Some organizations still act as though digital skills are only important for members of the IT department. But times have changed, and these kinds of skills are an essential part of managing your workforce. Today, running an efficient team without digitally literate employees is virtually impossible.
Buffer’s 2021 State of Remote Work reveals that, for 16 percent of remote workers, their biggest struggle is difficulties in collaboration and communication. As remote and hybrid work environments become the norm post-pandemic, smart companies will be proactive in mitigating this problem.
A good digital literacy program will empower workers to tackle project management, collaboration and communication, allowing them to overcome the current challenges they face. And, thankfully, these skills are valuable to office workers too.
But what is digital literacy?
4 Key Elements of a Digital Literacy Program
- The right goals.
- A comprehensive strategy.
- Adapting to different learning styles.
Understanding Digital Literacy
Broadly, digital literacy means that your employees have the necessary skills to achieve the company’s goals by using digital technology and the internet.
Practical digital skills for the workplace include:
- Project collaboration.
- Digital etiquette.
- Digital security.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but these are three crucial areas that you should focus on to ensure your organization functions smoothly.
Good project collaboration enables teams to work together seamlessly. Team members globally are always aware of who’s working on what, their specific responsibilities and a project completion timeline.
Project collaboration involves three skills: excellent communication, organization and the ability to use project collaboration tools. These abilities improve employees’ productivity and efficiency. As such, leaders don’t have to check in with each team member individually or sit through endless meetings to get input on projects from team members. Even better, an employee’s location isn’t a barrier to collaboration, which makes remote and hybrid work much easier.
In the offline world, we know that etiquette means adhering to social norms and behaviors appropriate to a given situation. By extension, we can say digital etiquette (or netiquette) denotes a set of conventional social behavior requirements for the internet.
The amount of company apologies out there for employees’ bad online behavior makes netiquette an essential digital skill. Since many companies write horrible apology letters, this is a skill you want to emphasize to avoid getting additional bad press.
Having to make apologies alone would be bad enough, but sometimes there are worse outcomes. Companies have been sued for their workers’ actions, sometimes having to pay millions of dollars in settlement or compensation to victims.
Obvious things like spamming, offensive jokes and writing entirely in capital letters (SHOUTING) are bad netiquette, but that’s just scratching the surface. A proper background check on employees can eliminate some rotten eggs, but past performance isn’t always an indicator of future performance. So make netiquette classes a vital part of your digital literacy program.
In 2020, the average cost of a data breach was $3.86 million. But digital security, like digital etiquette, is a broad subject. It’s so broad that entire subsets of cybercrime can account for hundreds of millions of dollars in losses annually. In 2020, businesses lost $1.8 billion just due to compromised email. Clearly, this is a huge area of concern.
The key to minimizing these threats is continuous employee training. According to an IBM report from 2014, 95 percent of data breaches were caused by human error or insider threats. Only through continuous training can employees stay abreast of current information and tactics in the cybersecurity world.
4 Elements of a Successful Digital Literacy Program
Obviously, the list above isn’t exhaustive, and individual organizations may choose to emphasize different aspects in their training. Whatever your specific needs are, the four elements below are crucial to implementing a successful digital literacy program.
1. The Right Goals
Setting the right goals for the digital literacy program in your workplace helps you avoid copying competitors blindly. Ask yourself all the following questions.
What Does Digital Literacy Mean for My Organization?
As I mentioned earlier, digital literacy will not mean the same thing for every organization. In my experience, many businesses view digital literacy in at least one of five ways:
- An employee self-development incentive.
- A promotion requirement.
- A hiring requirement.
- A company-wide productivity boost.
- A sales and revenue boost.
If you haven’t done so already, choose any of these that applies to your organization.
What Skills Should We Prioritize?
An easy way to discover additional skills your employees should prioritize is simply by asking them through a survey. You may not know enough about the intricacies of every job role in your organization to create balanced survey questions. As such, employees and the organization at large will benefit when heads of departments create these survey questions. Apart from asking the right questions, they’re more qualified to analyze any suggestions employees might make about additional skills they need for their jobs.
In the final analysis, look for skills that appear across different departments. Those should be your immediate priority. Otherwise, prioritize items based on the survey results for each department.
