17 Sep The impact of digital literacy in the workplace
There’s no doubt about it: Automation is changing how we work.
In just three years, the digital process automation market is expected to increase by 106 per cent from where it was in 2020. It’s not industry-specific, either – rapid automation growth is happening everywhere.
According to the World Economic Forum, automation will create a net increase of 58 million jobs. And it will present many benefits by allowing us to do more complex work, effectively interact with customers, reduce costs, and minimize risks.
So if we want to remain employable, we need to keep up. Having strong digital literacy skills is one of the best ways to stay knowledgeable of the latest technological advances in the world of work.
What is digital literacy?
Digital literacy is having the knowledge, skills and confidence to keep up with changes in technology. In today’s technology-based world, it’s a crucial skill that’s necessary to assess information, attain new knowledge, and communicate with others.
Since so many of the problems we’re required to solve involve technology, we need to know how to use it in a safe, legal, and ethically responsible manner. Digitally literate adults understand how to manage their use of technology while recognizing the opportunities it presents.
The benefits of strong digital literacy skills at work
Having strong digital literacy skills allow us to adapt to change in the workplace and leverage new technology needed for the job. However, there are also added benefits for an employer in having a workforce with strong digital literacy skills.
As amazing as it can be to seek answers to almost any question via Google, you need digital literacy skills to assess the information. Is the online information that you find trustworthy, current, and relevant? Is it worthy of absorbing and sharing with others? If it is, you can quickly and accurately receive solutions to problems and better understand human, cultural, and societal issues.
Digitally literate employees can identify and understand gaps in workplace operations. Because they understand the technicalities of digital tools, they can maximize the productivity of their work processes and increase their company’s revenue.
In today’s workplaces, new material is constantly being published and read. Identifying crucial information and patterns, and implementing them correctly into work processes, is more efficient when someone is digitally literate.
Diverse workforces that have multiple generations working together greatly benefit from having workers with digital literacy skills. These workers can connect and collaborate more effectively and have greater empathy toward their colleagues.
Digital literacy skills help free up as much as half of an employee’s time on manual tasks, with extra time left to focus on more strategic goals.
Digitally literate employees can better embrace changes caused by automation and technology and use their skillsets more creatively. They’re able to problem-solve to streamline operations and business processes.
Being a workplace that supports digital literacy can bring recruitment-related benefits, too. Younger generations that are digitally focused appreciate employers with the same mindset about digital technology. And since remaining competitive relies on having the necessary digital skills, this is a win-win for both employer and employee.
Other benefits include reduced operational costs due to increased efficiencies and less risk.
According to this 2019 study, 36 per cent of managers in 10 countries believed that Artificial Intelligence (AI) would improve their skills, with 20 per cent saying it would strengthen their relationships in the workplace.
Employees that use digital technology benefit from increased job satisfaction. Employers have improved employee engagement and can reach their goals faster and with better results.
Digital literacy helps job seekers, too: Unemployed workers become more employable if they’re digitally literate, and active professionals receive more growth opportunities.
The impact of low digital literacy skills in the workplace
A highly literate workforce increases Gross Domestic Product and productivity and is vital for maintaining a healthy, competitive economy. Without these skills, employers may face many challenges, which in turn can impact the overall Canadian economy.
Threat to security
Unfortunately, online risks constantly evolve, causing less digitally literate individuals to be at higher risk. Someone with a solid digital literacy skillset can generate strong passwords, use privacy settings effectively, identify phishing scams, and know what information should and shouldn’t be shared online.
If a workforce lacks strong digital literacy skills, an organization is at risk of online threats, including digital breaches and cyber-attacks.
Unable to remain competitive
Having a workforce without appropriate digital literacy skills will make it extra difficult for a company to compete long-term. Automated work environments are becoming the norm, but workers need the digital know-how to use this technology effectively and help drive the organization forward.
While automation in the workplace eliminates the repetitious elements of a position, it makes the higher-skilled tasks of the job more important. Forbes predicts that about two-thirds of a job altered by automation will become higher-skilled.
Without digital literacy skills, our workforce won’t be able to fill these higher-skilled opportunities.
Negative impact on business
Business productivity and growth will be negatively if employees unsuccessfully adapt to new tools, systems and processes involving digital skills.
Certain careers will seize to exist if they fail to adapt to the new technological circumstances. And communication and collaboration – two key aspects of any successful business – will become negatively impacted.
Employees lacking the digital literacy skills necessary to communicate with their colleagues will create online collaboration challenges and hurt internal productivity. Interacting with customers will also become difficult.
Estimates say that around 84 per cent of jobs in Canada currently require the use of a computer, and that number is expected to grow. Canadians will require the necessary digital literacy skills to not only secure and maintain employment, but also to help Canada compete on a global scale.