Workplace Literacy Best Practices

By Staff Report

Apr. 1, 1999

Workplace Literacy is an individual’s ability to read, write and speak in English, and to compute and solve problems at the necessary levels. According to the National Workforce Assistance Collaborative, the most effective workplace literacy programs share the following characteristics.

  1. Training objectives are tied to company business objectives, and reflect company, employee, and customer needs.
    1. Human resource development is part of the company’s overall business strategy and links employees’ continuous learning with the company’s continuous improvement efforts.
    2. Training objectives are derived from the company’s overall performance objectives, workplace practices, and job requirements.
    3. Training gives workers the skills to continue their learning and transfer knowledge or skills from one work situation to another.
    4. Programs are developed with input from management, supervisors, employees, and, where applicable, union representatives.
  1. Workplace literacy training curricula, structure, and delivery methods reflect the workplace and its requirements.
    1. Training encompasses the basic and higher-order skills needed to meet company goals and customer needs and carry out company work processes and job tasks, including the skills needed to solve problems, work in teams, and make decisions related to products and processes affecting employees’ work.
    2. Training activities incorporate and draw on company work processes, tasks, and materials, and training media makes use of company technology and equipment.
    3. Training activities include regular opportunities to integrate the knowledge and skills learned into solving problems commonly encountered on the job.
    4. Training builds worker understanding that learning is an integral and ongoing component of successful work performance and fosters a desire for continued learning which can benefit other aspects of the learners’ lives.
    5. When possible, delivery links or integrates literacy skills training with other training required in the workplace.
  1. Workplace literacy training is tailored to trainee needs.
    1. Training is developed based upon an assessment of the target population’s knowledge, skills, abilities, attitudes, and behaviors.
    2. Training structure allows participants to learn at their own pace.
    3. Training uses a variety of instructional methods and media, allowing for differences in the learning styles and the ethnic, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds of individual trainees.
    4. Training meets individual skill development needs, as defined by each trainee’s own skill levels and training goals.
    5. Training success is tied to the attainment of learning objectives, not the amount of time spent in training.
  1. Assessment is customized to workplace requirements.
    1. Assessments used are valid for training purposes and reliable indicators of the literacy skills required in the workplace.
    2. Expected performance outcomes and assessment methods are clearly communicated to participants.
    3. Trainees are provided regular, ongoing feedback concerning their progress while in the training program.
    4. Each participant’s needs, interests, and abilities are assessed prior to training and inform the participant’s individualized training plan.
    5. Participants are assessed during training so that needed changes can be made in their training plans.
    6. Trainees are assessed at the completion of training to ascertain learning gains and overall program performance.
  1. Program delivery is flexible and encourages and facilitates employee participation.
    1. Marketing and promotion strategies are designed to help employees understand how the program will be implemented and to encourage and reward employees for participation and retention.
    2. Employees who complete training successfully are recognized and rewarded for their achievement.
    3. Training sessions are held at times and in locations convenient to employees.
    4. Training is modular so it can be adapted to workplace schedules.
    5. Confidentiality of employees’ assessment results and training participation is assured in order to limit any discomfort employees may feel about participating in literacy training and to avoid adverse employment effects.
  1. Staff involved in the development and delivery of programs are highly skilled and well trained.
    1. Staff have an understanding of adult learning, adult education principles, and literacy instruction.
    2. Staff, either singly or as a team, have skills in program administration, marketing/negotiating, literacy skills analysis, curriculum development and instruction, education counseling, assessment, and evaluation.
    3. Staff are knowledgeable about the corporate environment and how to work with individuals at all levels of the company.
    4. Staff are skilled in working with the various ethnic, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds of employees.
    5. Staff themselves are well trained through preparatory and on-the-job training, and continuous skills upgrading.
  1. Evaluation is used to assure training quality.
    1. Multiple evaluation measures are used to gauge participant satisfaction, performance gains, and the quality and effectiveness of the training process.
    2. Management, supervisors, employees, and, where applicable, union representatives participate in evaluating program effectiveness and its responsiveness to their needs.

Evaluations are conducted regularly to inform and revise the training program and to ensure that the training program is meeting its objectives.

SOURCE: National Alliance of Business and the National Workforce Assistance Collaborative, February 24, 1999. The Collaborative was established in the Fall of 1993 by the U.S. Department of Labor through a cooperative agreement with the National Alliance of Business and its partners.

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