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How digitally literate is your workforce?

For your employees

The shift away from centralised workplaces continues, as does the evolution of artificial intelligence (AI) and workplace automation, which means digital literacy will become vital to the success of your organisation and employee development.  

A Forbes Insights 2018 survey of more than 2,000 Chief Information Officers and frontline employees flagged this emerging trend when it found that 87 percent of CIOs believe digitally empowering employees can drive revenue growth. By contrast, Gerard Taboada reporting on Gallup’s Real Future of Work study said, even now in 2021 and despite further advancements in digitisation, “On average only 22.5 percent of employees in Spain, France, Germany and the UK strongly agree their company upskills them to make effective use of new digital technologies.” 

As an increasing number of employees work remotely and the hybrid workplace gains traction, connecting with your employees when you can’t sit physically in front of them requires digital literacy on both the HR and employee sides of the fence.  

So, what exactly is digital literacy?

While ‘digital literacy’ is a term that is becoming increasingly popular within organisations and the wider community, it’s not a completely new concept in professional development. In fact, it’s likely there are still people in many workplaces who remember being paid to learn Word, Excel and Outlook.  

However, in today’s digital world, the platforms and applications we use go way beyond these earlier examples, and employers expect their staff to be well-versed – or digitally literate – in a much wider range of fundamental programs.  

Although it’s a fairly broad term, Associate Professor Jo Coldwell-Neilson from Deakin University explains digital literacy in the following way: 

“The ability to identify and use technology confidently, creatively and critically to meet the demands and challenges of living, learning and working in a digital society.”  

In other words, digital literacy is the capacity of your people to adapt to an ever-expanding range of new technologies and use them effectively in their day-to-day business responsibilities.  

UK-based training and HR consultancy, Jaluch HR, also puts forward a handy way of comprehending digital literacy, dividing the definition into two major categories: tech skills and digital skills.  

As they suggest, tech skills are best understood as how good someone is with setting up equipment like Wi-Fi systems, printers, software installation and programming skills. On the other hand, digital skills refer to a person’s ability to use devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones, as well as their general proficiency with mastering programs and applications, social media platforms, digital calendars, online meeting hosting and the like. 

Digital literacy, HR, and employee communications

For HR professionals, a digitally savvy workforce offers a number of advantages as remote working evolves.  

Where once company intranets were almost hidden away and left to wither on the vine, advances in capacity, compatibility with mobile devices, more universal functionality and – perhaps most importantly – sophistication in security is leading to something of a renaissance for a new breed of intranet platforms, facilitating more effective flexible working setups.  

As well as the entry point for nuts-and-bolts administrative tasks like payroll, employee details, staff induction, internal directories and professional development, company intranets can also function as a ‘source of truth’ within an organisation: one-stop-shops for everything work-related. This extends across policies and procedures, project management resources, information sessions, training courses, team meetings, asset management and maintenance, and salary packaging and employee benefit program management.  

From an HR perspective, the digital literacy of your people will facilitate opportunities to engage with your staff working remotely through a source of truth, as effectively as you could as if they were all under the one roof. But harnessing the benefits of what technology offers involves managing the digital literacy culture of your workforce and ensuring your staff capabilities extend across-the-board so nobody gets left out.  

Improving the digital literacy of your employees

Every organisation is unique but there are some basic principles you can use as a framework for improving the digital literacy of your employees, no matter what your industry sector. They are: 

1. Communicate ‘what’s in it’ for staff
Communication is an important part of any change process and promoting digital literacy within the workplace is no different. Be open and honest about the reasons why your organisation is pursuing digital literacy and highlight the ways in which it will benefit each person, professionally and personally.  

No matter what the mix of age and experience in your workplace, never assume people won’t find any benefit from participating in digital literacy improvement sessions or seminars. 

2. Understand the literacy areas of value to your workplace
It is vital you have a clear vision of which skills you wish to prioritise. Understanding your organisation’s needs will, in turn, help you identify what skillsets your employees need in their toolkit.  

Given the scope of what digital literacy covers, it’s important you have the right balance between developing proficiency on certain apps or platforms, with making sure your staff are well-versed in areas like cybersecurity and digital/online ethics.  

Do the same kind of research from the outset as you would with any other change management process. 

3. Provide training and ongoing support
Enhance the learning experience by using the tools with which you’re trying to familiarise your staff. Multimedia – or immersive – learning is a great way to ‘walk the talk’ and demonstrate to your staff your commitment to embracing the technology in the workplace.  

External presenters or speakers are also great for elevating the training and contextualising the skills in a wider context. 

4. Measure and adjust as needed
Quantifiable data is worth its weight in gold, so being able to measure the digital literacy of your workplace will be as important as any other metric in your arsenal.  

Resources like The Digital Workplace Skills Framework is a popular template for establishing a baseline measurement for your workforce, which you can then use to demonstrate improvements and highlight areas that need attention.  

In conclusion

Now is the time to get a handle on the digital literacy of your workforce. As machine automation replaces a variety of tasks – usually the mundane and boring ones – and remote/flexible working arrangements become more common in the workplace, an increasing number of workplace functions will transition to the online space.  

Ensuring your people have opportunities to use the digital tools at their disposal will enable them to adapt and thrive in a constantly evolving tech world. Digital literacy is likely to become an expected skill, similar to ‘traditional’ literacy (reading & writing) and numeracy (mathematics).  

Leaders need to ‘walk the talk’ and be seen to embrace and promote these digital tools and platforms when they work and engage with colleagues, demonstrating the benefits. 

So, it makes sense that you’ll improve your financial bottom-line and empower your people in the process by placing digital literacy at the top of your company agenda. 


How are you telling your team about novated leasing? Ask LeasePlan about sharing your employee benefits in a digital environment. 

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