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Steps to improve your team's digital literacy

Digital literacy is always something that can be upskilled. So, we've decided to take a closer look and offer tips on how to improve your team's digital literacy.
Dom Murray, Content Writer
2021-09-02

If you were born in a certain generation, digital literacy might be a skill you take for granted. You’re a digital native, after all. However, digital literacy isn’t something that comes naturally to everyone. As such, it is important to be aware of the varying digital literacy levels within your organisation and continually strive to improve your team’s digital literacy.  

Even for younger generations, digital literacy is always something that can be upskilled. Remember, nobody’s perfect. There’s always something new to learn, and in many ways, digital literacy is no different to traditional conceptions of literacy. It is a skill that can be continually honed throughout your career, playing a significant role in your ongoing professional development

Unfortunately, many organisations overlook digital literacy when crafting learning and development strategies, meaning it is a skill that can stagnate quickly. 

With this in mind, we’ve decided to take a closer look at the world of digital literacy. We’ll start by asking what digital literacy is and why it’s important, before offering tips on how to improve your team’s digital literacy. 

What is digital literacy? 

Digital literacy is not that different to traditional forms of literacy. The medium may change, but the basic skills remain the same. Where we traditionally think of literacy as the ability to read, write, interpret, and critically evaluate the written word, digital literacy asks us to apply similar skills to digital mediums. 

According to Common Sense Media, “digital literacy is part of media literacy. They're both included in the idea of ‘information literacy’, which is the ability to effectively find, identify, evaluate, and use information. Digital literacy specifically applies to media from the internet, smartphones, video games, and other nontraditional sources.”

Developing Employability expands on this definition, adding that digital literacy is the ability to “identify and use technology confidently, creatively and critically to meet the demands and challenges of life, learning and work in a digital society.” 

A few key indicators of digital literacy include being able to:

  • Confidently identify and operate different technologies
  • Access, interpret, and critically evaluate information in digital spheres
  • Communicate with others using online tools
  • Manage your online identity while being conscious of security, safety, and privacy
  • Create digital content, not just consume it

Why is digital literacy important? 

Digital literacy is important for a variety of reasons. For starters, digital literacy is important because we live in a society that is increasingly reliant on digital tools. From social media to Zoom meetings to online payments and many more, much of our society is filtered through a digital lens. 

Despite this, digital literacy expert Elizabeth Marsh recently found that 88% of organisations have not taken any action to tackle their employees’ lack of digital skills. Yet, 44% of workplaces have some form of digital program in place. What’s more, Ms Marsh finds that “the digital skills deficiency in the workforce is impacting on performance, with lost productivity and decreased customers the main negative impacts." These deficiencies should be highly concerning and could serve as a wake-up call for organisations to provide better digital literacy training.

Pull quote with the text: 88% of organisations have not taken any action to tackle their employees' lack of digital skills

Additionally, teams now use 16 SaaS applications on average, up from 8 in 2015. While this may come naturally to some, jumping from application to application can be a lot to get your head around if you’re not as digitally literate. 

Along these lines, Emerald Works finds that 29% of L&D teams are concerned about the pace of technological change, with 39% adding that they are overwhelmed and under-equipped. 

To put this into perspective, The Australian Digital Inclusion Index tracks and measures the rate of digital literacy in Australia. In 2020, the report saw a slight increase in Australia’s ADII score, from 61.9 in 2019 to 63 in 2020. While it is encouraging that this score is trending in the right direction, this was a smaller increase than in previous years. 

To underscore the importance of digital literacy and inclusion, the ADII explains some of the factors that contribute to digital literacy, commenting, “across the nation, digital inclusion follows some clear economic and social contours. In general, Australians with lower levels  of income, employment, and education are significantly less digitally included. There is consequently a substantial digital divide between richer and poorer Australians.”

In addition, older people, Indigenous Australians, people with disabilities, and people who live in rural areas are all more likely to be digitally excluded. 

Given these findings, digital literacy is important on three distinct levels. Firstly, a foundational degree of digital literacy is necessary to participate in an increasingly digital society. Without this, people may struggle to access employment and other basic needs. 

Secondly, from a business perspective, a team that lacks the necessary digital literacy skills is likely to be less productive. In an L&D context, it is incumbent upon us to ensure employees have access to strong digital skills programs, which will lead to both a high-functioning business and more productive, engaged employees.

Pull quote with the text: A team that lacks the necessary digital literacy skills is likely to be less productive

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, improving digital literacy is vital from a diversity and inclusion standpoint. As the latest ADII report reveals, Indigenous Australians, people with disabilities, and Australians from poorer socio-economic backgrounds are disproportionately affected by a lack of digital literacy Therefore, improving access to digital literacy for these traditionally marginalised groups should be a priority to help bridge the digital divide. 

Tips to improve your team’s digital literacy 

With these factors in mind, the question becomes, what can I do to improve my team’s digital literacy? 

A good place to start is by clearly communicating the value of digital literacy to employees. In other words: what’s in it for me? For example, you might explain that digital literacy can improve productivity, expand knowledge, offer new skills, and help people remain employable. You might also explain the benefits of professional development, and how digital literacy is a key part of a successful professional development plan. For a closer look at that topic, be sure to read our article on the benefits of professional development. 

Once everyone understands the value of digital literacy, it’s time to assess your team’s current digital literacy levels. By doing this, you will be able to identify the specific areas that require improvement. The details of this process will vary from team to team. However, surveys that ask employees to identify their current level of digital knowledge, or even simple online tests, can be good ways to assess your team's digital literacy.

Next, it is essential to set clear, measurable objectives to ensure you achieve the desired outcomes. These objectives will help you decide which digital literacy skills to prioritise. It is a good idea to collaborate with employees to design these objectives, to ensure everyone’s goals and perspectives are considered.

WeLearn provides an example of setting digital literacy objectives, explaining, “if you’re looking to build your digital skill set, you need to know what you are using technology for and if there are ways to use it more efficiently. Not everyone needs to know how to code to succeed at their job, but perhaps that’s an important element of your position. Whether it’s learning how to create a podcast or make an Instagram account, defining your objectives will put you on the right track to reaching your digital literacy goals.”

Finally, it is time to implement a training strategy to improve your team’s digital literacy. eLearning Industry recommends that hosting live events, encouraging learner-generated content, creating an online resource guide, and including digital literacy simulations can all be useful steps in this process. 

It is important to note that creating training content to improve your team’s digital literacy will not be a one-size-fits-all process. Rather, this process will vary from business to business depending on your organisation, goals, existing learning infrastructure, and your learners’ specific needs. 

If you’re ready to take the first step on this journey, Go1 can help. Sign up for a free trial today to access a dedicated course on Digital Literacy basics, as well as introductory courses to Microsoft 365, Sharepoint, and many more, and start upskilling your team’s digital literacy in minutes.

For more insights on digital literacy, be sure to read our article on identifying your skills gaps and subscribe to the Go1 newsletter to stay on top of all the latest L&D trends. Or, to find out how Go1 can improve your team’s digital literacy, you can book a demo today.

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