems that employees found their workload ever-increasing, and “screen fatigue” made them feel less productive and some saying they feel as if they, are achieving less by doing more.
A core function of productivity and efficiency in an organisation is its employee’s ability to effectively manage the flow of information. When the appropriate information is disseminated to the right people, for the right purpose it fosters good relationships, builds trust, and allows employees and management to make better, more informed decisions.
A professionally written report can eliminate issues such as lack of focus, poor communication between divisions or departments, inefficient workflow, which leads to missed deadlines, strained relationships, and more meetings, and more discussions which ultimately leads to the delivery of poor-quality work.
When employees have a clear direction and understand the goal and objectives of writing a report, its purpose, and aim, they can capture relevant information in a comprehensive manner.
This information is disseminated in good time to the interested parties, for analyses and interpretation. Good communication, to the right people at the right time in an easy-to-read format allows for quicker and more effective decisions to be made or problems to be solved.
People spend less time in virtual meetings, have information at their disposal, and can use the information to substantiate further report writing and recommendations to the business. Valuable information can be circulated in real-time.
A report must serve a function and add value to the reader. The information must be valid, relevant, and serve a distinct purpose, to inform, elicit discussion, or enhance decision making.
Is the report formal or informal? What is the scope of the report? Does it require background information, or research findings, or budget or recommendations? Knowing what information needs to be captured allows the writer to gather the correct information.
The objective is the why? Why am I writing this report? Is it a status report, to share the status of projects? Is it sharing the findings of research or providing facts to enhance decision-making?
When you know which headings to use in your report, you as a writer will become aware of what information is required to ensure the report is clear, comprehensive, factual, and informative.
Knowing the headings allows you to capture information from other sources such as meetings, telephone calls, other reports, surveys, studies, etc. on an ongoing basis, giving you the freedom to find the exact information required to substantiate the aim of your report.
Under each heading write down at least three facts, opinions, or observations that substantiate and strengthens the goal and objective of your report. Three points ensure your point is made without drowning the reader in an avalanche of information.
The main aim of the report is to communicate the goal and objective of the report. Make use of good spacing and arrange difficult information in an attractive format. Use graphs to show comparisons, use pictures or models to show scale, or evoke emotions. Your report must allow the reader to enjoy reading your information and findings.
How comprehensive must the information be? What do you want them to do with the information? Read it? Discuss it? Have an opinion, and use supporting facts, data, and other interesting graphs or pictures to clearly convey the message of your report.
When writing a longer report, make use of an executive summary. An executive summary is a brief explanation of the aim, goal, and objective of the report and perhaps even the scope. In a project report, the executive summary will be a brief overview of the status or the phase of the project and the findings of the analysis. A well-written executive summary serves as a bookmark for report reading. A reader can at first glance see if the report will contain the information they are seeking.
2 Identifying key concerns
2.1 Your feelings about writing
Think for a moment about your reasons for studying this course. Is it perhaps because you don’t understand what is expected of you in your assignments, or that you aren’t clear about how to improve? What are your feelings about your writing skills? What previous experience have you had (if any) of essay or report writing?
You might find it helpful to write down your thoughts at this stage in your Learning Journal and keep them for future reference. You can look back on them at another time and see if they have changed in any way.
Don’t be despondent if some of your responses are negative. It’s the aim of this course to turn those negatives into positives. In a few months’ time, you should be able to look back on these initial responses and feel that you have made progress.
2.2 Developing writing styles
If any of the statements on the previous page rings true, let us reassure you: many other students are feeling the same as you. Writing skills can be learned. We want to emphasise straightaway that this is a process that can be continually developed.
There is no single ‘correct’ way of writing: different academic disciplines demand different styles. This can be confusing if you feel that you’ve mastered what is required for one course, only to find that something different is expected on another. You might feel more comfortable with one particular style of writing or presentation rather than another. You will also have your own individual way of writing, which reflects your personality or your culture: think of this as a strength that can be built on.
3 The purpose of writing
Let’s take a step back and think about why you are writing assignments. As with most tasks, if you have an understanding of why you are doing something and how it fits into the bigger picture, it is easier to define what is required of you and therefore to do a good job.
Most students tend to view the writing process in these terms: that it provides evidence of their understanding and skills to whoever is marking their work. It is possible to engage with the course materials for a while without knowing whether or not you have really understood what the writer is conveying. If you have the opportunity to attend tutorials, you may be able to listen to what is going on without feeling you have to say very much. Then comes the crunch. An assignment is due, and you are forced to expose your thinking and understanding to someone else – and be awarded marks for it. For many students, anxiety about assessment can overshadow the enjoyment and personal growth that the writing process can offer.
Assignments are not just about producing something to please your tutor and gaining good marks, nor about moving bits of course material around into a slightly different form. The process of writing is an integral part of your personal learning development, improving your skills and understanding of the subject area.