It’s really an HR department’s dream to hire a person with more than one skill set – two employees for the price of one.
But when you’re ready to hire a technical writer, are there certain skills they should have in order to be most effective?
What Should Technical Writers Be Doing?
Technical writers are meant to be performing a certain set of tasks, mainly the construction of informational documents, courses and instructional guides. Now, this doesn’t mean their skills can’t branch out to other writing tasks, but since many businesses now have websites to address, it makes sense that if the technical writer is handling copy for the website, that they might be able to handle the website as well.
Is this really the case? For many businesses, the website was created by an outside company, who then launched the site and maintains it. This is an arrangement that allows you to keep the web management separate from the daily routine of work – and it’s an arrangement that should stay in place. Having an outside firm is much more efficient than simply putting an hourly employee on the task.
The Skills the Technical Writer Needs
However, this doesn’t mean the technical writer should be completely without the skills to understand a website. Having some basic HTML knowledge as well as CSS will help them to better understand how their text will look on a website. When they understand this, it will help them to layout the text in a certain style that will show up best.
And in a pinch, they can help the IT department with their text placement on the website.
That said, if you find a technical writer with web design skills, HIRE THEM. Hire them quickly. That is a person who can be more valuable to the company than most people who are assigned the writing you need.
What are your thoughts? What skills make a technical writer more valuable?
Technical Writer: Which Skill Sets are Important?
Considerations When Hiring a Technical Writer
HR policy writing is not always simple. First, you need to condense a lot of information into a small space – no easy task. At the same time, the text needs to be as clear as possible so as to educate the reading audience. But even before you get started, you need to think about what tone to use with the reading audience.
Perhaps the stodgy ways of the past aren’t the ways of the future anymore.
When writing for the everyday employee, the technical writer should be focused on writing in a more conversational tone. Not only will this help express ideas in a more compelling manner, it will make the many policies easier to read, easier to digest, and easier to remember.
While some Human Resources technical writing might focus on the lecture tone, this can actually do a disservice to those who read it. It can often lead to a reading audience that is less than receptive to the ideas presented since they may feel they are being talked down to.
Though there are some policies which can not be explained in layman’s terms or in slang, having a technical writer who can write in a more loose style may be just what the policy manual needs to become less of a paperweight and more of a useful reference tool for employees.
Conversational writing is something that may not come easily for some technical writers, so looking at a wide variety of candidates helps ensure that the desired tone for the HR policy manual can be achieved. It might take a few tries to get the tone just right, but when accomplished, it makes it much easier for Human Resources to show new employees what they need to know.
Communicating for Diversity
Hiring Contract Technical Writers
It makes sense that the Human Resources department might want to write up the policies for each department. But since many companies are more than willing to hand over this sort of work to the department in which the policies will be used, it seems that policy manuals have become less than accurate – or helpful.
Choosing to create a more effective policy requires technical writing to be at least supported by the Human Resources department of the company, along with the help of the management team in the affected department. This combination of talent will help to create a policy, which will cover the issues the department might face, while also helping to create a standard for future employees and Human Resources personnel.
Here are some tips for ensuring the policy is drafted to be helpful as well as accurate:
- Answer questions – The policy should offer answers to the following questions: Who, What, Where, When, Why and How. When these questions are answered, the policy covers anything a reader might ask.
- Grammar police needed – When a policy isn’t grammatically accurate, it can be difficult to read and to understand. Employing a technical writer with grammar skills is the best way to ensure grammar usage is appropriate.
- Know the reader – If the reading audience is not kept in mind, the writing will not be effective. The technical writer should always know who the audience is in order to create text which will help the reader, rather than confuse them. Additional, some consideration needs to be given to the diversity of the audience.
- Short and sweet – The long policies that are often included in Human Resources handbooks might have the best of intentions, but they can also be confusing and difficult on the reader. When you need a policy to be followed, make it as simple (and as short) as possible.
- Use another set of eyes before publication – By asking someone else to read the text, you will ensure you are able to convey the ideas you need to convey before you print out the new policy manual. As a rule, technical writers are especially appreciative of the value of a second set of eyes.
Creating new policies, with the help of a technical writer, makes sense. Combining the experience of HR with the skills of a professional writer allow everyone to win.