Usdaw develops writing skills at Next Distribution

A four week “Writing matters” course organised by Usdaw Union Learning Reps at a Next Distribution site in West Yorkshire has proved popular – not only with members but also with managers.

Tutor Mary Colson
Royal Literacy Fund tutor Mary Colson

Next Distribution in South Elmsall is a large site with over three thousand employees where they store and process any new stock for retail stores as well as online orders from the Next Directory.

The site has been organised for learning for a number of years and has its own Learning Centre with highly committed and trained team of Union Learning Reps (ULRs) who have organised a range of learning events and courses including functional skills and the suite of Distance Learning courses.

The latest initiative was a four week course; “Writing Matters” run by the Royal Literacy Fund (RLF). This was as a result of a meeting with the HR manager and the ULRs who strongly felt that there was a real need for greater clarity in written communications between managers, team leaders and warehouse staff.

Usdaw ULR Kirsty Lumb explains:

It was felt there was room for improvement in internal emails due to some confusion in some instructions and misinterpreting an emails tone”.

RLF ran four two hour workshops focusing on clarity and accuracy as well as structure and tone. Participants were exclusively managers. There was some concern that this might make them less willing to open up or share anxieties about writing issues for fear of ‘exposure’ and loss of face but, after the first hour, they started to ask questions and to really engage with their own learning.

The feedback was exceptionally positive, Charlotte Kenney, the Assistant Site Manager wrote:

I just wanted to say that this is without a doubt one of the best courses I have been on in my time at Next. Grammar and writing has always been a sticky point for me and no matter what I did, felt I was never able to get any better.”

This course has been invaluable at supporting me with that and I finally feel confident in my ability to check my own work and send a grammatically correct email. I really believe this should be mandatory for all members of the management team. I would definitely attend something similar in the future and hope more people at Next get to experience the course.”

A key objective for the course was the desire for greater clarity of written communication both internally to the business and externally.

Kirsty explained:

The benefit our company has gained has been so much more than expected. The passion from Mary Colson and Clare Shaw inspired so much confidence within the learners to open up and work on their weaknesses.”

The things that the learners have gained have been passed around to people outside of the sessions due to their enthusiasm for it given by Mary and Clare. This has prompted some amazing conversations about writing and people learning things they thought they already knew.”

The impact of the initial sessions is clear to see.

Kirsty said:

The feedback from the learners was incredible and amazing to hear from the senior team that internal communications had improved.”

This is not the end and we hope to be running further sessions”.