This guest blog post is provided by the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills, which aims to improve the skills Canadians need to adapt and succeed at work.

Are you having problems introducing new equipment into your daily operations? Are your employees displaying signs of low morale? Are there recurring accidents or injuries in your workplace? If these problems seem familiar, your business may have an underlying essential skills issue.

Finding and keeping employees with the knowledge and skills to get the job done is critical for today's small business owners. Without the right skills, your business may suffer.

Developing your employees' essential skills can help boost the productivity, innovation and overall competitiveness of your business by:

  • Creating a more vibrant and engaged workforce — improving employees' self-esteem, morale, and sense of ownership in their work

  • Increasing productivity — reducing error rates, waste, and the time required to complete tasks

  • Improving workplace health and safety — ensuring that employees understand safety instructions

  • Developing a more highly skilled workforce — increasing employees' capacity to use technologies with confidence

Many Canadian employers are integrating essential skills into their business practices. For example, a family-owned and operated pulp and paper company in Nova Scotia integrated essential skills upgrading into its Workplace Education program — and reaped the returns:

  • Over the course of one year, efficiencies on the paper machine exceeded 80% every month (average past efficiency rates only reached high 70s).

  • Absenteeism reached an all-time low at 6.9 days per employee per year.

  • From one year to the next, time lost due to accidents was decreased from 383.5 days to 62.5 days.

This is just one example of how investing in essential skills could benefit your business. No matter what your future business plans involve, integrating essential skills into your daily operations is critical to realizing your goals.

To watch a video (link no longer valid) on how other small business owners are integrating essential skills into their business practices and to access helpful guides, checklists and worksheets, check out the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills' Web site.