Essential skills in the workplace: What's in it for you?

Finding and keeping workers with the knowledge and skills to get the job done is critical in today's workplace. Without the right skills, your workplace may suffer. Are you experiencing any of the following challenges in your workplace:

  • Recruiting people with the required skills
  • New workers finding it difficult to adapt to the workplace?
  • Workers with low morale?
  • Low productivity?
  • Problems introducing new equipment?
  • Workplace accidents and/or injuries?
  • Training not leading to expected results?

If you answered "yes" to any of the above questions, you should consider if Essential Skills gaps may be contributing to the problem, and whether an investment in these skills might be the right solution.

What are the benefits of investing in essential skills?

  • Increased productivity
  • Less time per task
  • Reduced error rates
  • Less waste
  • Enhanced workplace efficiencies
  • Capacity to understand job requirements and procedures
  • Ability to work independently
  • Ability to apply new knowledge and skills on the job
  • Increased competitiveness
  • Capacity to understand job requirements and procedures
  • Meeting quality standards
  • Improved customer service leading to customer loyalty
  • More vibrant and engaged workforce
  • Sense of ownership of work
  • Improved self-esteem, self-confidence and morale
  • Opportunities for career development and promotion
  • Better workplace health and safety
  • Capacity to understand safety instructions
  • Ability to retain and apply information from training sessions
  • Better team performance
  • Capacity to understand personal contribution to organizational goals
  • Better communication between workers and management
  • Ability to work effectively as a team
  • More highly skilled workforce
  • Capacity to communicate and use technologies with confidence
  • Ability to keep pace with changes in the workplace

How are employers integrating essential skills?

To find skilled workers

  • Job descriptions
  • Job advertisements
  • Interview questions
    • Integrating Essential Skills into your hiring process helps ensure that new hires are job-ready
    • More complete job descriptions that include Essential Skills can help you better clarify the specific skills you need from new recruits
    • Assessing Essential Skills helps you find new workers who may be more likely to complement the skills of your existing team

To keep skilled workers

  • Employee orientation
  • Training
  • Performance management
  • Day-to-day meetings
  • Succession planning
    • Developing your workers' Essential Skills can help your organization be more productive and competitive
    • Clearly discussing expectations of job requirements ensures that both workers and managers understand and work toward achieving the same objectives
    • Essential Skills can help managers recognize good performance and give constructive feedback when discussing training and development plans
    • Assessing your employees' Essential Skills can help you identify workers to fill current and future gaps within your organization

Free, easy-to-use and customizable tools are available to help you understand, assess and improve Essential Skills in the workplace. To learn more, visit the: Literacy and Essential Skills web page.

Examples of essential skills in the workplace


  • Read written materials such as emails, memos, manuals, and reports
  • Analyze and integrate information from multiple sources

Document use

  • Understand and enter information in documents such as charts, graphs, pay stubs, gauges, blueprints, and schedules
  • Create and read schematic drawings


  • Take measurements, and make calculations and estimates
  • Perform scheduling, budgeting, or accounting


  • Write with a clear purpose such as to inform or request information
  • Use appropriate sentence structure, punctuation, wording, and tone

Oral communication

  • Communicate information clearly and concisely
  • Speak comfortably with clients and supervisors

Working with others

  • Coordinate work and share information with others
  • Participate actively in group projects and team meetings


  • Organize work effectively to meet quality standards and deadlines
  • Consider all relevant factors before making a decision

Computer use

  • Use email to send and receive information
  • Use company-specific software such as financial or design programs

Continuous learning

  • Seek out learning opportunities
  • Participate in various forms of training (e.g. courses, on-the-job) and apply learning at work
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