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The Difference Between Digital Literacy and Fluency and Why They Matter to the Modern Workplace

Are you digitally literate?

Or are you digitally fluent?

You might be scratching your head, wondering if there’s even a difference between the two. Technology plays an integral role in the modern workplace, and understanding the difference between digital literacy and digital fluency is essential.

Digital literacy in the workplace refers to the ability to navigate and utilize digital tools and technologies effectively at work. It’s about having the fundamental skills on computers, using software, and making your way through at least basic workplace technology.

This would typically be using the standard Microsoft Office or Google Workspace tools, common email tasks and etiquette, and more. These are all aspects of digital literacy that form the foundation for engaging with technology in the workplace.

However, digital literacy alone isn’t sufficient in today’s fast-paced and tech-driven environment. That’s where digital fluency comes in. It’s a term that goes beyond mere competence with standard digital tools.

Digital fluency encompasses a deeper understanding and proficiency in leveraging technology to solve complex workplace problems, communicate effectively, and adapt to the digital revolution in the workplace.

Employees who are digitally literate and fluent are both essential. They each play their role in the modern workplace.

It can involve knowing how to use specific company systems effectively for a job. It can also go beyond that in being able to think critically, innovate, and collaborate efficiently using digital platforms.

There’s a definite difference between the two and it can even be seen at a basic level with software like Microsoft Word. Are you opening Word to create a document and then saving it locally or are you collaborating effectively through the sharing tools of Office 365 without duplicating documents among other faux paws that are seen regularly?

Why do these distinctions matter in the modern workplace?

Organizations that prioritize digital literacy and fluency among their employees gain a competitive edge in today’s digital economy. Some roles may require fluency whereas some merely literacy will do.

Those who are digitally literate can navigate software effectively and learn new digital skills. On the other hand, those who go beyond digital literacy and develop digital fluency become invaluable assets, driving innovation and leading digital transformation within their organizations.

This post goes into the difference between digital literacy and digital fluency, exploring why they matter in the modern workplace and how organizations can foster these essential skills among their workforce.

The Definition and Importance of Digital Literacy

Digital literacy refers to the ability to navigate and utilize workplace digital tools and technologies effectively. In most modern workplaces, digital literacy is essential for employees at all levels. It provides a foundation for engaging with technology and enables individuals to adapt to new software and emerging technologies.

Employees with strong digital literacy skills can for the most part use workplace systems effectively for their jobs. They may not go beyond what they know for their job but they get the work done.

Digital literacy empowers employees to do their jobs with technology and effectively learn how to use technology to do their jobs. They may not like change and may take a bit longer to learn it, but they do it and will adapt in the long run.

In today’s interconnected world, almost every job requires some level of interaction with technology. From healthcare professionals using electronic medical records to marketing teams utilizing social media platforms for campaigns, digital literacy has become a fundamental skill set across diverse sectors.

The Definition and Importance of Digital Fluency

Digital fluency goes beyond basic competence with digital tools. It also goes beyond basic willingness to learn only what’s taught to them about systems and not exploring ways to do things better.

Being digitally fluent represents a deeper understanding and proficiency in leveraging technology to solve complex problems, communicate effectively, and adapt to ever-changing digital landscapes in the workplace.

Individuals who are digitally fluent possess not only the technical skills but they take it a step further. They’re typically willing to learn new technology, want to try out the newest stuff, and even find new ways to use it.

Digital fluency goes beyond learning only what’s needed for their job into the realm of doing more with technology. They can think creatively about how technology can be utilized to streamline processes or improve outcomes.

Digitally fluent employees push the limits of company technology and what they can do in software.

The digitally fluent will adapt quickly as new technologies emerge and they’re comfortable with exploring and experimenting with different digital tools.

In the modern workplace, digital fluency is highly valued. Organizations that have digitally fluent employees are better equipped to drive innovation and lead digital transformation within their industries. These individuals can identify opportunities for improvement, implement technological solutions, and inspire others to embrace new ways of working.

Digital fluency is a critical skill for professionals who want to thrive in the digital age. It enables individuals to stay ahead of the curve, embrace emerging technologies, and contribute to the success of their organizations.

Understanding the Difference Between Digital Literacy and Digital Fluency

While both digital literacy and digital fluency are essential in the modern workplace, there are distinct differences between the two terms.

Digital literacy is the basic skills required to use company technology effectively. Digital literacy provides individuals with a foundation for engaging with technology in their work.

On the other hand, digital fluency goes beyond basic competence. It involves a willingness to go beyond the basics of using technology for the job. They possess a curiosity that allows them to explore and do new things that those who are merely digitally literate might never think of.

Digital literacy is having the basic digital knowledge to perform a job whereas digital fluency goes beyond the basics into the realm of pushing the limits of company technology.

The difference between the two lies in the willingness to go beyond the technology they learn from the workplace and explore new ways of doing things. These are the basics of what each one is so you can pick out the differences.

  • Digital Literacy: The basic skills required to use workplace technology effectively to accomplish just what’s necessary for the job.
  • Digital Fluency: Understanding the potential of technology’s applications, applying critical thinking, and being willing to go beyond the basics of using technology for the job.

