Readability-What HR Pros Need to Know

Prepare for some gobbledygook:

Job Announcements — Public notices are used to announce the recruitment for vacant positions. These job announcements can be accessed through NVAPPS (Nevada Applicant Placement and Processing System) via the Division of Human Resource Management\’s website at www.dop.nv.gov. NVAPPS allows you to conveniently search and apply for job openings online. Job announcements include salary information, a description of the position, the minimum qualifications, the location of the vacancy, an explanation of the examination, and the filing period. An announcement may be published to provide for open competition, a promotional competition, or a combination of both. The system also allows for position vacancies to be posted in real time. Results of any recruitment may be used to fill subsequent vacancies. Therefore, individual job announcements may not be published for each individual vacancy. (NAC 284.295, 284.309) -From the Nevada Employee Handbook

Today I want you to think about readability. If you’re considering readability and how well the average person will understand what you’re creating, you probably wouldn’t throw out a paragraph like the one above. This applies to policies, job descriptions, employee handbooks, and more. Make your information understandable for the average person.

If you absolutely must have lawyers creating your documents, go back through them and ensure that they are readable for your employees. There are two common methods for testing the readability of text, the Gunning Fog index and the Flesch Kincaid readability test.

I’ve used this tool with some measure of success previously for testing documents for audience readability. Why not plug in some text  to see how it works? Just for fun, I put the opening paragraph above into the system to see how it reads, and it’s measured at grade level 11.55.

So what does that mean? If you employ mainly blue collar workers with a a GED, will they understand what you’re trying to say in your employee communications? Some experts in the field suggest targeting an 8th grade reading level to ensure near-universal understanding.

Have an example of some policy or handbook wording that would make even the crustiest lawyer cringe? Feel free to share in the comments below!

3 thoughts on “Readability-What HR Pros Need to Know

  1. Yes it’s really important that the documents should be understood by majority of people. At times, there are docs out there that have terminologies that you don’t even know what they actually mean. Are these methods you’ve used free to use or are they affordable? Thanks for sharing!

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