why ‘digital literacy’ is no longer negotiable in the workplace
Global – Digital literacy used to mean the ability to send emails or type with a word processor. It was a skill that was mostly required of knowledge workers – people who could use certain software at work and had to be fluent in it accordingly.
But the phrase has changed significantly. Today, digital literacy means having the skills to thrive in a society where communication and access to information is increasingly done through digital technologies such as online platforms and mobile devices. The concept includes a broad understanding of the multitude of digital tools that enable office, hybrid and remote work in all types of workspaces: imagine real-time collaboration software, live chat applications in the workplace, and sophisticated tools for asynchronous work .
Today, digital literacy is no longer a functional offering, but a way of thinking. In today’s workplace, employees are more expected to be quick to adopt any technology related to their work, as well as adapt to ever-changing tools and approaches. Workers are also expected to use technology strategically, from working with their personal mobile devices to using collaborative workflow programs.
Why Everyone Needs Digital Literacy
Digital literacy is a broad concept: you can work with digital devices from simple ways to very complex tasks.
The demand for digital literacy in the labor market has been steadily growing since the 1980s. A study showing that while the demand for literacy and numeracy skills among the UK workforce has stagnated, the number of jobs requiring digital skills continues to rise.
Over time, non-tech professionals were expected to have some digital experience. From warehouse operators using cloud-based management systems, to doctors consulting patients via video calls, to contractors managing construction projects via mobile collaboration apps, technology is no longer industry dependent.
However, the growing importance of digital literacy does not mean that workers must master all available programs in order to get a job. Instead, they should be digitally confident: eager to try out new technologies; understand how the right tools can streamline routine tasks and improve workplace collaboration; while being flexible and adaptable to learn new processes.
Employees today must assume that they will continue to improve their digital skills. After all, when a worker takes on a new role, they are expected to either have the digital skills to get the job done or to learn them quickly. Hybrid and remote work was relevant for only 5% of the workforce before the pandemic. Now it is almost half of all employed. No matter what kind of work you did before, the employer now expects you to master any digital skills required for the job.