Both digital literacy and digital fluency are valuable but digital fluency definitely takes the lead in importance.

Why They Matter to the Modern Workplace

Technology moves fast, the digitization of the workplace moves fast, and it’s essential that employees can keep up. Both literacy and fluency matter and since not everyone can be fluent, literacy is important too.

Here are some reasons why both matter to the modern workplace:

  • Adaptability: Technology is constantly evolving, and job roles are changing accordingly. Employees with strong digital skills can adapt more readily to these changes. Those who are literate will get by in the workplace and those who are fluent will push the technology further.
  • Efficiency: Productivity and efficiency in the workplace are essential. Digitally literate individuals can utilize technology effectively enough to do their jobs, cool. Digitally fluent will take efficiencies to the next level and help others do the same.
  • Collaboration: Digital literacy will facilitate collaboration within teams at a basic and important level. Those who are digitally fluent will take it to the next level and help others discover things they wouldn’t typically know.
  • Critical Thinking: Those who are digitally literate understand how to do their jobs with technology but maybe not critically. The digitally fluent will question, figure out better ways, and always think critically about how technology is used for their jobs.
  • Career Opportunities: Employers value digital skills when hiring talent. Having strong digital skills opens up a wide range of career opportunities across industries. Those who are more tech-savvy will have more career opportunities.

Digital skills are crucial for individuals to thrive in the modern workplace. It provides a foundation for engaging with technology, adapting to changing demands, and improving overall productivity and efficiency.

Digital literacy will provide the basics for employees to do their jobs but fluency will take things a step further. But how do you encourage employees to gain new digital skills?

How to Encourage Digital Skills Growth Among Employees

To encourage digital skills growth among employees in the workplace, several options are available. Custom corporate technical training is a great route towards encouraging employees to grow their digital skills.

  • Training: Offering training for company technology is a great way to encourage employees to grow their digital skills. This can range from general digital skills from platforms such as LinkedIn Learning or Udemy to custom digital training solutions built just for your company’s technology.
  • Provide Resources: Provide employees with resources such as help articles (aka knowledge base), tutorial videos, or even contextual help. This allows employees to learn at their own pace and acquire the digital skills they need help with at the moment.
  • Internal Mentoring: Establish a mentoring program where digitally literate employees can mentor their colleagues. This creates a supportive learning environment and encourages knowledge-sharing within the organization.
  • Recognize and Reward: Recognize and reward employees who demonstrate strong digital literacy skills. This can be done through performance evaluations, promotions, or special incentives.
  • Continued Learning Opportunities: Encourage employees to engage in continued learning opportunities related to digital skills. This can include attending webinars, conferences, or online courses from sites like Coursera or even Google.

Organizations can encourage digital literacy among employees by offering ways for them to grow their digital knowledge. It’s not going to simply happen by itself so it’s up to the company to offer professional growth opportunities.

How Custom Corporate Technical Training Encourages Employee’s Digital Skills

You saw above how training encourages digital skills growth. This section goes a bit deeper into the importance of custom corporate technical training and how it plays a crucial role in encouraging employees to grow their digital skills.

Some company technology is similar to other organizations but much of it is unique. That’s why companies must provide custom corporate technical training. That gives employees a way to learn the specifics of technology used internally.

It’s also a great way to help launch new company technology as well as onboard new employees. Here are some ways custom corporate technical training encourages digital skills growth.

  • Building a Foundation: Custom corporate technical training provides employees with specific digital skills for company tech. The basics are great but much company technology requires unique processes.
  • Closing Skill Gaps: Technical training programs help close the digital skills gap between long-time and new employees. This ensures that all employees have the necessary digital skills required for their roles.
  • Promoting Continuous Learning: Custom corporate technical training promotes continuous learning by giving employees resources to learn the specifics of company technology.
  • Fostering Collaboration: With a good strategy, custom company technical training can even encourage collaboration and provide further resources through an enterprise social network.
  • Innovation and Problem-Solving: When custom training is built well it will include scenario-based learning which encourages employees to put their training into context. This also enables them to innovate on the job better while also solving problems.

Custom company technical training encourages employees to sharpen their digital skills more than generic technical training. There should always be general training resources available likely from outside vendors. But more importantly, custom training should be available that’s specific to your technology.

Wrap Up

It’s important to have employees with a spectrum of digital skills knowledge. Some will be digitally literate while others digitally fluent. Each one adds value to the organization but both will benefit the organization in different ways.

Just know that digital literacy is knowing the basic digital skills to get the job done. Digital fluency goes beyond basic digital skills to the point of exploring new skills and becoming an expert.

By prioritizing both digital literacy and fluency among the workforce, organizations will gain a competitive edge in today’s fast-paced digital economy. Employees who possess these essential skills can adapt readily to changing technologies, drive innovation within their industries, and contribute to the overall success of their organizations.

Ensuring employees have the opportunity to grow their skills should always be a priority for every company. That might start with generic technical skills but should also include in-depth custom technical training. This is essential to the success of employees with company technology.

If you’d like to discuss building custom corporate technical training, schedule a free consultation. We specialize in this type of training to make sure employees know how to use technology for their jobs effectively and have the resources to go beyond that when necessary.

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