New study finds workplace training benefits employees’ health and job performance

June 06, 2016
UPSKILL Health synthesis report_cover2

Ottawa, June 6, 2016 – Today SRDC releases the results of the UPSKILL Health project, which was designed to explore the relationships among literacy and essential skills (LES), health, and job performance. Its results highlight skills development and training as a ‘win-win’ for both employees and businesses.

While most Canadians can read, almost half the population has limited essential skills such as communicating effectively with others and using numbers and forms. This prevents many workers from meeting the minimum performance requirements of their jobs, limits their career opportunities and wages, and makes them vulnerable to poor health outcomes. Likewise, low levels of LES hinder firms’ productivity. Most of the research to date in this area is theoretical, however, and does not test interventions that could improve workers’ health.

UPSKILL Health helped address this gap. Funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada, the study leveraged an earlier investment by Employment and Social Development Canada in SRDC’s UPSKILL project, which used a randomized control trial to test the effects of a workplace LES training program in the tourism accommodations industry.

In UPSKILL Health, SRDC conducted an in-depth analysis of health-related data from the original study, and also completed focus groups and interviews with UPSKILL trainers and participants. Together, these data provided a comprehensive and detailed picture of workplace health and performance, before and after training.

UPSKILL Health showed that LES training improved workers’ psychosocial capital (such as self-esteem and resilience), their health literacy (the ability to understand and use health information), and lowered their work stress. In turn, these benefits were associated with improved mental health and better job performance, including better communication and teamwork, and reduced absenteeism. Workers with high work stress or low self-confidence prior to training experienced greater benefits. Many workers described feeling more confident interacting with colleagues and hotel guests after training, and using a broader range of coping strategies to deal with job-related challenges.

Finally, UPSKILL Health found that a reduction in employees’ work stress was linked to positive business outcomes such as increased revenue, higher productivity, reduced absenteeism, and lower staff costs. Together with the analysis of job performance, these results present a compelling picture of the positive associations between workers’ physical and mental health, their success in job-related tasks, and key business outcomes. The study provides evidence that workplace interventions that increase workers’ skills and self-confidence can benefit businesses as well as workers, by reducing work stress and improving job performance.

Read the UPSKILL Health knowledge synthesis here

Read the UPSKILL Health conceptual model report here

Read the UPSKILL Health report on worker and business outcomes here

Read the UPSKILL Health qualitative report here

 

For more information on UPSKILL Health, please contact:

Heather Smith Fowler
Research Director, SRDC
613-237-7444
hsmithfowler@srdc.org