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Digital fluency: How to build digital skills at work

By 11th January 2024January 31st, 2024No Comments
Hands holding up two cardboard speech bubbles next to each other. They say digital fluency.

The digital skills conversation comes with a lot of different buzzwords. Between digital transformation, the digital skills gap, micro-teaching, blended learning, upskilling, reskilling, and digital literacy, it’s sometimes difficult to cut through the jargon and have a meaningful discussion around skill development and strategy.

Digital fluency is a term that isn’t as common as digital literacy. But it could offer a more helpful way to think about digital skills across a larger workforce. In this article, we’ll cover what digital fluency is, why it’s important, and what benefits it could bring to your organisation.

What is digital fluency?

According to the University of Liverpool’s Centre for Innovation in Education, digital fluency is defined as: “the ability to use digital platforms to problem-solve, create, collaborate, and communicate.”

It’s a wide-ranging term that encompasses basic technical skills along with:

An illuminated lightbulb in the centre of four unlit ones.

Awareness of the kinds of digital tools and technologies available

Close up of a backstage pass

Understanding of how digital systems and processes work behind the scenes

A woman sits in an office in front of her laptop. She radiates confidence and is smiling.

Confidence in using different apps and functions to achieve a specific goal

Just like being fluent in a language, being digitally fluent means being able to apply skills in the real world. Fluency is about going beyond what we’ve been taught to respond to new information and circumstances – even if we haven’t come across them before.

Digital fluency vs digital literacy: What’s the difference?

Digital literacy covers basic digital skills for work. Digital literacy is a good way for thinking about if someone can use technology. Whereas digital fluency is about how well they can use it.

Digital literacy is geared towards binaries, encouraging a yes/no response. It groups us into two categories, those who are “good with technology” and those who aren’t.

A simple checkbox illustration vs a series of sliding scales.

But it’s rare that people fit neatly into a single category, especially in the world of work.

We’ve all got our strengths and weaknesses when it comes to adopting new tools in the workplace. Just because a colleague can share every known Excel shortcut on demand, it doesn’t mean they’re a natural with other apps. For example, they might struggle to create a PowerPoint deck to communicate their spreadsheet findings.

So while digital literacy defines people as either digital literate – i.e. good with technology – or not, digital fluency offers a broader appraisal of digital skills.

Digital fluency encourages us to think of digital skills as a set of sliding scales as opposed to a single tick box.

Benefits of digital fluency

Digital fluency is an important metric for any modern workplace.

People have more options than ever before when it comes to technology at work. But with that comes the need to choose the right tools to be able to work quickly, effectively and collaboratively.

Every month, new features and functionality appear in evergreen systems like Microsoft 365. It’s not enough to simply memorise a series of button clicks any more. To add value to an organisation, employees need to be able to keep up with changes and understand how to get the most out of digital tools.

By investing in digital skills and ongoing support, you can boost digital fluency – and get a better ROI from your software licences.

A man working out how to use new features in Microsoft 365. He is quietly determined.

How to establish digital fluency

As with all learning and development strategies, achieving digital fluency starts with establishing a baseline.

Knowing where your people are with their digital fluency is the first step to strengthening skills, building confidence, and seeing results.

Exercises such as a training needs analysis (TNA) or digital maturity assessment can be an excellent launchpad for targeted training.

Wait, what’s a digital maturity assessment?

A maturity assessment uses data to pinpoint where you are on your journey towards digital maturity. The much-hallowed state where an organisation gets optimal value from technology.

A sample maturity assessment report presentation

There are lots of different ways to do a maturity assessment. At Inform, we combine our unique maturity model with data from the back end of Microsoft 365. This gives you a clear view of how you’re using Microsoft applications. It shows at a glance where you can improve collaboration, reduce risk, and unlock greater productivity across your team.

A maturity assessment can help you identify ways to boost efficiency and streamline your processes. It helps you define an overall strategy for improving digital outcomes at work.

Great… and what’s a training needs analysis?

A training needs analysis can help you benchmark digital skills across your organisation. It shows you where you need to focus your training to bring people up to speed.

Typically, a training needs analysis will look at the different tech in use across your organisation. It should evaluate your people’s skills and confidence in different areas, and identify training options to bridge any gaps. Done well, a TNA will act as a roadmap to take your workforce from digital literacy to digital fluency.

Unlock digital fluency across your organisation with The Inform Team

To find out more about measuring digital fluency and building digital skills across your workforce, get in touch today or browse our learning + skills services.

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