You may decide to require proof of digital literacy from future hires based on the skills they need for their jobs. For job seekers or employers wondering where to start, LinkedIn Learning offers over 500 courses with certifications.
What Do We Hope to Achieve?
What ROI are you expecting from your investment in a digital literacy program? Don’t think of ROI in strictly financial terms here either.
For example, a goal for training employees on the use of help desk software may be reducing your customer support’s average first response time for customer queries. Or your plan can be boosting employee loyalty since a LinkedIn report reveals that 94 percent of employees would want to stay with a company that invests in their acquisition of new skills.
That said, a financial ROI isn’t wrong either. Just ensure you're upfront about it if that’s your decision.
How Will Digital Literacy Evolve in This Organization?
Many companies start literacy programs without a continuity structure in place. New tools and skills will always sprout here and there. So a digital literacy program should go beyond one-off initiatives. Ensure continuity by preparing for digital skills where your employees can go from basic competency to expert-level competency in addition to ad-hoc initiatives.
Also, choose the training medium for your employees’ skills acquisition. Will it always be online or will you supplement online courses with traditional classroom training? Digital literacy at your organization will evolve. Be ready.
2. A Comprehensive Strategy
Often, I see organizations that run digital literacy programs only when they have something big in the works. This might be a partnership with another company, the launch of a new product feature or a transition to new tech.
The most successful digital literacy programs at work are not one-off events, but rather a continuous process. Enabling such continuity involves adopting and implementing a comprehensive strategy toward digital literacy in the workplace.
Although specific digital skills are a priority now for your organization, employees should always have access to material on other digital skills they may want to acquire.
For example, based on the survey you conduct, your immediate priority for your sales team may be helping them acquire the skills necessary to use customer relationship management (CRM) software. But to function well with other departments, they may also need training resources on project collaboration, digital communications, digital security and research methods. Focusing too narrowly on one software package may limit their overall efficacy.
That’s why you want to make sure your programs are focused on developing employees in a holistic way. With a comprehensive strategy focused on broader set of goals, you’ll have well-rounded employees and a more productive workforce.
3. Adapting to Different Learning Styles
Part of fostering diversity in the workplace means understanding that all employees learn at a different pace. You should realize that some people prefer audio to text or video to audio and so on.
And even for employees who have particular preferences, access to materials in one medium can become monotonous, drab and boring. Generally, I like to think of learners in two ways, either using the VARK model or Howard Gardener’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences. VARK is an acronym meaning:
- Visual learners.
- Auditory learners.
- Reading/writing learners.
- Kinesthetic learners.
The Theory of Multiple Intelligences propounds that people have eight types of intelligence, which affects their learning preferences:
Generally, we’re all a combination of different learning styles and intelligences, so these guidelines should be an inspiration for organizations to create all-inclusive digital literacy programs for their employees.
Some employees will benefit more from hands-on training, others will excel in-classroom training and some will prefer do-it-yourself (DIY) courses. Try to make your training budget stretch to accommodate each of these learning styles.
You’ve already determined what success in implementing a digital literacy program means for your organization in the goal-setting stage. Here, you’re simply checking to see if the digital skills your workforce acquired helped your organization to achieve its goals.
Performing an assessment immediately after the program ends isn’t always the best idea. Built-in assessment systems can grade the learner’s performance in some digital literacy programs, but you’ll still need an assessment of the effects of the skill acquisition on your long-term goals.
Depending on those goals, your assessment period might span a quarter, six months or a year.
Give revenue-based goals the most time to yield results. But small wins like increased monthly recurring revenue (MRR) are noticeable and may reveal how long it will take to achieve your long-term revenue goals.
Apart from money, increased digital literacy at work will impact how your employees react to tech adoption at work. They’ll be excited, especially concerning how new tech will simplify their lives, increase productivity and lead them closer to their personal goals.
Invest in Digital Literacy Programs
A digital literacy program at work can raise the morale of your employees and help increase efficiency. But to succeed, you must have a holistic approach so that none of your employees feel sidelined.
Set clear goals, and give the digital literacy program enough time to succeed. You’ll be happy you did.