Counting the high costs of workplace illiteracy and innumeracy

Illiteracy and innumeracy in the workplace are major impediments for companies – no matter the size or nature of their business. Gaps in Basic English literacy and basic maths negatively affect efficiencies and productivity, as well as the ability to implement change that is intended to improve performance in the workplace. Companies are, therefore, partnering a leading accredited training provider to help them raise the basic English literacy and numeracy skills of their low skilled employees.

Poor literacy and numeracy in the workplace can have significant negative impacts on a business. Companies that have skills gaps in these basic proficiencies among their low skilled employees can incur significant efficiency, supervision, sales or turnover and human resources costs. Low skilled employees who cannot read and write English and do not have basic numbers skills are also prone to making accidents that can also be extremely costly for any business.

For this reason, enterprising companies prioritise adult basic education and training or “ABET”, including English literacy and numeracy instruction, as part of their skills development programmes. They outsource this aspect of their workplace training to Triple E Training, a leading accredited training provider with more than 30 years’ experience providing quality adult literacy and adult numeracy training. The accredited training provider’s clients vary in size and operate across a broad spectrum of industries and all rely on low skilled employees.

English literacy and numeracy are the most basic skills that low skill employees need to perform their respective roles in a productive and healthy manner. For example, employees who have completed this accredited training provider’s adult basic education and training or “ABET” fully understand written procedures and can, therefore, operate equipment and machinery optimally and safely. This is addition to being able to fulfil administrative processes because they can read and write English. For instance, they can complete shift and health and safety reports, as well as activity logbooks. Moreover, they use their Basic English literacy skills to respond in writing to queries fromcolleagues, supervisors, clients or sub-contractors. They also use their basic English literacy skills to communicate verbally with co-workers, higher-ups, suppliers and, just as importantly, customers and clients. Meanwhile, employees use their basic numbers skills to identify numerical errors and perform simple mental maths calculations in their daily duties.This includes, for example, interpreting weights and measurements, counting and taking stock, as well as calibrating equipment. Their basic numbers skills also enable them to think critically, as opposed to simply guessing or applying a rule without assessing its relevance.

South Africa’s literacy rate

The adult literacy rate is the percentage of people ages 15 and above who can both read and write with understanding a short simple statement about their everyday life.

  • South Africa’s literacy rate for 2017 was 87,05%, which is a 7,32% decline from 2015.
  • South Africa’s literacy rate for 2015 was 94,37%, which is a 0,23% increase from 2014.
  • South Africa’s literacy rate for 2014 was 94,14%, which is a 0,41% increase from 2012.
  • South Africa’s literacy rate for 2012 was 93,73%, which is a 0,63% increase from 2011.

Adult education and training or “AET”

Adult education and training or “AET” LevelGrade LevelBand NQF LevelNQF Level
Level 0Pre-Adult education and training or “AET”GET1
Level 1Grade 3GET1
Level 2Grade 5GET1
Level 3Grade 7GET1
Level 4Grade 9GET1

Grade 10FET2

Grade 11FET3

Grade 12FET4

English literacy and basic maths for improved efficiencies
Adult education and training or “AET” mitigates mistakes

Workers, who have completed our workplace training, including instruction in Basic English and basic numbers skills, are not prone to making errors that lead to costly wastage and lost time. In companies where illiteracy and innumeracy are very high among low skilled employees, waste is always a serious concern. This is despite the introduction of initiatives that incentivise efficient workmanship. In fact, high levels of waste are an important indicator that low skilled employees need workplace training intervention, especially Basic English literacy and basic maths instruction.

Triple E Training’s clients also report an improvement in product output and quality because of their investment in our English literacy and numeracy training. This is as a direct result of efficient communication in the workplace that relies heavily upon an ability to read and write English, the formal language of business, and a basic understanding of maths.

Importantly, low skilled employees who have completed our workplace training programmes are also able to quickly adapt to new processes that have been introduced to improve efficiency and productivity. This is considering that their Basic English literacy and numbers skills also enable them to learn and grasp new theoretical concepts. On the other hand, employees who are illiterate or semi-illiterate and do not have basic numbers skills will resist change and find excuses to participating in new initiatives or accept more responsibility in the workplace. They will also not be willing or able to succeed in workplace training that is intended to improve their efficiencies. This will also hinder a company’s flexibility and ability to quickly adapt to market needs. For example, a cleaning company will not be able to deploy employees who cannot read and write English to work in a premises where they will all be required to complete comprehensive checklists to ensure compliance with specific legislation. A company will, therefore, have to decline an important contract simply because their staffs lacks essential foundational skills.

