"I will always fulfill my guarantee. I will do this because I have faith in my students."

Tracy Sherwood
Your Tutor

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Employee Literacy

Millions upon millions of business profits are wasted each year due to staff being unable to learn or improve their effectiveness on the job. Often this is due to an employee not being trained in how to learn.

But when training programs fail to correctly communicate, present the materials, and deal with the learning deficiencies it often becomes a losing battle. Instead of only focusing on feeding information, various productivity and profitability problems go unresolved only to return when the next group cycles through for training.

Sherwood Tutoring also provides literacy programs for businesses of all types and sizes. Contact us for an evaluation of your specific company's literacy and training needs and get your people up to speed faster and more effectively than you ever thought possible.

Sherwood Literacy - Employee Archive 2003
In-House and subsidiary literacy program implementation for corporations.

Dear Tracy Sherwood,

I am happy to report that our employee production, retention, rate of promotion and training effectiveness have all statistically risen sharply along with quarterly gross income since implementation of our external employee literacy program. Following your suggestion, we have found it to be more cost effective and less problematic to increase the literacy levels of our dedicated employees than to hire new employees who are literacy qualified but lacking experience in our company's procedures and operations.

We are interested in implementing your program into our California regions as soon as possible. We will be securing external facilities to maintain employee confidentiality and would like to know if you will be able to provide literacy instructors trained in the program we have found so successful in the past. Below are the cities and regions we of the greatest priority due to the various job training enhancement programs we provide to our employees:

San Fernando Valley
Santa Barbara
San Diego
San Francisco
Orange County
City of Industry

Also, I am pasting a reference to employee literacy that I found on the Internet. I found this of particular interest due to its many statistics and references of common employee concerns.


Margaret Sawyer
HR - IMB Industries

Susan C. Keating
President and CEO, Allfirst Financial, Inc. and Allfirst Bank
Literacy Speech 2001

Good morning. I'm pleased to be here and to be part of this important discussion on literacy. It's clear to me that business needs to take an active role in improving literacy because we are significant stakeholders in this issue. You asked me to give you my perspective on several aspects pertaining to literacy including the impact on business and industry, current barriers, the return on investment when skills are upgraded, incentives, and the role of the business community. I am pleased to share my thoughts on all of these.

First, the impact on business and industry. To remain competitive, employers need workers who can read, write, compute, solve problems, and communicate well...at a minimum. Beyond that we need technical experts, management and leadership talent,.....PAUSE....We need experienced people more than ever before.

I know I'm singing to the choir but in Maryland, 21% of adults over 18 do not have a high school diploma. Statewide, 20% of the adult population performs at or below a 5th grade skill level. Even more worrisome, 85% who need basic literacy services are not receiving literacy instruction in Maryland. Nationally, more than 60% of front line workers in goods-producing businesses have difficulty applying information from a text to a required task. What does that statistic say about the effectiveness of our safety manuals?

As a former English teacher who ended up running a bank, of all things, I'm really clear on the power of education. However, after 25 years in business, I see literacy through a slightly different lens than I did before. I see clearly the possibility for jobs, for incomes, for independence. Just think of the degree of financial freedom that exists for workers with a bachelor's degree whose mean monthly income of $1,829 is 4 times that of the $452 dollar average / earned by those who lack a high school diploma.

As you know, education is life-long. It has to be. Think about the rapidly changing world, technology, the information age...I don't know about you, but it takes more work and more commitment than ever to just "stay even".

In other words, even as we sit, the "learning bar" is being raised.

Allfirst Financial is the largest headquartered bank in MD, we're a $19 billion dollar diversified financial services company offering a full range of services - banking (from trade finance for customers doing business overseas, to working capital for the local dry cleaners to senior citizens anxious to visit our branches, to students who prefer and use the internet), to trust, investment and insurance to retail, business and commercial customers. We do business in Pennsylvania, northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Delaware and employee close to 6000 people. Our business is a people business driven by the one million customers we serve. It really is a complex business requiring workers with a range of skills, relating to a range of clients. As you can imagine, it is critical for us to be able to attract and retain knowledgeable and talented people.

