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Employee Engagement is the Proofreader’s Fault



paul hebert[Employee Engagement is the Proofreaders Fault – From Paul Hebert-VP Solution Design. Read more about him on our Leadership page.]

First of all we all need to accept that employee engagement isn’t a problem to be fixed. (Click here to tweet that.)

Employee Engagement is a journey to be lived.  A journey lived by each and every person in the company. (Click here to tweet that.)

Engagement is OUR job – not their job, or his job, or her job.  Don’t agree?  Well then, come sit around the fake fire and let me tell you the story of the Proofreader.

Once Upon A Time

Years ago, when I was just a fresh-faced kid (I know – hard to imagine this curmudgeon being a newbie – but it’s true) and just starting out in the industry I was put on “copy duty.”  Copy duty was what all the newbies did – we wrote copy for the monthly mailings and other promotional pieces we sent to program participants.  We would write the copy, proof the copy, send it to the client for approval and then to the printer and viola, a printed piece was born and mailed.

We were writers, proofreaders, project managers, print production managers, etc.   All the steps in the process (except approval) were owned by us newbie copywriters.

As you would expect, sometimes there were typos (you can read about one of my more famous typos in a post I did for Fistful of Talent here) and we caught hell for it.  In “those days” it was expensive to reprint something – no fix and hit “repost.”  It could run into thousands of dollars of expense to reprint and re-mail.  Not a good thing.

Enter The Proofreader!

To cut down on errors we hired a proofreader.  From that day forward, my copy, and the copy from seven other copy writers, was funneled through the proofreader to make sure we didn’t have any more typos in our copy.  The thinking was that the cost of the proofreader would be covered by the reduction in the number of mistakes and reprints required.  It should be a net cost savings for the company.

It wasn’t.

Errors went up.

We had more typos than ever.  And it wasn’t the proofreaders fault.

Costs went up.

I can see you scratching your heads (didn’t think that computer camera was on did you?  Nice pj’s!)

Here’s a little known fact (and it applies to almost anything) – when something that used to be your responsibly is now someone else’s responsibility you stop caring about that thing.  In this case it was typos.  We, the copywriters, stopped caring about typos.

When we were individually responsible for our own typos we would be very careful about proofing our copy.  We knew our tendencies and the words we typically misspelled (is it definitely or definately?)  We always had some idea where our typos were going to buried.  We also tried to do it right the first time in order to reduce the number of initial typos and ultimately the chance that any typos would slip through.  If something needed to be reprinted because of a typo it was our fault.

Well… when the proofreader came on board we threw caution to the wind and stopped paying attention to typos in the copy.  We figured “the proofreader will catch it” – that was “their job.”

Well – like sales – proofing is somewhat of a numbers game.  The more errors in a document when you start, the more likelihood an error will get through.  When we were responsible for our typos we were more cautious – we started the proofing process with fewer potential errors and we caught many if not all of them before printing.  However, when we had the proofreader, the number of potential errors skyrocketed because we stopped caring.  We had someone to catch those errors.  And now it wasn’t just one person with more potential errors, it was all eight of us copywriters with a huge increase in the potential errors in our copy, which now that we had a proofreader, had to be caught by one person.  A person who didn’t really know our tendencies.

The proofreader was now responsible for a huge number of potential errors and the fact is they won’t catch them all.  It just won’t happen.

Sure, the number of errors the proofreader actually caught was pretty big – but in comparison to before, more typos were making it through.  Just the law of numbers.  More = More.

C’Mon Grandpa – Get to the Point

Here’s the point.

If someone in your organization is responsible for engagement – then no one else is. (Click here to tweet that.)

If a department is responsible for engagement then no other department is. (Click here to tweet that.)

If you have a team of managers who are responsible for engagement then no other manager is. (Click here to tweet that.)

If you have a company running your engagement program then your company isn’t responsible for engagement. (Click here to tweet that.)

Employee engagement is OUR job.  Always. (Click here to tweet that.)

The minute you suggest that engagement is someone else’s job – is ceases to be a common goal and common responsibility.

That is the biggest problem with engagement today.

It’s the proofreader’s fault.


4 Responses to “Employee Engagement is the Proofreader’s Fault”

  1. Symbolist says:

    […] Employee Engagement is the Proofreaders Fault (symbolist.com) […]

  2. […] Paul Hebert: Employee Engagement Is The Proofreader’s Fault “[W]hen something that used to be your responsibly is now someone else’s responsibility you stop caring about that thing,” says Paul. He presents a hugely entertaining tale of how this principle applies in the war on typographical errors, and argues that it is just as applicable to the fraught topic of employee engagement. Masterful bloggage. Follow Paul on Twitter. […]

  3. Symbolist says:

    […] It is just a fancier name for my proofreader analogy. […]

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