How leaders can promote digital inclusion in the workplace

This is a guest blog

Digital literacy is becoming increasingly essential across various organisations. Case in point, a BBC feature on modern workplaces shows that there’s a heightened expectation for workers to adapt to ever-changing technologies. In addition, employees are likewise required to be flexible—specifically seen in the ability to work with different devices and leverage collaborative workflow programmes. It’s no surprise, then, that digital skills were a requirement in at least 82% of online advertised vacancies in recent years.

Today, business leaders are in a position to help improve their employee’s digital expertise. In the abovementioned BBC article, Ying Zhou, director of the Future of Work Research Centre, explains that one way to do this is by offering on-the-job training or online learning and development courses. Granted, there are other ways business leaders can help promote digital inclusion in the workplace.

Below, this article will expound on three strategies that are worth exploring.

Provide free devices and upgrades

This first point is perhaps the most straightforward one, but it bears mentioning. At present, Birmingham City Council is calling on community groups to apply for free laptops and desk computers. Through this initiative, these organisations can enable individuals to cultivate their digital skills and, consequently, bolster their confidence in applying for their desired jobs. As business leaders, you can take inspiration from this project and likewise provide the necessary digital devices to your employees.

Interestingly, a 2021 report by Microsoft Surface found that 35% of UK employees who received new devices at the time reported an increase in productivity. These individuals also believed that accessories like a digital pen, docking station, external mouse, spare charger, and wireless keyboard are helpful in boosting employee engagement. As such, if you want your workers to perform better and likewise cultivate the right mindset in improving their digital skills, then equip them with useful devices and upgrades.

Practise transformational leadership

Primarily, business leaders should be attuned to the needs of their employees to effectively attain digital inclusion in the workplace. An article by LHH explains that leadership coaching enables business executives to prepare for a future-ready workplace. In particular, leadership coaching invites leaders to identify the unique needs of their employees and develop personalised strategies that can address these. Now notably, a 2023 study by Gallup and Amazon Web services shares that although 67% of workers want to gain more digital skills, 93% of those who showed interest in training claimed there were obstacles in the way of gaining new skills—such as lacking access to resources.

So with that in mind, evaluate where your employees’ interests lie. For instance, if they wish to gain more knowledge on cloud or software development, you can make the necessary accommodations to make sure they’re given the right learning resources. Doing so can help progress digital inclusion in the workplace.

Offer training and upskilling opportunities

Most working adults need to be adept at using digital tools to perform necessary day-to-day tasks at work. However, a 2021 FutureDotNow report revealed that 23% of UK employees were unable to utilise software such as spreadsheets to interpret data. In addition, 18% of those surveyed don’t know how to use collaboration tools, while 19% stated they couldn’t operate security software to evaluate risks with specific online activities.

All this considered, it’s crucial to offer training opportunities to your workers to build their digital capabilities. Apart from developing learning modules that can teach your workers about specific apps, you can take advantage of government-backed programmes that focus on addressing digital inclusion. Specifically, the Institute of Coding seeks to help professionals meet the computational, data, and digital skill demands of employers. The initiative provides Skills Bootcamps, which are essentially short courses that feature topics like cybersecurity, data science, programming, and software development. Ultimately, furthering your workers’ learning allows them to build necessary digital skills.

With the increased use of mobile devices and online platforms, digital inclusion is vital in every business. Hopefully, the above strategies can help you bolster your workforce’s digital expertise.

Guest blog written by: Jennica Borton

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto