Developing Work Literacies: Who is the Target Audience  

Via email (I know–how old fashioned), Tony and I have been discussing how to engage in deeper discussions about work literacy, the skills, implications, etc. One issue that keeps surfacing for me is “Who’s the Target Audience?” That is, when we talk about work literacy, who should we be talking TO?

Should we be targeting our thoughts, ideas, strategies, etc. to organizations? Harold Jarche makes a pretty powerful argument that it’s the systems that need to change. He suggests that as long as people are conditioned to be passive learners, working within undemocratic organizations, it will be difficult to cross the work literacy chasm. If this is the case, then our work needs to be directed at organizations, demonstrating impacts on the bottom line, how developing work literacies makes a company more competitive, reduces costs, improves profits, etc.

Or should we be talking to individuals, grabbing individual knowledge workers by their metaphorical lapels and shaking them until they understand that they have to develop work literacies for themselves? Obviously that’s a strategy I favor. I’d actually make the same arguments to individuals as to organizations–that developing work literacies makes you more competitive as a worker, can reduce your “costs” (as in the productivity costs of your daily work) and improve your “profits” (the value you bring to any job).

Of course, you’ll probably argue that we should be doing both, but the challenge, I think is how? My experience has been that what resonates for individual workers isn’t what necessarily resonates for organizations. For one thing, organizations aren’t exactly swayed by the idea of their workforce being more “competitive,” especially in the face of talent shortages. At the same time, a lot of workers are more interested in getting through the day, than in impacting the bottom line, at least when push comes to shove and something has to change.

So here’s one of my questions–actually a few:

Who should we be talking to when we talk about work literacy and how should we be talking to them? What messages resonate with which groups and how should we differentiate them so that people see “Ah–this applies to ME!”?