Are you ignoring staff’s literacy and numeracy needs?

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New Zealand businesses may not be maximising their productivity and profit because they lack awareness of the literacy and numeracy needs of their workers, a survey found.

According to the latest New Zealand Diversity Survey, 65% of firms do not believe that addressing literacy, language and numeracy needs of a diverse workforce is a concern.

This is so despite statistics showing that nearly one million working New Zealanders between 15 and 65 years old may not have the skills to participate fully in learning, life and work.
But workers have been found to be less engaged in their work and less productive when they lack the skills to do their job effectively.

“Companies we’ve worked with that have introduced training programmes to lift the literacy and numeracy levels of their people have reported increased communication, more participation in meetings, better health and safety reporting, decreased absenteeism and fewer production errors,” Diversity Works New Zealand Chief Executive Bev Cassidy-Mackenzie said.

About a quarter of surveyed firms are taking action, and 14% are offering informal coaching and mentoring. Nine percent refer staff to external training providers and 8% run formal training programs in the workplace.

These businesses that have taken action are discovering business benefits and productivity gains from improving employees’ literacy, numeracy and communication skills, according to Nicky Murray, Skills Highway Programme Manager.

Murray said employers should be aware that there is funding available to implement these workplace learning programmes.

His organisation, Skills Highway is a workplace literacy and numeracy initiative funded by the Tertiary Education Commission and managed by the Industry Training Federation.

The NZ Diversity Survey, which was initiated in 2013 to create a better understanding of the key diversity challenges facing New Zealand organisations, is carried out twice a year by Diversity Works New Zealand, in partnership with the New Zealand Chambers of Commerce and supported by Massey University.

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