11 Ways to Handle Lower Digital Literacy


Technology. It’s all around us. There is no escaping it. Most, if not all of us, are required to use it in our daily work. We email people about project information. We gain connections through LinkedIn, share Facebook posts, and send out tweets on Twitter.

“Googling” is now in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. This post was made using Microsoft Word and submitted online to people in a completely different time zone. While many of today’s workforce has a proficient level of digital literacy, there are others in the workplace who are more technologically challenged.

Like I said, technology is so prevalent in our lives it is sometimes easy to forget that not everyone is on the same level when it comes to tech information. Like many of you, I have interacted with a wide range of people who span the spectrum. There were some people who could do circles around me with Excel, and others who could not find the power button on their computer.

Having greater proficiency at computer skills is not an excuse to gloat. Rather, it should present an opportunity to strengthen the team by helping them grow in their positions. Here are some tips when trying to help your “tech challenged” co-worker.

Patience is key. What is taking so long? If there is one thing that can ruin a computer lesson, it is rushing the person you are helping.

Be available to help. Make yourself available to lending a helping hand. This will go a long way in building relationships, as well as letting him or her know that it is OK to ask for help.

What works best for that individual (less tech or more?). I have a smartphone, a laptop, and a tablet. I have used all of these for work at some point. While some willingly embrace the digital age and all the devices it entails, not everyone does. Will giving someone a tablet to take notes really help them? Or maybe that person would feel more at home with a pen and paper.

Speaking a common language when it comes to technology support. PDFs? Worksheets and workbooks? HTML? JPEG? Like trying to talk to someone from another country, it helps to speak at a level that both individuals can understand.

Don’t force a change, not everyone will embrace the tech revolution. Back to point #3, not everyone will greet the digital revolution with open arms. If not everyone can get behind pepperoni pizza, then chances are there will be some who will not like computers no matter what you do. The sooner we accept the differences in others the better.

Understand needs and background. Has this person had much exposure to a particular program? Has he or she had opportunities to become trained on something, formally or not? Knowing some background information on a person’s digital literacy will help you figure out where to start.

Don’t assume people know what you already know. My father once explained to me what happens when you assume things. It does not always end well for either party.

In-person assistance helps more than over-the-phone assistance. Well, what does the screen say? This can be a difficult question for someone who may not know what they are looking at.

Refer to IT for more difficult questions. Don’t be afraid to refer your co-worker to IT for the harder cases.

Respect goes a long way. Just like patience is required when helping someone, respecting their intellect works much better than second guessing everything they do.

Small, incremental steps at first. Try not to introduce sudden and major changes. Introducing too many steps too quickly will not only be confusing, it will also discourage the person from trying new methods.

Roman Alvarez is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Devorah Adler, Office of Systems, Systems Analyst

Beautiful article. Thanks. You really “get it.”

As a sometimes hands’on IT trainer, I’d add just one thing: Listen for their assumptions and mindset. Then you can address their misconceptions about the system and build on a common view. If you leave this step out, all your explanations will be misapplied to their skewed view of the system.