Here’s something you don’t hear every day: the quality of your company's learning and communication content plays a significant role in how people view your company. Think about it: how often have you been impressed with the vocabulary used, or maybe not used, when viewing a company’s web page? Do misspellings, poor punctuation, spacing errors, misused words, passive voice and dangling modifiers make you worry about that company’s ability to be thorough, accurate, and meticulous with your company’s learning products? Would you hire a vendor that made those kinds of mistakes? If they can’t manage details with their own documents or products, how can you trust them with yours?
But how can you recognize quality?
You know it when you see it, don’t you? Or rather—you know when it’s missing.
- A misspelled word.
- Punctuation out of place.
- Misuse of words.
- A webpage that doesn’t load.
- A cookie-cutter approach to everything from webpage design to product delivery.
- E-learning that reads what’s on the screen to you.
- E-learning that has audio unrelated to what you see on the page.
- Poor screenshots in e-learning demonstrations.
- Garbled or inarticulate audio.
In other words, lack of quality looks unprofessional and incompetent.
The cost of poor quality is huge: re-work, wasted time, client complaints, lost sales, lost customers, and eventually loss of respect in your field of business. And this is not to mention the loss of production when your employees are spending time fixing a project that they could be devoting to new projects.
Everything affects quality—and quality affects everything.
Have you ever heard of the Iron Triangle, or the Project Management Triangle? It’s also called the Triple Constraint. The image below is typically how the idea is illustrated.
On each side of the triangle, you have a constraint: time, scope, and cost. In the center is quality. If one side of the triangle is changed in any way, at least one other side has to change as well. For example, with a shorter timeline, you may have to increase the cost—or decrease the scope. Alternately, if the budget gets cut, you’ll need to decrease the scope, and probably the timeline as well. If the scope increases, you will either need more time or more money—or both!
Most people understand how the triangle works. However, what most people overlook is how quality is affected. Change the size of the triangle, and you change the size of the circle of quality within it. Fewer hours, lower budget, greater scope—adjusting any constraint means that you have to plan on adjustments to quality as well.
Essentially, it’s the age-old idea that everyone wants a great product, produced quickly and cheaply….and you can have two out of three.
What should you do, then? What does quality cost?
Of course, the obvious answer is to invest in quality control and quality assurance for your company. At the very least, proof-reading and testing are required before submitting copies to the client, or before posting a final draft to a web page.
You can also spend more, but have more consistency in your company’s overall quality.
A devoted quality assurance department:
- Beta Testers
- Copy Editors
Staff training on:
- Common grammar issues
- How to proofread carefully
- How to use resources (such as spell checkers)
- Preferred style and usage
- How to use active voice
- Style Guides
- Chicago Manual of Style
- The Purdue Owl
- AP Stylebook
- Any style guide specific to a profession, such as Legal or Medical style guides
- Editing software
- A copy of the Oxford English Dictionary (or online access to it)
- Classes on writing and editing
A quality control process for every product:
- Adopt and maintain a checklist for your staff to employ for each of your company products. Many people are greatly aided by having a specific checklist to follow to ensure minimal quality standards.
- Feedback and review from clients during and after the project:
- Edits in line with client expectations means greater client satisfaction
- Understanding of expectations ahead of time helps maintain client relations, and gives them better quality at the outset for the next project.
- Several drafts (with specific QA checklists at each phase).
What is the benefit—the ROI on quality control?
- A consistent, professional image
- Fewer review cycles
- Fewer time delays
- Greater client satisfaction
- Increased productivity
- Improved deliverables
You really cannot afford, on many levels, to be without at least a rudimentary quality control process. The simplest of mistakes can be incredibly costly, and having a process in place and a trained team, will help prevent lost time, decrease your costs, and improve customer satisfaction. Whether you are building your own L&D department, or you choose to partner with a vendor for your L&D needs, ensuring that a quality control process is in place makes all the difference.