How to Create Digitally Literate Employees in a World of Expanding Automation

CEO

Digitally literate workers can hit the ground running with new digital tools, putting their skills to use in more creative ways and using these tools to streamline operations. But how can an organization improve its workers’ digital literacy? It needs to develop a digital transformation strategy that helps employees stay ahead of the game. 

By 2026, the digital process automation market is expected to be up 106% from where it was in 2020. This stat echoes others that highlight the rapid automation growth happening throughout a wide range of industries.

Experts believe this automation will soon lead to the creation of millions of jobs, which is great news for both employers and workers: With automation in place, employees can free up as much as half of the time they spend on manual tasks. This not only lets workers focus on more important strategic goals, but also reduces costs and minimizes risks.

In all, automation should be a net gain for both businesses and employees. But with 76% of workers saying they feel unprepared for the future of work, companies could face difficulty implementing and maintaining automation in the workplace. To take full advantage of the possibilities of automation, they need to be ready to bridge this digital literacy gap.

Why Digital Literacy Should Be Part of Your Digital Transformation Strategy

Digital literacy is not universal, especially when it comes to older employees and members of historically oppressed demographics.

In some ways, moving to a more automated work environment eases this problem by codifying business processes to ensure they can be successfully maintained and improved, regardless of the digital literacy of employees. However, this can also be something of a double-edged sword. The more people rely on automation to perform tasks, the less likely they’ll be to learn the skills necessary to become digitally literate.

While this might not sound like a big deal (after all, if the end result is the same, does it really matter if automation is picking up the digital slack?), the truth is that a lack of digital literacy will harm a company’s ability to compete in the long term.

Digitally literate workers can hit the ground running with new digital tools, putting their skills to use in more creative ways. They can also figure out how to best use these tools to further streamline operations when it comes to both business processes and the work it takes to execute them. Plus, the more digitally adept a company is, the more likely it is to attract younger digitally native talent that possesses the digital skills necessary to help it compete in the future.

4 Ways to Improve Digital Literacy in Your Workforce

Of course, it isn’t enough to just recognize the need to improve digital literacy in your workforce. You need to develop a digital transformation strategy that makes it possible for your employees to not just keep up, but to stay ahead of the game.

  1. Set the Right Strategy
    Treat your plan to combat digital illiteracy as an investment — well, because it is. Come up with clear goals that have measurable returns so that you can see whether you’re getting anywhere. Develop a realistic roadmap of what you want to achieve within a specific timeline, taking into account the prerequisites in your environment and what, specifically, your employees need to learn. Find tools to record your employees’ digital movements so you can track how each application is being used and adjust your plan to fit the real-world needs of your workers.
  2. Avoid Doing Too Much, Too Fast
    As tempting as it might be to rip off the Band-Aid when it comes to your digital business transformation, forcing your employees to jump straight into the deep end is a good way to ensure that some of them don’t make it back to the surface. Instead, take an agile approach.

    Think about what can be automated to free up resources, but keep in mind that not everything is right for it. Prioritize opportunities that will offer the biggest bang for your buck while you keep a focus on security, access level permissions, and compliance.

  3. Establish What ‘Good’ Looks Like
    Set a standard for your digital processes that people can see and follow. Provide actionable design patterns and templates for things like forms, workflows, and approval processes. Standardize your communication channels, and educate team members on where good data comes from. If your employees are using four different platforms to talk to each other and exporting their data into a manually updated spreadsheet, then you’re on the wrong track.
  4. Make Support Easy and Accessible
    Automation may be a game changer when it comes to efficiency and cost-effectiveness, but that doesn’t mean it will always work the way it’s supposed to. Make sure you have a support structure in place that allows employees to seek guidance when they encounter a problem. Take the time to document your digital processes so that you are ready to provide help for technical issues, training and education, and other requests.

Automation has the potential to transform your business into a leaner, meaner, more modern company. However, it is crucial to make sure your employees are also brought along for the ride. Otherwise, you could be setting yourself up for failure in the long term.


Written by Rick Cruz.
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