So many businesses could access funding that is available to develop the language, literacy and numeracy skills of their employees. We have Workplace Literacy Funding for training eligible employees. It is also possible for larger businesses to apply for their own funding. And, of course, some businesses are prepared to pay for training privately. We wanted to share some stories that have come up in the course of recent discussions with businesses.

Case study 1: “Can you email me what you just said?”

Every morning in one particular business, work teams meet to discuss the projects they are working on and the most pressing tasks that need to be completed. This usually takes about 15 minutes. One of the employees (someone with really strong technical skills) sits looking blank and doesn’t contribute to the meeting. As he leaves, he says to his manager: “Can you email me what you just said?” So, the manager spends 15 minutes writing instructions to the employee who then spends an estimated 15 minutes reading the instructions, figuring it all out, relating it back to the meeting he didn’t understand before he finally gets down to work hopefully doing the right thing.

The lost productivity here is huge.  Everyday, 30 minutes of the employees’ time is lost including 15 minutes wasted sitting in a meeting he is not contributing to and 15 minutes of the managers’ time is wasted writing an unnecessary email. That’s a total of 187.5 hours per annum. Putting a dollar amount on that, 30 minutes of the employees’ time (at a conservative $23 per hour) costs the business $11.50. 15 minutes of the manager’s time (at $30 per hour) costs the business $7.50.  So, that’s $19 per day or $95 dollars per week or $4750 per year just in lost productivity for this one job sequence for one employee. Of course this doesn’t take into account any mistakes the employee makes as a result of not understanding what to do, or the frustration / feelings of inadequacy felt by both the employee and the manager.

This employee is eligible for workplace literacy funding. Of course there are real costs for the business involved in releasing them from their regular work for training – however, there would be no invoiced cost for the business in training them. Some of this training could maybe happen in the employee’s own time, depending on the company’s policies.  Just by helping the employee develop the listening skills and confidence to make sense of instructions and check his understanding on the spot can potentially result in a saving of $4750 for the business – and $4750 worth of time that can be redirected to more productive tasks.

Case study 2: “I’d better look into this.”

In a healthcare business, it is critical that incidents involving clients are  investigated thoroughly. And ultimately it is the CEO’s responsibility to make sure this happens.  In this case, an elderly client has a fall. The healthcare assistant who finds the client writes the incident report. This takes her 20 minutes. She submits the report to the Registered Nurse (RN) who cannot understand clearly what happened from the report. The registered nurse calls the healthcare assistant into a meeting and the RN, who is having a really busy day,  signs off that she has investigated. The CEO then receives the report and finds some discrepancies. From the report, she is unsure what actually happened and what the healthcare assistant thinks happened, and she’s also unsure of the sequence of events.  Her concern is “What if this ends up in the coroner’s court or a complaint from the elderly person’s family?” She finds the RN and together they work out what really happened. Finally, she is satisfied that the fall was investigated thoroughly and appropriate care was given to the elderly client.

Let’s look at the costs involved here. It has taken the healthcare assistant approximately 45 minutes (writing, meeting the RN) which costs the business $13.50 (at $18 per hour). The RN has also spent nearly 40 minutes on this – $17.40 (at $26 per hour) and the CEO has spent half an hour – so maybe $20. So, fixing this one simple operational report has cost the business a conservative $50. The really serious risk here, though, is the worst case scenario of the incident ending up in a coroner’s court or in a serious complaint, in which case, the CEO may end up spending days investigating and presenting evidence. The cost of building employees’ writing skills through a funded course are significant – employees need to be paid for the training they are doing and the business needs to cover their normal duties somehow. But there are ways of reducing disruption and compared to the costs of doing nothing, just looking at the amounts listed here makes business sense.

First steps

If your business has issues like these, please get in touch, we’d like to hear from you and have the conversation about building language and literacy skills in your organisation. With our funding, the dollar costs of doing something about these issues is affordable, and running a programme with us will provide you with lots of data to help you build the case to apply for your own funding or manage the costs in house.

More case studies

A fantastic resource for businesses building the case for workplace literacy and numeracy is the Skills Highway Website. This has further case studies and lots of success stories of businesses who are tackling these workforce issues. Well worth investigating.