The following is a recommendation from the personnel director to the president of Acme Publishing Company.
"Many other companies have recently stated that having their employees take the Easy Read Speed-Reading Course has greatly improved productivity. One graduate of the course was able to read a 500-page report in only two hours; another graduate rose from an assistant manager to vice president of the company in under a year. Obviously, the faster you can read, the more information you can absorb in a single workday. Moreover, Easy Read would cost Acme only $500 per employee—a small price to pay when you consider the benefits. Included in this fee is a three-week seminar in Spruce City and a lifelong subscription to the Easy Read newsletter. Clearly, to improve overall productivity, Acme should require all of our employees to take the Easy Read course."
Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the recommendation and the argument on which it is based are reasonable. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the recommendation.
In this recommendation, the author suggests that Acme require all employees to take the Easy Read Speed-Reading Course to improve the company's productivity. While this argument may be tenable at first glance, whether or not his prediction will produce the expected results depends on the answers to the following questions.
The first series of questions I would like to ask concerns the relationship between the author's example of the two graduates and the Speed-Reading Course. For the first graduate, although he could read a 500-page report in one day after the Speed-Reading Course, what was his reading speed before that? If he could read a 500-page report a day before the course, the usefulness of the speed reading class would not be demonstrated by this example. Furthermore, even if his reading speed has increased, what material did he read, and does he get information faster? The increase in reading speed is most likely the result of a decrease in the difficulty of the material, as well as the fact that the speed appears to be fast, but he did not absorb much valuable information from the material. Therefore, we cannot assume that speed reading classes help improve reading speed. For the second graduate, we need to know the relationship between promotion and reading speed. Many factors lead to a promotion, the most important one being a significant contribution to the work. But are these contributions related to increased reading speed? To determine the relationship between the second graduate's promotion and the speed reading class, we need to examine the content of his job and the promotion criteria of this company. If this graduate was not promoted because of increased reading speed, the author's conclusion is weakened. Conversely, the conclusion is strengthened.
In addition, there are a number of issues that need to be addressed regarding whether Acme should require this program for all employees. First, is this program necessary at Acme? Even if the two graduates mentioned above did benefit from the speed reading course, would this course benefit Acme's employees as much as employees in other companies. Compared to other companies, Acme's employees' job does not require as much reading speed, or if Acme employees' reading ability is sufficient for their daily work, then procuring a speed reading course would not make much sense for Acme. In addition, even if Acme had a reason to purchase the course, should the entire staff be required to take the class? Different jobs require different skills, and for jobs that don't demand high reading speed, it doesn't make sense to require them to take a speed reading course. However, for positions that do require reading speed, they should take a speed-reading class.
Also, although the cost per person is low, we need to consider the costs behind it. What is the total number of employees at Acme? If the total number of employees is large and everyone takes classes, the total cost of training is likely to exceed the company's ability to pay, even though the per capita cost may not seem high. Therefore, requiring all employees to take classes would not only not improve productivity, but would even negatively impact the company's revenue. In addition, the speed reading course consists of a three-week-long seminar, and we need to consider the cost of missed work for employees due to the class. Therefore, if Acme can still afford the course after calculating all the costs, then the author's proposal will be strengthened. On the contrary, the proposal should not be implemented.
Finally, even if Acme should require all to take the course, will it be able to improve the company's productivity? On the one hand, what are Acme's core competencies? If Acme's competitiveness does not lie in its employees' ability to read and the speed with which they can absorb information, then while investing in speed reading classes would not cost the company very much, it would not be highly profitable either. On the other hand, as tempting as it is to offer a speed reading class that includes a lifetime subscription to the Easy Read newsletter, will employees stick with the material and benefit from it? If the answer is no, then the author's prediction that purchasing a speed reading class will increase productivity is just an imagination.
While the author's recommendation may be valid to some extent, there are a number of questions regarding his lines of reasoning. The argument could end up being pretty convincing or invalid in the end, depending on the answers to those questions.