1 MARCH, 2022


What is digital literacy?

As Associate Professor Jo Coldwell-Neilson, from the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Built Environment at Deakin University, puts it: “Digital literacy is the ability to identify and use technology confidently, creatively and critically to meet the demands and challenges of living, learning and working in a digital society.”

Why digital literacy is important for your workplace

Working remotely has become incredibly common, and this trend has shone a light on an enormous skills gap: the lack of digital literacy in the workplace. In today’s business environment, digital literacy isn’t an optional skill anymore, and it isn’t just the domain of the IT department either. Organisations need to invest in their digital literacy today so they can compete in the world of tomorrow.

What is digital literacy?

As Associate Professor Jo Coldwell-Neilson, from the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Built Environment at Deakin University, puts it: “Digital literacy is the ability to identify and use technology confidently, creatively and critically to meet the demands and challenges of living, learning and working in a digital society.”

Is there a difference between digital literacy and technical skill?

While digital literacy can involve technical skills like coding or data analytics, it is in itself a soft skill that can be applied across different contexts and adapted to various levels of digital competency.

What are some examples of digital literacy skills?

The best way to understand digital literacy is to consider some examples of the soft skills making up this capability:

Basic functional skills

At the most basic level, digital literacy involves understanding how to handle devices, how to interact with applications, and how to use them for their intended purpose.

Finding and storing information

The internet means that we now have more information at our fingertips than at any other time in human existence. Knowing how to find and store this information correctly is a crucial part of digital literacy.

Online safety

Understanding how to keep safe on the internet is a key component of digital competency, and it will benefit both your employees personally and your business as a whole.

Digital communication

Almost every job these days involves emails, and with remote working some kind of digital chat or video calling tool as well. Knowing the etiquette rules and when to use each platform makes remote collaboration a breeze.

Critical thinking with technology

A vital soft skill in all workplaces, critical thinking skills are particularly important in the digital realm. This involves being able to sort through the mountains of information and assess the credibility of sources.

Adapting to new technologies

Digital literacy isn’t just understanding one device or one application, but rather having the ability to adapt to new technology as it arises.

What are the benefits of improving employees’ digital literacy for businesses?

The importance of digital literacy in the workforce cannot be overstated – we live in a digital world, and technology is ever evolving. In fact, DeakinCo.’s report The Business Return on Learning and Development, developed in partnership with Deloitte Access Economics, found that digital literacy is one of the top five skills gaps in need of fixing in Australia.

Increased employee productivity

Less time spent calling the IT department to resolve issues means more time spent solving actual tasks and results in fewer frustrations – and happy employees make productive employees.

Greater employee job satisfaction

Following on from that, feeling digitally empowered will allow employees to reach their full potential rather than feeling lost at sea with technology they don’t fully understand.

Reducing costs

Increased productivity as well as less strain on your IT department will drive down your cost. You may even be able to solve things in-house if you used to outsource IT.

Improve communication and social media outreach

So many customers interact with business through digital channels these days. That’s why digitally savvy employees who know how to use digital tools both for customer outreach as well as to collaborate are key.

Identify new business opportunities

Consider, for instance, the rise of online shopping. With 9.2 million Australian households shopping online per Australia Post’s most recent report, businesses that identified this opportunity early will be miles ahead of their competitors.

Keep up with the latest trends

By investing in an adaptable, digitally competent workforce, you will no longer need to play catchup to new technologies but can start being at the forefront of the latest trends.

Ways to improve digital literacy in employees

Improving digital literacy in the workplace can happen through many pathways. Some proven methods include:

Provide mentoring for employees

Starting an internal mentoring program will strengthen relationships within your team while also providing an often cost-effective solution to your digital skills gap.

Introduce some easy-to-use technologies

It can be best to start small, with technologies that are simple to understand but add a lot of value, to demonstrate how digital workplaces can be rewarding.

Provide informal training, such as lunch-and-learn sessions

When looking at easier technologies, some lunch courses or other informal sessions might be just right to get people on board and facilitate their own learning afterwards.

Invest in formal training courses

If you are looking to truly upskill your staff and build digital literacy skills that will last, investing in corporate training conducted by experts could very well pay off many times over.

Elements of successful digital literacy training

Many businesses struggle with transitioning to working digitally. A report by Gartner found that high ‘digital dexterity’, which they defined as being open-minded, flexible and investing in digital workplaces, increased the likelihood of a successful digital transformation more than threefold. Investing in digital literacy training is a key step to this success.

Show the value of digital literacy skills in your business

For people to buy into something, they need to understand its value first. Demonstrate this by showcasing the increase in productivity and employee satisfaction new technologies can bring, and point to where employees already successfully use technologies to help them complete their tasks.

Assess your employees’ digital competencies

To run a successful training program, you need to meet people where they are. To do this, make assessing their competencies first a priority – this can be through surveys, interviews, or on the job.

Provide on-going training and support

While some issues like email etiquette may be addressed in a single lunch session, our digital skills need to keep pace with the constant evolution of technology. On-going training and support is key to this.

Track key performance indicators and metrics

When setting up your digital literacy strategy, make sure to define what success looks like for your organisation, and track those key performance indicators as you implement your program.

Adapt your training to employees’ learning styles

Not everyone learns in the same way, so it can pay off to conduct training that caters to a variety of learning styles with audio, visuals, and hands-on examples.

Start developing your employees’ digital literacy today

With DeakinCo., you can trust that our programs are designed for long-term results, run by experts and delivered in a manner that suits your business best. Getting your organisation’s digital literacy skills to the next level doesn’t have to be hard.

Talk to DeakinCo. about how we can help you develop your team’s digital competencies.