ANON: weak process and employee retention

Subject: ANON: weak process and employee retention
From: Anonymous <anonfwd -at- RAYCOMM -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 11 Nov 1998 09:53:59 -0700

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I don't know whether weak process in a company can destroy a budding
technical writer. Perhaps someone with very little experience of the work
world. What I do think weak process does is drive away technical writers
who are striving to bud into decent practitioners of the art. The company
where I work is pretty typical in this regard. It's recently grown from a
small start-up to a midsize company, and is struggling with a lot of the
resulting changes. It has three or four technical writers. It saves money
by hiring beginning technical writers and investing no money or time in
training them, and the writers are supervised by programmers or designers
who know nothing about writing or editing (but have to act like they do).
The result is that writers never stay here, and the process never improves
because we're always starting over again with inexperienced beginners. The
longest stay I've heard of was about three years--a woman who wasn't very
invested in doing a good job, and who left to open a sporting-goods store.
Usually people last about a year and a half to two years. Then they leave
for jobs where there are experienced writers and a technical-writing
manager--somewhere they can improve their skills and get some mentoring--in
other words, places with a better process.

I've been here almost two years and I'm job hunting myself. Last week I
had an interview with a small company that does financial software. I was
interviewed by the marketing manager, who said airily that the company was
very informal, people just pulled together to "get the job done," and that
I'd be trained when "other people have time." Uh oh, I thought to myself.
This sounds familiar. It might be a perfectly fine little company, but I'm
not going to work there.

What I think could pull things together at my current company would be
hiring an experienced technical writer--or better yet, a
writer/manager--who could thrive in the open atmosphere and had enough
clout and experience to make sure things were put on the rails and done
properly. But management is not going to pay for that, so writers keep
leaving and technical writing stays in crisis mode.

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