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Have You Got A Literacy, Numeracy Or Communication Problem In Your Workplace?

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Ask Workbase – New Zealand’s Leading Literacy, Numeracy And Communication Specialists

 Dear Workbase

Our manufacturing business has spent a lot of time and money developing policies and procedures.  Despite management regularly reminding employees, non compliance continues to be a problem and we continue to fall short of our health and safety, and our production targets.  What can we do to address this frustrating situation?


Dear James

It is most likely that your employees want to follow the company procedures; the problem is that they don’t understand them.

Research has shown that more than 40% of New Zealanders aged 16 – 65 years have low literacy levels. Although most of these people can read and write, often they can’t understand complex written technical instructions or procedures. When policies and procedures are written using too many unfamiliar terms and abbreviations they are even harder for your employees to understand. 

Furthermore, over half of our adult population have low numeracy levels. It is likely that your people may also struggle with tasks such as understanding tolerances and variances, or accurately completing first counts in stock takes.

Putting things right requires understanding what is causing the problem, ascertaining your employees’ literacy and comprehension levels, and identifying areas where policies and procedures could better align with what’s actually happening at an operational level.

Once you know the nature of the problem, then your technical writing team can be shown how to develop policies, procedures and work instructions in a way that will be easily understood. 

Your technical team also needs to be given sample policies, procedures and work instructions for future reference, and templates should be developed so as to ensure future written materials are in a consistent format.

Avoid taking a one-off approach; it’s important that your business can sustain good compliance among your employees. We can ensure your technical team receives literacy training so they have the right skills to produce effective documents. We can also train supervisors, team leaders  and also have great literacy resources so that they are able to ensure their people can understand and follow instructions.

About The Author–

Glynis Thomas, Workbase Consultant

Have you got a burning workplace question for this column?  Glynis is happy to help:

Email: [email protected]

Phone: (09) 361 3800

Mobile: (021) 430 994



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