And as I referenced earlier, I believe that CEOs throughout this country face similar challenges. The shortage of well-trained and educated people is real.

Let's look again at the facts:

  • 16% of adults over 18 do not have a high school diploma
  • 20% of our adult population performs at or below a 5th grade level; and
  • 85% of those needing basic literacy instruction in Maryland are not receiving it.

In other words, a whole potential employee segment is disadvantaged or is being left out completely.

Our goal needs to be about engaging these individuals and working to make more people in our society employable and productive. That means increasing effectiveness in addressing academic failure, dropout rates, the language and educational barriers associated with increasing immigration, learning disabilities and generational cycles of poverty.

But there are barriers. And from the perspective of businesses, perhaps the most significant barrier we face is identifying literacy issues in our employees. Our managers are trained to identify drug and alcohol problems but not literacy problems. And to compound the issue, people with literacy issues do a good job of hiding their inability. The stigma of not being able to read or compute something is great and the coping skills are well developed. Identifying literacy problems is a significant barrier to fixing the problem in the work place.

With regard to return on investment for employers when skills are upgraded, the obvious ones include increased productivity, less downtime, and fewer problems that need to be fixed. But one that's not quite as obvious is savings on recruiting costs. Research shows that employees are more satisfied-and therefore more likely to stay with an employer-when they are able to continue building their skills. Helping employees improve their language and literacy skills helps enhance the likelihood they will stay with the company thus saving on ever increasing recruiting and new hire training expenses.

Incentives...it goes without saying that a business appreciates them. Tax credits are always a way to get the attention of CFOs. Tax credits also create awareness of the literacy issue with an audience beyond a company's human resource area. Creating awareness needs to be a key initiative of whatever we do if we want to garner financial support.

Finally, I'd like to speak to the things the business community can do to help address the literacy problem. We can:

  • Educate our employees about the importance of literacy. We must let everyone know we want him or her to be fully literate. And for those that aren't we want them to feel safe in asking and receiving the literacy training they need. We understand that maintaining dignity and confidentially will be critical to our success. The key message to employees is that improving literacy enhances the safety and well being of our colleagues, our customers and our communities.
  • Conduct confidential needs assessments of our employees and offer opportunities in the workplace to improve literacy. We at Allfirst are offering English as a second language classes on site. This is in addition to the many other internal and external training programs available to our colleagues. We spend several million dollars in training and development each year and feel it is one of our best investments.
  • Commit to giving all employees the opportunity to attain basic literacy levels. It can happen by direct referral to community programs, company sponsored self-paced instruction and tuition reimbursement for GEDs. And it must happen in a way that protects the confidentiality of that employee.
  • Support efforts to increase state spending on adult education. As many of you know, 66% of the United States has an adult population with higher literacy skills than Maryland and there are 47 states that make a larger investment than Maryland in adult education. We have to fix this!
  • Support early childhood education initiatives that help prepare our youngsters under the age of five for success when they enter school. Research shows that primary brain development occurs before the age of five. Not only do we need to fix the literacy problem, we have to prevent future problems.
  • Donate space, computers, software and other learning materials to literacy programs.
  • Provide financial support for literacy programs not only making programs more widely available, but helping to fund development of higher quality learning materials.
  • Recruit volunteers from within our organizations to help in a variety of areas. Our employees can help teach literacy skills. And believe it or not, beyond computing skills our bankers can help with marketing, research measurement systems, and of course, managing budgets!

While there have been a number of promising developments in literacy in recent years, there is clearly more work to be done in Maryland and across the country. As educators, government officials, business and labor leaders, we are all stakeholders in this issue and we must be part of the solution. It's up to everyone in this room to find ways to work together in implementing this agenda-to bring many of the recommendations heard today into the mainstream. At Allfirst, we believe in people. We believe in "investing in human potential." In fact, investing in human potential is a major element of the Allfirst brand vision, well understood by the people in our company.

Thank you.


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