Inbox: Hidden gaps: big costs

Literacy gaps amongst managers and supervisors are costing Kiwi businesses dearly and more needs to be done to meet this group’s needs, according to leading adult literacy and human resources experts.
New Zealand research suggests that many managers and supervisors have literacy skill shortfalls that restrict their ability to be effective leaders and communicators. Yet this group experiences high literacy and numeracy demands in the course of their work.
Around half of New Zealand’s workforce has gaps that can make it difficult to complete everyday work tasks.
Human Resources Institute of NZ (HRINZ) research and education manager Brenda Tweedy says she is regularly dismayed at the poor literacy skills she sees at all levels of management – even among chief executives.
“Business productivity and quality output relies upon this group having strong literacy, numeracy, leadership and communication skills but the reality is that many struggle to do even the basics,” she says.
“It’s hidden issue, whereby managers with literacy and numeracy gaps are shielded by others within the organisation, resulting in constraints to the business’ ability to improve productivity.”
Katherine Percy, chief executive of adult literacy, numeracy and communication support provider Workbase, says supervisors and managers are often hired or promoted on their technical ability and it is assumed that they have all the language, communication and leadership skills that they need.
Percy adds that many employers are unaware they may be able to get subsidy support via the Tertiary Education Commission’s Workplace Literacy Fund. M

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