Employers underestimate employee numeracy skills shortfall

architects at work

Employers underestimate the literacy and numeracy shortcomings of their workforce, according to a report just published by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). 

Employers may have poor understanding of the basic skills needed for workplace tasks and poor awareness of the skills gaps among employees. They may also lack effective mechanisms and measures for monitoring skills, say the report’s authors. The shortfalls are often masked by ICT and peer support, with workers who struggle with basic skills adopting ‘coping strategies’ to  hide their difficulties. 

The report, written by the National Research and Development Centre for Adult Literacy and Numeracy and Ispos Mori, involved a survey of over 4,000
workplaces in England.  It shows around 10% reporting a numeracy gap but suggests this is an underestimate because many employers don’t recognise the problem. Of those who do report basic skills shortages, two-thirds fail to provide training. 

National Numeracy welcomes the report as evidence of the need for greater intervention on basic skills in the workplace. Our tailored numeracy review, developed to identify and address numeracy skills gaps in workplaces, is starting to help employers understand in more depth the numeracy levels and attitudes to maths among their workforce. Employers also receive support to identify and implement strategies for improvement.


 Find out more about the Numeracy Review

Read the full BIS report