In the past, proficient digital literacy involved being able to use programs to complete basic tasks like sending emails and creating PDFs. However, as technology advances, keeping up with the skills necessary to use it has become more critical—especially in the workplace.
Automation and digital technology is the key to success for many employers, especially if you lead a hybrid or fully-remote company. You may think digital literacy is commonplace among workers today, but that’s not always the case. That’s why ensuring your employees know how to use various online tools and programs successfully should be a priority.
If you have employees with different backgrounds, ages, and technical abilities, you may wonder how to improve digital literacy for everyone equally. To get you started, this blog explains what digital literacy is, why it’s important, and how you can foster it in your organization.
What is digital literacy?
Digital literacy is the ability to use various technologies to find, analyze, and communicate information found on the internet or within a software application. As the name suggests, this process involves using digital devices like computers, tablets, smartphones, Bluetooth, or other virtual tools.
Digital literacy skills are necessary for almost every job in today’s modern workforce. Many employers expect employees to adapt to changes in technology quickly or, at the very least, be flexible enough to learn it easily. This means that the greater an individual’s digital literacy, the more likely they’ll be able to adjust without too much hassle.
The four major categories of digital literacy include:
- Digital tools and processes: This category includes various forms of technology, ranging from basic skills, like email, to more advanced tools, like programming and graphic design. It also encompasses digital processes like data protection and internet safety.
- Digital content: This includes several forms of digital content like blogs, webinars, newsletters, articles, reports, case studies, etc.
- Social media: Social media has gained so much popularity over the years that it’s become essential for many organizations. Therefore, this category involves understanding how to find, create, send, and track digital content created on social media platforms.
- Software and devices: Using applications and other programs are a significant part of digital literacy. In virtual work environments, understanding cloud-based programs is especially important. Knowing how to use multiple devices beyond a computer is also crucial in the workplace.
How fluent someone is in digital literacy varies based on how advanced they are at using and understanding virtual technology and information.
Here are a few skills that individuals should have to be considered proficient in digital literacy:
- Knowing how to find, interpret, and create digital content
- Having an understanding of general internet security, such as strong password creation, privacy settings, and identity protection
- Optimizing or streamlining daily tasks using software and programs
- Communicating and working with others using virtual communication technologies
- Understanding how to use various mobile devices and platforms
- Analyzing data and conducting research online
Why is digital literacy important?
Research1 shows that 38% of U.S. employees have no digital skills even though their current job requires moderate or complex computer abilities. Additionally, 43% of employees have jobs with similar computer skill requirements yet only possess limited digital abilities.
If you thought digital proficiency was only for tech industry employees, you’re mistaken. There are many reasons why upskilling or reskilling your employees is a good business decision.
The following are four reasons why digital literacy skills are important:
- It improves employee satisfaction: Once you show your employees how new tools can help them better reach their goals, they’re more likely to want to use them. This is especially true if the digital skills they learn help them advance in their career, which can increase employee morale and engagement.
- It improves productivity: You can utilize technology to streamline and automate time-consuming tasks. This helps your company run more efficiently. Your employees will be more productive if they know how to use available tools, leading to more work getting done in a shorter period of time.
- It keeps you compliant: Almost all companies these days use some form of digital data. But there are data protection laws you must follow to stay compliant. It’s vital that your employees know any relevant data protection regulations so your company stays compliant, avoids penalties, and remains an ethical company.
- It reduces security risks: Maintaining a safe digital environment is imperative. This doesn’t just mean teaching your employees how to avoid online identity theft, scams, and viruses. It also means knowing about firewalls and VPNs so your customers and your company’s confidential information are kept safe from security breaches.
How you can promote digital literacy at your organization
The digital landscape continues to evolve. Therefore, it’s no surprise that your employees may be unable to keep up on their own, even if they use technology in their daily life.
Luckily, there are a few ways you can ensure your employees have the educational resources necessary to keep their digital skills up to date so they can continue to be successful in their roles.
1. Provide training programs
Regular digital literacy training programs are the best way to improve your employees’ skills. But before you get started, you need to determine your business’ technology needs and assess your employees’ current digital competencies.
Candidates can take a skills test during their interview process. New hires can also take an assessment during onboarding. For current employees, you can survey them about their skills so you can gain a better understanding of what they know. Once you have the results, you can design your training program.
You should include a wide range of courses to keep employees updated on changing technology, software, security practices, digital content creation, data protection laws, online resources, and more. Session lengths will depend on the topic's complexity or how well-versed your employees should be with the software.
Integrating flexible class scheduling and using multiple learning styles is also essential. For example, if you have a hybrid work policy, you can hold in-person classes and record the session for remote workers to watch later via video. You can also create eLearning sessions or self-directed online courses that employees can take on their own time.
Other options are team learning sessions, webinars, or creating an inter-departmental mentorship training program. Having various class styles may seem like a lot of work, but if you provide different ways for your employees to learn, you’ll see much greater success.
Ultimately, regular training programs help employees develop professionally, which makes them better workers. But if you’re still not sold, studies have shown2 that upskilling programs also improve company culture, employee engagement, and retention—so they’re worth the investment.
2. Implement more technology programs
Your employees will likely need to use many different digital tools to complete their assigned duties. If you’re using fewer technology programs to make it easier on your staff, you may want to go in the other direction.
The first step of learning is experiencing something new and then developing the skills to use it. Employees will be more comfortable using a wide variety of programs and software if they’re exposed to several options—especially if they’re intended to make their lives easier.
For example, to foster greater communication between teams, add new instant messaging and project management tools. You can use file-sharing programs or other collaboration apps if you have multiple departments working on a project.
To make the additions easier, coordinate with your IT department. Your IT staff are digital specialists and can train other employees to use new software and programs. Your employees may be overwhelmed at first by all the new tech, but once they know how they work, they’ll be more efficient and productive at their job.
3. Offer a professional development stipend
Providing opportunities for training at your organization is always valuable. However, there are many external options employees may want to explore to improve their digital literacy skills. You can offer a professional development stipend to fund your employees in their endeavors.
A professional development stipend gives your employees a fixed sum of money they can use to spend on training, courses, and other items to expand their technical skills. This could include in-person or online classes, webinars, textbooks, and much more.
Stipends provide enough flexibility that each employee can use the funds to pay for the personalized learning courses that best meet their needs—no matter the level or type of skills they hope to develop. All you need to do is set a monthly, annual, or one-time stipend allowance amount and reimburse your employees when they incur an expense.
As an employer, it’s important to foster digital literacy among your employees so that they can comfortably use technology in their roles. By encouraging digital upskilling and reskilling and implementing training programs, you’ll boost your employees’ productivity and satisfaction and better guarantee your company’s success well into the future.1. https://nationalskillscoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/05-20-2020-NSC-New-Landscape-of-Digital-Literacy.pdf