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Three Topics to Boost Employee Digital Literacy


Modern businesses rely on technology in ways that would have been unthinkable only a few short years ago. If you think about it, it's hard to come up with a single profession that has remained untouched by technological change. Even manual laborers are beginning to feel the effects of the encroachment of robotics and AI into their work. For businesses, that means more efficiency and lower overhead. It also means a change in the skills that they will require from their current and future workforce.

In general, businesses tend to focus on developing employees' specific technology skills in response to current and forecasted business needs. While that serves to keep their workforce capable of handling the skills demands of today, it remains a very reactive strategy that relies on having accurate foreknowledge of what path technological change in their industry will ultimately take. It also assumes that a given set of employees will have the ability to absorb and master necessary new tech skills within the available time before the business begins to fall behind.

That's why there's good reason for businesses to take a more proactive approach to employee tech training that focuses less on specific skills and more on general digital literacy that can raise the level of skills among the widest possible group of employees. That way, the business will have a workforce that's primed to learn new specific tech skills as needed, with less lead time and less risk of failure. Here are three of the topic areas they should focus on.

Data analysis and visualization

Over the last several years, the amount of data business around the world collect has skyrocketed, largely due to the rise of e-commerce and internet-connected business applications. In the rush to make something out of all of the available data, the demand for data scientists in businesses of all types and sizes has exploded. Lost in the shuffle, however, is the fact that data scientists aren't the only employees that will interact with a company's available data. The reality is that employees of all kinds and at all levels need to learn the skills to deal with an ever-growing onslaught of information coming their way each day. That's why it is critical for businesses to focus their efforts on training their employees in the basics of data analysis and visualization.

Blockchain and smart contracts

By now, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone that hasn't heard of or even dabbled in cryptocurrencies. Much less well-known, however, is the technology that makes them tick, known as the blockchain. It's an encrypted, decentralized digital ledger system that provides trustless transaction verification. It also allows for self-executing, automated smart contracts between multiple parties. For businesses, the blockchain is turning out to be far more significant than the cryptocurrencies that it sprung from, and it's working its way into industries far and wide. As many as 85% of global businesses are already working on adopting blockchain technology, so understanding it and knowing its applications is a must-have skill for the workforce of tomorrow, regardless of the industry.

Cybersecurity and digital risk management

As the use of data and technology by businesses has increased, so have the risks those businesses must face by doing so. Some of those risks are direct, like the chance of data theft or hacking by an outside party, and some are more indirect, like a mishandling of personal information that runs afoul of regulations. Either way, today's employees are at the frontlines of the battle to manage and minimize digital risk, and it's incumbent on businesses to arm them with the skills and knowledge they need to be effective gatekeepers and good stewards of business data. Human resources professionals already recognize that this is an area of employee training where businesses need to pay more attention, and they should do so as soon as possible. Besides helping protect the business from digital risk, it will also create a workforce culture that encourages following proper procedures, which becomes even more critical as employees gain new specialized tech skills.

A solid foundation

Any business that focuses their general employee digital literacy efforts in these areas will be building a workforce with a strong foundation in the skills of tomorrow, regardless of individual positions. They will possess specific, useful knowledge that they can apply to their current jobs, as well as be ready to master more abstract technological concepts as they become necessary. Taken together, they represent an approach that raises the digital literacy of all employees, thus ensuring an easier way forward, no matter which way technology develops in their specific industry – and that's an outcome that should be easy for any business to get behind.

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Philip Piletic

Blogger, writer and editor

Read more from Philip Piletic

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