The Learning Cafe

How do you know a workplace literacy and numeracy programme is delivering a real return?

  • Posted by learningwavenz
  • On September 17, 2014

Look at the numbers.

The evidence is in. Workplace programmes that take a ‘business learning’ approach to raising literacy and numeracy skills deliver measurable gains in business performance.

The latest accolade for a client of The Learning Wave – a Highly Commended for Carter Holt Harvey Woodproducts in the Skills Highway category at the 2014 EEO Trust Work & Life Awards – confirms that companies can make a real dent in factors that hold back performance.

The core issue was identified in 2012. Although the company was delivering training to upskill staff, many employees were unable to grasp the principles and concepts of the workshops due to a lack of basic literacy and numeracy skills.

A number of business issues were shown to be directly related to low literacy and numeracy confidence across the workforce. These included quality review and process issues, mistakes made in form filling, mistakes in health & safety procedures, incorrect use of leave systems, and poor communication.

In 2013, Carter Holt Harvey worked with The Learning Wave to design and deliver an embedded literacy programme called ‘Cutting Edge Leaders’. A three-tiered development programme was subsequently rolled out under the ‘Cutting Edge’ brand. Each programme was targeted at distinct employee groups, with a number of common skill development themes, literacy and numeracy skills building, and core business concepts running across all three programmes.


Building capability and changing workplace culture.

Kate Lyon, People Development Manager at Carter Holt Harvey, says the Cutting Edge programmes have had a significant impact across the business.

“Managers have gained a first-hand understanding of the challenges faced by staff and how reducing the impact of low literacy and skill development can add real value to the production at their site and to the staff they employ.”

“This programme is not just about learning new skills and refreshing some old skills. It has enabled us as a business to engage our staff in a real and positive manner around their personal development and their development within our business. We are making an impact in their lives, which for many of our long serving staff is a ‘first’, and we genuinely believe that the benefits of this type of workforce development programme is to give staff the tools to be more successful in their jobs and lives outside of work”.

A total of 144 Carter Holt Harvey Woodproducts learners completed the programme during 2013, with all making positive shifts in at least one literacy score.

Feedback from site managers identified many wide-ranging benefits, including greater cooperation and willingness, better dynamics in team function, increased participation rates, appreciation of procedures, and contribution to process improvements. On top of a positive shift in workplace culture, there have been many personal stories of significant change as a result of involvement with the programme.

The Cutting Edge programmes are now a core foundation programme within the Woodproducts business and look set to continue making a difference to the workforce.

The judges at the 2014 EEO Trust Work & Life Awards agreed that embedded learning was delivering real results for Carter Holt Harvey Woodproducts. And this recognition is only the latest in a succession of wins for clients of The Learning Wave stretching back over the last five years.


Four awards since 2009 show the efficacy of the approach.

The embedded learning techniques developed by The Learning Wave have generated results in over 40 businesses to date. No fewer than four of them have gone on to be recognised in major industry awards.

In 2013, Pacific Home Care won the Skills Highway award in the EEO Trust Awards for its programme enhancing literacy and numeracy amongst a largely Pasifika workforce delivering home care in South Auckland.

Pacific Home Care saw newly empowered employees carry their enhanced literacy skills into recognised qualifications with 75% of participants moving onto a Level 2 NZQA Qualification and driving a higher level of professionalism to their clients and the community.

In 2011, Stevenson Group, an Auckland-based company working in the resources and engineering sectors saw a drop in injury rates and a lift in staff engagement and performance that was directly linked to The Learning Wave’s Stepping Up and Stepping Into Leadership programmes.

Downer EDI won the same Award in 2009. Their Way2Work initiative lifted skills amongst 1,000 frontline employees in its civil contracting business, with learning taking place at 39 locations from Kaitaia to Invercargill. This programme saw additional benefits to the business with an 18-month ROI study showing a significant financial gain as a result of a more engaged, more confident and more highly skilled workforce.


The numbers don’t lie.

The Learning Wave’s commitment to finding the right facilitators and customising programmes to the business drivers of an organisation is highly valued by those that attend. Over the past three years, participants have reported averages of 96% (facilitator rating), 94% (overall satisfaction), and 88% in terms of relevance to their specific role. These ratings are much higher than industry standards.

Further analysis shows an average 22% gain in literacy and numeracy scores across all The Learning Wave’s 40-hour embedded literacy and numeracy programmes, as well as a 48% gain in participant confidence around their ability to perform in their roles.


Skills plus confidence equals a more productive workforce.

The Learning Wave operates by the mantra of ‘Developing people to drive business forward’. Literacy and numeracy is an important tool in the toolbox, but it’s not the only one. The company also works in the areas of Leadership Development, Health and Safety, OD Consultancy, Sales Workforce Development, Development Coaching and Business Performance.

Whether running workshops for frontline staff or engaging senior executives in how to drive their business forward, the approach from The Learning Wave is always the same. Understand what the business wants to achieve, design a business learning solution that engages the hearts and minds of the participants, and don’t give up until you see their eyes light up with a career-changing insight.

When you take such an approach, real skill development is sure to follow.

The Learning Wave – a New Zealand leadership development organisation providing management education and training.

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