Its insidious: leaching your profits away

Who has poor literacy and numeracy skills?

People who need it most evade responsibility and hide the problem.

You end up getting half of what you pay for.

Many people fail to develop adequate skills for a variety of reasons - and it's not necessarily the people you would expect:

  • The link between low income and illiteracy is almost 100% , so if you employ people on minimum wages then you can reasonably expect that those people are limited because of literacy.
  • However it affects all occupations. 20% of "high functioning" executives and high wage employees cannot read properly. This emerges particularly in their writing, which they avoid.
  • Intelligent and capable people can be limited by illiteracy, caused by their schooling, not their intelligence. The ability to read does not naturally improve with age and will prevent capable people moving into your management
  • it can be difficult for the employer to identify which of their staff need extra help. They will avoid tasks which demand higher level reading and writing, to the extent of being ill on the day or not applying for supervisor positions.
  • While those with post-school qualifications are significantly more likely to have adequate literacy skills, at least 20 per cent of tertiary degree holders have literacy skills below the minimum required level. 
  • Most people are not good at judging their own literacy and numeracy levels, with many rating their skills as "excellent" despite tests revealing their skills to be inadequate.

What are the negative effects of low literacy and numeracy? 

Risk of Injury

  • The first and most pressing is the risk of injury and even death of employees who can't understand the meaning of everyday words and terms, including words like "mandatory", "hearing protection", "procedure" and "authorised"
  • Injury can take an entire business offline while police and other regulatory organisations investigate. Even minor accidents will cost management and supervisor time in reports and meetings
  • Safety Training is wasted because it is not absorbed
  • Apart from the lost production there might be legal fees and possibly fines if it can be shown that you were negligent in not ensuring that signage or safety regulations could be understood.

Ineffective Communication
The second issue is inefficiencies caused by employees not being able to communicate fully with the people they interact with at work.

For example, if an employer sends an instruction via email and this instruction is misinterpreted, the work of the employee will need to be redone once the error is identified, making the individual, and the organisation, less productive overall.

Barriers to Upskilling
The third issue is that low literacy and numeracy skills are a huge barrier to upskilling.

Literacy and numeracy problems become particularly evident at the supervisor level. Many good workers effectively hit  a glass ceiling at this level because their limited literacy and numeracy skills prevent them from progressing further and from making a greater contribution to their workplace, and to their own career."

Skills Shortages
Upskilling failures is a particularly significant issue, given the number of industries experiencing skills shortages, and the essential role that upskilling can play in helping to alleviate skills shortage pressures."