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The Digital Literacy Challenge - Part 2

This is the second in a series of articles looking at the digital literacy challenge that companies face, especially now in today’s world, where for the first time the workforce may be made up of 5 different generations - including the impending arrival of Generation Z, the first fully immersed technology generation.

According to Wikipedia:

Digital literacy refers to an individual's ability to find, evaluate, and compose clear information through writing and other mediums on various digital platforms.

From departments to communities

For at least 100 years, businesses have organised themselves around hierarchical department structures, which has enforced a “closed wall” mentality amongst staff. Their working world has traditionally started and finished within the boundary of the department and individuals were neither encouraged, nor saw the need, to collaborate with other departments.

Financial structures further enforced this through the creation of cost centres and the IT function typically implemented department network drives, further restricting any chance of sharing and collaborating.

But the world is changing both within and outside of business. Individuals now realise the great benefits in seeking out and sharing ideas with like-minded people, regardless of any enforced department or even company boundaries. This is a much more natural way to behave and those companies that embrace this change and support the creation of company communities and teams will be the ones that benefit.

From small to large organisations, moving the culture to a community-based approach to help solve problems and drive the business forward will reap great rewards.

Beyond a project approach

Don’t get me wrong, in a small way this has been happening already – it is called a “project”.

Whenever a cross department or company-wide initiative was identified by the hierarchy, a formal “project” was created, and individuals were “volunteered” by their managers to be part of it.

Projects are good, but their rigour and structure, and the technology available to support them, did not engender a real “together” or community approach. Instead, people were tasked to do specific things, then asked to leave the project when they had completed their tasks, and no one volunteered for anything beyond the tasks assigned to them.

The departmental approach to IT meant that Project Members (I do not believe the term “Project Team” can be used) found it difficult to share information as they were restricted to their own separate department network drives – the whole project was therefore run using email communication.

Collaboration in the modern workplace

The technology is now available to enable community-based projects to spring up without the need to request additional budget or approval.

Think about a large company with many managers, each with their own Personal Assistant.

Why should the Personal Assistants not form their own community to discuss issues and share ideas on how to improve the individual value they provide to their managers, and the collective value they provide to the company as a whole? Suddenly silos are broken down.

If someone encounters an issue arranging travel for instance, they can reach out to their community to see if anyone else has experienced the same issue and has a solution. These community-based “rooms” engender more open collaboration and sharing of information than email could ever hope to achieve.

Business owners and even some staff are wary of this change, especially when they see words such as “company social media” or “chat” attached to them. But, this is just a culture and mindset change and believe me, this change in working practice is inevitable and is happening now. I know companies that have suddenly discovered staff are communicating internally using WhatsApp because there is no internal chat facility available and email is no longer accepted as an effective collaboration tool. Company discussions and communications are happening outside of the IT security and infrastructure controls.

Meeting the digital literacy challenge

Technology companies such as Microsoft have recognised this development in how individuals work and have completely re-engineered their solutions and service to embrace the change.

Yes, email is still king in many companies, but alongside this are team and community-based solutions that provide staff with workspaces where they can collaborate in a more conversational style and can share and work together on documents.

Those companies that adopt the technology now available, and who support the digital and cultural change, are the ones that will be more attractive to the next generation of workers and will reap benefits across their existing workforce. They can also ensure that all of this community-based activity happens within company approved technology that is secure and auditable - by selecting and controlling the rollout of the technology and the upskilling of their digital literacy skills.

Rather than a challenge, digital literacy should be seen as an opportunity to embrace the cultural change and transform business into a truly modern workplace.


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