Boosting employee skills at Jefferson Hospital

Dec 9, 2021Articles

Literacy Pittsburgh will start 2022 with an employee-development project at Allegheny Health Network’s Jefferson Hospital. 
Special Projects Manager Nicole Mannino Johnson built customized courses for the hospital that will include clear and effective communication and career paths for housekeeping employees. Supervisors will participate in workshops on cross-cultural communication and effective communication with staff. 
The courses for employees will teach English pronunciation and any English usage that is needed on the job. 
“The instruction helps improve relationships between employees,” Nicole said. “We can also see cultural barriers reduced between employees and supervisors.” 
Nicole, who has taught classes for UPMC, Rivers Casino, Paragon Foods, and Giant Eagle, said the classes can be eye-opening for employees and supervisors. 
“We’ve had interesting discussions about body language,” Nicole explains. “In one culture, a person with crossed arms might seem rude. In another culture, that’s how people show deference. Knowing about these differences helps bridge some cultural gaps and promotes understanding.” 
Literacy Pittsburgh’s Employee Training Services program also helps companies invest in their employees. Courses can help companies attract and retain the best workers, both challenges today. 
“Providing an upward path helps companies retain the workers they have and also improves morale,” said Chief Program Officer Lori Como. “Many companies have good workers, but they might have communication or cultural challenges.” 
Nicole develops courses collaboratively, with employer and employee goals in mind. She visits the site, shadows workers, and surveys supervisors about any difficulties with communication. Once she maps out the course, instruction is delivered on-site, during work time and in a small group setting. Employees are paid for the time they spend in class. 
A report provided at the course conclusion gives results as well as recommendations. Surveys show that both students and employers benefit. 
“The students really love having pronunciation practice and having a safe space where they can use English,” Nicole said. “They love learning about small talk and idioms.” 
“One hospital had measurable improvement in patient satisfaction,” Nicole said. 
Working with companies also provides opportunities for Literacy Pittsburgh to direct our students to jobs. 
“Many of these companies offer a good foot in the door, a good career path,” Lori said.  “We are getting more inquiries about customized skills training and we’ll have projects throughout next year.” 
Literacy Pittsburgh has plans to work with employers and job-training providers to offer education and skill development that can lead to family-sustaining careers. Such partnerships will contribute to Literacy Pittsburgh’s future sustainability. 
To learn more about our Employee Training Services program or to request a free consultation for your company, please visit

Literacy Pittsburgh (formerly Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council) helps create better lives through learning. Recognized as a national leader in adult and family literacy, Literacy Pittsburgh is the largest provider of adult basic education in Allegheny and Beaver Counties. Last year, Literacy Pittsburgh helped more than 4,000 individuals acquire the skills needed to reach their fullest potential in life and participate productively in their communities. Literacy Pittsburgh provides free, personalized instruction in workforce readiness, high school diploma test preparation, digital literacy, English language learning, math, reading, and family literacy through one-to-one and small class instruction. Founded in 1982, it serves local adults through numerous neighborhood locations and its Downtown Pittsburgh Learning Center.       

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