A businesswoman excited that she just finished a semester of online learning - digital literacy concept

How to Encourage Digital Literacy

July 22,2020 Learning and Development
Kaya Ismail
By Kaya Ismail

With COVID-19 forcing many offices to close worldwide, digital literacy is becoming a requirement. According to a report by Pew Research Center, however, only 40% of Americans surveyed could correctly answer questions about social media, tech policies and data privacy.

In a world that’s moving towards digital workplaces at a rapid pace, how can companies educate their employees? We’ve turned to managers and business leaders to learn what exactly digital literacy is, why it matters for businesses and how companies can educate employees in the digital age.

What Is Digital Literacy?

According to Amanda Moore, senior manager of integrated marketing & partnerships at Loggerhead Marinelife Center, the American Library Association defines digital literacy as “an individual's ability to find, evaluate and compose clear information through writing and other media on various digital platforms.” For the modern workforce, this means the ability to leverage a wide range of business applications and technical resources to complete their jobs effectively. 

Robert Brill, CEO of Brill Media, however, more narrowly defines digital literacy as “the ability to use the communications tools of our time effectively, and without frustration.” In a remote work environment, employees are forced to use platforms like Zoom and Slack to collaborate with their team, but many struggle to do so. Today’s employees, therefore, need to know the basics of technology in order to make a positive contribution to their organization. 

Why Digital Literacy Matters for Businesses

“In a tech-focused society,” Moore said, “it's important to be digitally literate in order to be competitive in academics and industry.” For example, nearly every office worker needs to know how to use email apps, web browsers, word processors, and in most cases, far more advanced software. “Often, colleges do not teach digital literacy,” Moore warned, yet digital literacy will be “an essential requirement for acquiring a job post-college.” Some organizations, therefore, may not be able to find the digitally literate workers they’ll need in the near future.

“In light of the pandemic, our society has become even more tech-friendly and focused,” Moore added, and many “organizations have been allowing remote work and designing more virtual experiences.” The problem is that many businesses have workforces that are unprepared to remain productive in this new environment. A post-COVID world may require universities and employers to place a greater emphasis on digital literacy.

How to Educate Employees on Digital Literacy

With the importance of digital literacy clear, we’ve asked the experts how organizations can educate their workforce.

Lunch & Learn

“Companies can provide their employees with lunch and learn experiences that allow employees to learn about new digital products and software,” Moore suggested, “as well as encourage employees to use trial periods to explore new software and tools.” This approach has little impact on an employee’s daily productivity but can foster an interest in experimenting with technology and incorporating new tools into their workday.

Certification Courses

“To ensure employees continue to learn about digital tools,” recommended Moore, “companies can require employees to participate in professional development experiences, such as technology certification courses.” For example, there are numerous martech courses marketers can take in order to sharpen their skill sets and better leverage technology to complete their day-to-day tasks.

Hands-On Training

For Damien Martin, marketing executive at Shufti Pro, practical training with tools the business already uses is vital. “Give them first-hand experience of tools and techniques that would help them perform their tasks with increased efficiency.” That way, they’ll have an in-depth understanding of business applications which they can share with their existing coworkers and new employees.

Digital Literacy Post-COVID-19

Martin predicts digital literacy will become a huge competitive edge for some companies. “AI and deep learning have already made their way into each and every industry,” he explained, “and now COVID-19 has changed consumer interests and demands.” Companies that don’t pay attention to digital literacy now will likely face higher competition in the near future.

Moore agreed, “It's most likely that companies that promote digital literacy will see a higher ROI in their employees than companies that do not promote digital literacy.” The digital literacy of employees can indicate the level of investment that an organization makes in professional development, and in turn, will speak to the company’s quality of work. 

In the end, technology is not only transforming the workplace but the world as we know it. Those businesses that can adapt will have a smoother transition into the digital age.

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