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PHOTO: Jordan Ladikos

Digital literacy programs tend to focus on the current tools in use or those being rolled out across the enterprise and the style of working these tools facilitate. At times they also cover more immediate organizational priorities such as reducing risk. For example, the use of collaboration tools, the Office 365 suite, and navigating the dangers of cybersecurity have all featured as major focuses for enterprise digital literacy initiatives.

Some programs support options for personal flexible working, more open styles of working (something Working Out Loud touches upon), as well as improving an individual’s external digital footprint. These sorts of programs often target layers of management.

We can assume that in general, future digital literacy initiatives will follow the same trajectory as the digital workplace. As digital workplaces and the constituent tools become more complex, as AI deployments increase, and as more tools are designed to give power to end users, digital literacy initiatives may start to more closely resemble the type of training which has previously been aimed at super-users. Who know, perhaps teaching coding to all employees will be seen as standard one day?

4 Potential Directions for Digital Literacy in the Future

Process Efficiency

The range of tools we see in intranets and the Office 365 suite are starting to put process efficiency in the hands of non-IT folk, although perhaps it will still take some time before this becomes a norm for end users. The ability to configure simple forms and workflow in some out-of-the-box intranet products, build apps and reporting dashboards using Office 365 tools like Flow, PowerApps and PowerBI, and integrate other apps into tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams is an exciting development. Teams are also likely to be able to create their own bots for simple tasks and processes.

The democratization of process efficiency has already begun. Digital literacy initiatives could show teams and individual users how to become less reliant on email, spreadsheets and even paper-forms and really improve their processes. To be effective, any initiative would have to touch upon elements such as business analysis, the process for implementation (testing etc.) and measurement.

Related Article: How to Encourage a Growth Mindset in Your Company

Working Environment

The harmonization of the digital and physical workplace is being driven by trends such as activity-based working, better office design targeted to different needs, the Internet of Things, the rise of apps and platforms such as meeting room and desk booking system provider Condeco, voice-activated devices like Alexa and the subsequent delivery of data from some of these sources.

Increasingly our apps and tools give us more influence over our personal working environment — either allowing us to control our immediate environment or for us to make informed decisions about the optimum place for us to work. Making decisions about the level of heat and light we need, the likely noise levels, our ability to be disturbed, the exact location we choose and so on may be a future focus for "digital literacy."  While our ability to manage or optimize our working environment based on our need is still in the early stages, it is a potentially powerful topic which could engage users who can see a clear "what’s-in-it-for-me."

Related Article: 4 Key Elements of an Impactful Digital Literacy Program

Health and Well-Being

Health and well-being “education” is already an agenda item for most corporations and its extension into being a digital literacy issue is already under way. For example, a digital literacy initiative centered around well-being could potentially focus on a number of different issues such as:

  • Ensuring you’re using the digital workplace in ways that don’t negatively impact your physical and mental health.
  • Using personal data generated from the digital workplace to help monitor your health and well-being.
  • Using apps and devices to help support health and well-being, including fitness trackers.
  • Dealing with stress and anxiety caused by digital workplace interactions, cognitive overload and more.
  • Working styles such as Working Out Loud which can help alleviate stress and promote well-being.

Digital Assistants

Some organizations are now working on sophisticated enterprise digital assistants which include a chatbot as one of the key ways to interact with it. For example, Liberty Mutual, Publicis Groupe and Deakins University in Australia have released or are working on digital assistants, which are a leading way that employees (or students) interact with the digital workplace.

These digital assistants also become a vehicle for digital literacy in themselves because they effectively make suggestions on how to interact with the digital workplace, and which tools to use in particular situations. These suggestions can be very targeted to different roles and levels — for example to new joiners or project managers.

Arguably you could say a sophisticated digital assistant does remove the need for some digital literacy initiatives because it does everything for you, but I believe it should be also regarded as a digital literacy tool in itself, helping managers and employees to gain confidence in using the digital tools at their disposal in increasingly sophisticated ways.

Related Article: Chatbots Belong in the Workplace (Provided They're Well-Designed)

Digital Literacy Must Evolve With the Digital Workplace

The digital workplace is constantly evolving. Change management efforts must also evolve to help employees successfully use the tools at their disposal. I don’t know if digital literacy initiatives will start to include more of the elements mentioned in this article this year, but anything which helps promote the successful use of the digital workplace has to be a good thing.