We’ve all been there. The boss comes in at ten to five and says ‘Oh, by the way, we need a quick report on the [name of client you’ve never heard of] account… by tomorrow… you can get that on my desk for the morning?’
The horror. The outrage. The pint that was calling your name. The complete terror of writing a report that doesn’t make the MD fall asleep within three pages of opening it.
But fear not, we have some helpful ideas for making that blank piece of A4 into a report that’s the work of corporate genius, and not a pile of donkey pish that’s used as lining for the boss’s cat’s litter tray.
- Number one rule in corporate writing, as in life and Starbucks orders, is KEEP IT SIMPLE. And (equally important for report writing) KEEP IT SHORT.
- Number two rule in corporate writing – don’t laugh at the phrase ‘number two’, and then…
- Focus on the important facts. Identify the key messages you want to get across and keep it sharp, snappy and sexy (…maybe not sexy, but you know what we mean). In other words, put an ‘executive summary’ of the really juicy stuff right at the start of the business report. Your boss and the rest of the management team are busy, busy people – they want to know the really world-shattering stuff that’s relevant to the business and the client relationship…and then get in a few rounds of golf before lunch.
- Know your audience. The same as you wouldn’t do a sexy strip tease for all your neighbours, same goes for writing reports – don’t show it all at once and be careful who you expose it to. By knowing your intended audience you can hone your language so they understand quickly what you’re banging on about, and usually get what you want. If you don’t get what you want maybe that’s the time to consider, ‘taking it all off’.
- Use it as a place to have a rant at everything that’s wrong with your job, boss or company, especially if you haven’t done your research and have tangible facts to back it up. Yes, we all know that Paul in Ops is a total dick but where is the empirical data on this? Have you compared Paul’s dickishness to others in the office? Have you tallied the results across all departments? Have you outsourced your research to see if it’s, in fact, a common factor amongst all Pauls? If so, brilliant – crack on, provide those statistics, show us your mighty pie chart and then you can conclude that Paul is, in fact, a dick.
- Use the dreaded business jargon, it’s dull and makes YOU look like a knobber. No point in optimising your organic growth potential in a saturated market, unless you and Paul from Ops are collaborating on making a business porno. (See even Pauls have their uses).
- Fill the report with hundreds of oh-so bloody exciting bar graphs and pie charts. By all means, include some data visualisation of the BIG insights, but don’t try and blind people to your woeful ignorance of this client by going bat-shit-mental with the graphs and charts – it’s not big, and it’s not clever. (Unless it’s about pies, then it’s amusingly ironic, so crack on).
How do you cope with the dreaded report request? Apart from running to the coffee shop of your choice and ordering a double espresso for ‘Dangerous’ with extra shots, what do you do to plough through the report, get it on your boss’s desk and still get out the office on time?
If you’re in business, you’re only as good as the people in your team, and that means surrounding yourself with top-class talent – and we don’t mean in the Peter Stringfellow sense. So when a new role gets created, or Fred the post guy finally retires and a replacement is needed, you’re gonna need to get a job advert out there to fill your gap (Ed: insert your own smutty jokes here).
How, then, do you make your company sound like the perfect place to work, and the job you’re advertising the most enticing role since George Clooney was offered a truckload of cash to drink coffee for a living.
- Be clear on what the job actually is, what skills will be required and where it’s located. We all work globally so make sure you put Plymouth, UK not US.
- State how you wish to receive applications. Is it CV only? Covering letter? Online applications? Answers on the back of a postcard/carrier pigeon/fag packet?
- If you know the dates already, state when interviews, assessments or other events will take place – people will be want to get these dates in their diary.
- Include a closing date – or will you be receiving bags full of applications for months and years to come, and applicants will be wasting their precious time.
- Include details like shift patterns, duties, weekend working and anything outside of a 9-5 routine. These can be deal breakers for many, and peeps need to know up front, and you’ll save yourself a lot of discarded CVs.
- State the awesome employee benefits your company brings to team members. Shift allowances, extra annual leave, healthcare, in-house creche provision and gym or sporting facilities are all big ticks in the business and corporate world. Don’t worry if you’re a small business, just include all-you-can-eat free cakes. Whatever you’re selling, give your employees a chance to sample or own some – people work better when they feel connected to your products and services.
- Make your copy clear, friendly and representative of the lovely people you are. The more formal and ‘corporate’ it sounds, the more people you’ll put off the company and the role.
- Use jargon and other corporate phraseology to try and big up the role. If it’s for a refuse collector, say so – don’t call it a ‘Superfluous Waste Redistribution Operative’ or ‘VP of Sanitisation Engineering’. Others to avoid include: ‘Youth Knowledge Transfer Expert’ (teacher), ‘Beverage Delivery & Transportation Operative’ (bar person) and ‘Controller of First Impression’ (receptionist).
- Say you must have a certain qualification, be a graduate or have so many years experience unless it’s ABSOLUTELY necessary. You’re limiting your candidate pool and there’s the outside chance it might be illegal too – if you’re not sure, speak with the nice folk at ACAS.
- Expect a 3,000 word personal profile for entry-level roles. The roles may well be filled by up-and-coming first timers entering the work place so, seriously, how much experience do you think they will have? Give ’em a break!
- Make people guess the salary. If you can’t budge on the remuneration package (Ed: tee hee, package!), then just state it clearly. If there’s some leeway then put ‘Circa £30k p/a’. You’ll save yourself a lot of time wasters, plus everyone bumps up their salary expectations anyway.
- Play the ‘hey we’re quirky and mad here’ style and tone too much. Yes, be friendly and informal, but don’t come across as too try-hard crazy (yes, we’re talking to YOU, Innocent Smoothies).