Types of basic English literacy workplace training

Workplace English literacyVocational English literacy
The ability to read and write English, as well as understand basic maths.

The ability to understand topics that are specific to industries and trades
The ability to read and write English, as well as perform calculations that are specific to the workplace.

The ability to understand topics that are specific to a company, as well as trade or industry.

Workplace training for independent and resourceful employees
Adult education and training or “AET” for efficient deployment of human capital

Notably, low skilled employees who have completed our workplace training interventions require less supervision. Their work does not have to be constantly inspected and corrected by supervisors or line managers. Illiteracy and innumeracy in the workplace can place an immense burden on existing managerial resources that can again result in time costs for companies. Depending on the organisation and the nature of its business, supervisors and line managers can spend anything between 15 minutes and 45 minutes or more a day checking work that has been incorrectly completed by low skilled employees who cannot read and write English and are not proficient in basic maths. Add to this the between 15 minutes and 30 minutes or more thatit can take low skilled employees to correct work after it has been inspected by their managers. Worryingly, some companies still try to work around low English literacy and numeracy levels in the workplace by allocating demanding work to more adept employees. However, this approachonly places additional strain on limited resources as opposed to implementing a sustainable solution that involves uplifting the English literacy and numeracy skills of all employees.This approach also denies low skilled employees the opportunity to improve their abilities so that they can add additional value in their places of work.

Employees who have a sound grasp of basic English are also willing to comment, make suggestions or provide feedback that will help improve performance in the workplace. They are also keen to participate in problem solving and decision making, whereas employees who are not confident communicating in English in front of co-workers and managers will not be as engaged. This also hinders productivity and efficiency in the workplace.

Notably, companies that invest in raising the Basic English literacy and numbers skills of their employees also spend less time dealing with customer complaints. Businesses that have high levels of illiteracy and numeracy tend to receive more customer complaints due to poor internal and external communication that leads to misunderstandings. This is usually another clear signal that staff need urgent workplace training to raise their basic English literacy and numeracy skills. Depending on the circumstances, errors can even negatively impact sales and turnover. This is especially if customers complain frequently about not receiving responses, incomplete orders and incorrect information because of inefficient communication.

Basic numbers skills in the workplace

Basic numeracy skills include a range of abilities to understand and analyse information. The following are examples of some of the main basic numbers skills that are used regularly use in the world of work:

  • limited knowledge of numbers,
  • calculation,
  • budgeting,
  • interpreting maths information,
  • knowledge of the relationships between numbers,
  • understanding trends,
  • measurement and data analysis

Adult basic education and training or “ABET” mitigates costly accidents
Workplace training for accurate workmanship

Workers who cannot read and write English and do not have basic maths skills also tend to make more accidents even when they have completed workplace training. This is because they do not fully understand what they are being taught. It will be impossible for someone who does not have basic English literacy and basic numbers skills to grasp complicated theoretical concepts.For this reason, companies that have very low literacy and numeracy levels tend to also spend more on training that does not help improve productivity and efficiency, as well as reduce accidents in the workplace. Accidents can be extremely costly. The costs involved include repairing the damage and paying higher insurance premiums. Especially if accidents are a common occurrence in a business that relies heavily on low skilled employees who cannot read and write English and have poor maths skills. In extenuating circumstances, mistakes may even lead to prolonged shutdowns by authorities, inevitably, resulting in lost business due to being unable to operate long periods of time. This is not to mention the irreparable damage that a company may incur to its reputation and that of its brands, especially if the accident resulted in a loss of lives or serious injuries. Mishaps that involve the surrounding environment can be just as devastating, resulting in costly legal expenses and a public relations nightmare.

Businesses that invest in this accredited training provider’s adult literacy and adult numeracy training also retain their staff and have lower levels of absenteeism. They can also promote their staff because theyknow that their employees have the basic skills that they need to perform at optimal levels or be successfully trained to accept additional responsibilities.This is opposed to always having to employ new people who take time to train and learn how to do their jobs.

This accredited training provider looks forward to assisting you with your basic adult English literacy and basic numeracy training.

Changing Lives Together