Evidence that technology is playing an ever-growing role in our day to day lives is easy to find, just look around and you will see a wealth of digital around you. In work, at home, on the tube – it is literally everywhere. Internet World Stats (2019) show that there are now 4,383,810,342 (I skipped over that number, too) Internet users in the world, with a penetration rate of 56.8%. This alone shows the vast increase of Internet users across the world. It is safe to say that this number will continue to rise, and that both leaders and employees across all businesses, departments and roles will be required to have the ability to embrace and keep up with digital in order to thrive in the future workplace.
“Digital fluency”, meaning proficiency and comfort in achieving desired outcomes using technology, goes beyond simply knowing how to use a few programs or basic applications (Briggs & Makice, 2012). You can use Word? Great, so can the other 1,000 people applying for the job. Those who are digitally fluent have achieved a level of proficiency that allows them to manipulate information, construct ideas, and use technology to achieve strategic goals (Hsi, 2007).
So what does this mean for us?
There is no doubt that both individual jobs and organisations over the next decade will be redesigned to integrate and take advantage of the competencies of a digital workforce. A large majority of millennial’s are completely comfortable with using digital – their phone screen is the first thing they see in the morning, and the last thing they see before they sleep. However, adults are also becoming progressively acquainted with technology too. Quite simply, it is becoming increasingly required of them. Both employees and employers have access to a whole world of information, right at their fingertips, if they choose to be involved in the digital age. Every member of a team has the ability to collaborate with colleagues internationally and can deliver products with increasing capabilities at decreasing costs.
A digital workforce is likely to create new ways of working, as it already has in the last decade. Communications are going online, Skype calls with colleagues all over the world are the norm and a daily occurrence. LinkedIn is accelerating professional connections more than was ever possible in the past. Touch typing is the new shorthand. Long gone are the days of going to the bank to make a transfer, or even calling them. It is all right at our fingertips. Yet, only a fraction of technology is being utilised (Colbert et al., 2016). Whilst virtual meetings allow all team members to be together in a virtual room, technology is capable of so much more. Vast technological changes are something that we are going to see happen as we move into our future workplaces. As a millennial, I am constantly being told that the job I might be doing in 10 years time does not even exist yet.
“There is no doubt that both individual jobs and organisations over the next decade will be redesigned to integrate and take advantage of the competencies of a digital workforce.”
For example, Yee (2014) suggested the possibility of having team members represented by avatars. These avatars can increase in size or fade away, based on their participation. This has the potential to change behaviours in teams, emphasising the importance of all members expressing their view and being listened to. But it can’t change the behaviours if you don’t know how to set up the call, or even know what an avatar is (note: we are not referring to the blue creature famous on our screens).
This is just the beginning of an exciting (and perhaps daunting for some) transformation in work practices and workplaces. There is the opportunity for increasing organisational effectiveness for businesses, leaders and employees. The best bit of all, is that we have the ability to guide the nature of our future workplaces. But first, we must embrace digital and encourage all of our colleagues to embrace digital too, to ensure that we can thrive. Digital fluency? We’ve got it.