Motivating People to Start and Stay
A major difficulty in adult literacy is getting people to start, and
once they start, getting them to stay. A critical factor in getting
people to start is having them see the benefit of increased
literacy. In the past, organizations motivated people to become more
literate by appealing to their emotions and suggesting that they
would be "better people." This approach is relatively ineffective
because people don't see the value in tackling a difficult process
just to be a better person.
Successful motivation comes from individuals understanding that
they are valued employees whose improved skills are essential to
their own well-being and the future success of the company. Most
programs are voluntary, so it takes a strong, continuing effort on
the part of the organization to let people know that literacy is
valued and valuable. It may be useful to include basic literacy
efforts in a broader educational advancement plan, rather than
singling them out. Polaroid, for example, created a very visible
program called Technology Readiness, in which the motto was
"Learning is part of the job." This idea was made visible and
reinforced constantly. (Washburn and Franklin, p. 3) In the future,
most companies may get to the point where participation is
mandatory. Motorola did this, yet tried to soften the approach by
getting key, veteran employees to visibly support the program, and
to present it as simply another type of skills training. In the end,
they were firm, and stuck by their mandatory approach to the point
that people who refused to participate were dismissed from the
company. (Wiggenhorn, p. 78)
People leave literacy training programs for various reasons. While
many leave for reasons related to the program, material, and method
of learning, some simply have difficulty adjusting other
activities, such as babysitting and car pools. Organizations must
make sure that these obstacles are considered and eliminated in the
development of programs.
English as a Second Language
Large numbers of people in the American workplace are viewed as
illiterate because English is not their native language. They may,
in fact, be very literate, as well as technically capable, in their
own language. Special programs may need to be developed to provide
work instructions in the native language or intensive courses which
focus exclusively on learning English.
Looking to the Future
Most American companies now realize that the only way to compete
effectively in the world today is to embark on a program of
continuous improvement. At the same time, they are frustrated at
having to spend their valuable money bringing employees up to the
most basic skill levels. Most of these efforts, while admirable, are
reactive in nature. Companies sit back, take the workers as they
find them, and then spend money to make them literate.
In the future, companies can have more of an impact by sharing what
they know about continuous improvement with the public education
system. By viewing themselves as customers of public education, and
developing long term strategies with government and educational
institutions, they can take a more proactive role in helping develop
a workforce that is prepared to function in today's rapidly changing
environment before they come to work.
To become and remain competitive in the global market, organizations
need employees with high-level skills who can function in flexible,
team-based, self-managed, empowered work environments. Many
workers, however, may be ill-equipped to master such vital,
high-level skills. If employees are not functionally literate, they
will reach a bottleneck point where the training required to acquire
high-level skills is minimized (if it is effective at all).
Organizations must develop strategies and procedures which will
allow them to break the troublesome bottleneck of illiteracy and
move to higher levels of performance.
For balance of this article, click on the below link:
Lean Manufacturing Articles and go to Series 02
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