It is becoming increasingly vital for managers to build digital fluency across their organisations. Developing digital fluency allows employees to swiftly learn, master and manipulate new technologies. It facilitates creativity and collaboration allowing entire teams to create, access navigate and interpret large amounts of information successfully.
What is digital fluency?
Technology is no longer the territory of the IT department, or any specialised department. No organisation can afford to have just one agile person or one machine-learning expert. As automation and AI continue to take over routine tasks, organisations will be required to morph into project centres, where each team member must simultaneously be a technician, a mentor and a project delivery expert. A recent Forbes post on digital fluency describes it as the extent to which people “embrace and use digital technologies to become more knowledgeable, connected and effective.”
Developing digital fluency
Digital fluency can be built and developed, but it is up to leaders to ensure that this happens. Training and professional development programmes must be integrated into the working practices of the organisation. This could be through internal training days, seminars and workshops, external courses overseen by the organisation, or reimbursement for tuition fees for any courses and training that contribute to necessary digital fluency skills. The key vector of digital fluency in an organisation though is it’s people. It is people that will invest time in learning something new. That will champion a system and share their knowledge in an accessible and meaningful way. The importance of person to person motivation and development of digital fluency cannot be underestimated.
Digital fluency and emerging technologies
The organisation needs to focus on reskilling, upskilling and building a team that can adapt to shifts in the value delivery landscape. Team members need to be constantly learning and adapting, focusing on software, systems and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and block-chain distributed ledger technology which, it is now recognised, has the potential to eliminate current recordkeeping techniques, save money and streamline supply chains.
In an interesting extract from JIm Swanson’s article on Digital Fluency: An intelligent approach to AI he discusses how AI might impact the workforce.
“Earlier I noted that when we instituted the A.I.-driven logistics function at Monsanto, our transportation planners and analysts were “freed up.” That phrase may invoke fear because of concerns that A.I. will take jobs away from people. But I use the term in a much different context. Allowing people to break away from monotonous, repetitive tasks is liberating. By significantly reducing or eliminating the time people spend on rote tasks, A.I. empowers employees to engage in more fulfilling and higher value capabilities like analysis and insight.”
This example shows that building digital fluency builds capacity both in terms of effective resource deployment, but also in terms of performance and satisfaction for people.
The importance of leadership
Training in new technologies needs to span the entire organisation, but leaders should not ignore the trickle-down effect. Formal training can be combined with internal mentoring within the organisation to great effect. Being familiar with key innovators and early adopters of technology within your own employee base can allow you to be efficient with training budgets, creating a highly knowledgeable team of mentors to support the spread of digital fluency throughout the entire enterprise.
Ensuring that leaders recognise and embrace the importance of digital fluency is also vital. Many leaders may not be of the generation that have spent their entire careers immersed in technology. They are, however, often in a position to fully appreciate the strategic advantages offered by new systems and software. This makes them prime candidates not only to develop new skillsets but also to advocate for digital fluency and the acceptance and adoption of new technologies across the organisation. The siren call of someone finding simplicity and ease in digital technology is powerful – and is a key motivator to others. With that in mind, digital epiphanies should be shouted from the rooftops, learning achievements celebrated and knowledge shared.
Ultimately, widespread digital fluency is non-optional for modern organisations. Finding ways to train, mentor and encourage employees and leaders to embrace it will create a culture of innovation that stays competitive in the face of constant technological advancements and innovations.