Updated on December 8, 2022 | Read time ~ 10 mins
Tech fluency is pivotal to an organization’s ability to transform digitally. Digital transformation has accelerated in the past few years, and organizations need to be enabled to support their workforce at the same speed that technology is evolving. Tech fluency matters because it is indicative of an individual’s understanding of the “why” behind technologies so they can spot opportunities they can leverage for their organization.
But to become tech fluent, you first must understand the differences between tech fluency and digital literacy.
What is digital literacy?
Digital literacy (or technology literacy) is an employee’s ability to use technologies associated with a job role. Technology literacy is also essential for tech leaders in fighting attrition, as technology literacy significantly contributes to the employee experience.
In an increasingly digital world, talent must recognize every opportunity to use technology to move the business forward. For instance—administrative workers need to recognize when it's appropriate to suggest changes to technical teams, i.e. automate specific manual, time-sucking processes. Customer-facing teams need to do the same when servicing customers — i.e. streamlining customer service processes to manage expectations.
What's the difference between tech fluency and digital literacy?
Tech fluency empowers every employee, regardless of technical background, to become conversant in critical technologies and learn how and why particular technologies impact business outcomes. Tech fluency enables employees to increase innovation and competitive edge for your organization by understanding and utilizing different technologies. It has been and still is an urgent and dire need for organizations everywhere. In short, tech fluency means striving to achieve digital literacy for every employee in your organization.
Tech fluency matters to the industry
As always, there are benefits and challenges regarding new initiatives. Let’s start with some benefits of technology literacy. 80% of those surveyed in our State of Upskilling report were highly confident they have the skills to master their current job, thanks in part or to upskilling opportunities. These responses support the belief that respondents with access to modern upskilling options show more confidence in their skills and trust in their organizations. On-demand learning allows them to upskill on their own time and can build lessons into their busy schedules. Give them access to modern upskilling options, and you’ll see their confidence increase over time.
Technology literacy leads to revenue growth.
Harvard Business Review wrote an article in May covering the success of French IT services company Atos. In the article, HBR reported that Atos realized that learning new technological skills was essential for their digital transformation. But they also realized that they needed to enable their employees with more than just upskilling opportunities. They also needed to set their employees up for success by creating a tech fluency path for Atos to remain competitive. Within three years of implementing an upskilling program and encouraging employees to embrace tech fluency, Atos’s revenue grew to $13 billion from $6.2 billion.
Tech fluency solves skills gaps in cybersecurity.
Tech literacy leaders and teams need to be acquainted with the variety of technologies your organization relies on to influence business in order to prevent knowledge silos that
dull your competitive edge
Hinder collaboration and tech adoption
In our 2022 State of Upskilling report, tech leaders indicated that Cybersecurity is the number-one skill gap. Skills gaps affect your organization's ability to store private information safely. They drive down revenue due to a lack of cloud migration capabilities and can fracture the development delivery pipeline. These skills gaps also cause onboarding costs to spike and put a massive strain on your recruiters. If your organization chooses not to provide upskilling options, legacy knowledge will quickly become obsolete—if it hasn’t already.
Our State of Upskilling survey also revealed that skills gaps extend beyond the software engineering and development fields and create problems within every team—up and down the org chart. A lack of upskilling opportunities creates the following issues for every team:
It impacts the ability to deliver products and features to end-users
Causes unplanned work for senior team members
Slow career development
Derails team health and productivity
IDC has observed that IT-business alignment is iterative and dynamic, driven by collaboration and co-creation. To be successful, both I.T. and business teams have to concern themselves with technology, processes and business—because your organization’s needs will be broader than security. Tech fluency drives tech-driven problem solving and innovation across the entire business—not just within specialized tech teams.
Tech fluency matters to your company
So, how can tech leaders see the red flags of tech literacy in their organizations? One way is to examine attrition, review employee reliance on legacy knowledge, and find the balance between innovation and operational excellence.
Attrition rates of tech workers
According to Deloitte, 25% of CEOs surveyed in June 2021 about the most significant challenge they faced pointed to talent-related issues. Asked the same question four months later, nearly half of CEOs' responses strongly aligned with talent-related issues. That emphasis continues today, with half of the CEOs still referring to talent and workforce in their responses: for example, “fighting COVID fatigue with team members,” “finding/keeping the best people,” and “responding to new work paradigms.
Reliance on legacy knowledge
According to this Markle report, over half of U.S. employees are hesitant to adopt or use technology, especially when employers ask them to learn technology to do something new. According to those we surveyed for our State of Upskilling report, that legacy knowledge can create comfort in existing technologies. Historical knowledge can rarely solve the increasing complexity of cybersecurity and cloud migration. The onus must be on organizations to provide tools to build that knowledge base from the ground up.
Employees who don’t develop the technology can’t always see the balance between business innovation and operational excellence. They don’t always see what goes into not just building but maintaining. Therefore, these employees cannot provide context on scoping a project or challenges. If there is no common language or shared reference point, business requirements will become impossible mandates to tech teams with asks from employees who lack proper context. According to CIO, State of the CIO 2022, “The natural cycle swings leave I.T. leaders grappling with how to strike the right balance between business innovation and operational excellence—a significant issue for three quarters (76%) of respondents to this year’s survey.”
Four common barriers to tech fluency
There are four common barriers to developing tech literacy. Overall, burnout is pervasive. People have struggled to balance their work/life schedules for the last few years. There is no time to learn on the job—especially for learning tech they don’t see directly impacting their work or career. And tech leaders may not have the budget to enable tech literacy learning on the job as other higher priority needs, such as new hires, take precedence. But, tech leaders need to remember that spending on tech literacy solutions is about long-term growth.
Lack of dedicated time and budget to tech fluency initiatives
According to the tech leaders we surveyed for the State of Upskilling report, the top two common barriers to developing tech skills are a lack of dedicated time and budget. 47% of respondents said they were too busy (other demands prevent learning), and 33% said budget constraints/cost.
Organizations must dedicate time and resources to upskilling as part of their team’s daily tasks, not just dedicated to executing assignments. The investment is enabling technologists to take the time to learn and upskill. The ROI is that both the individual and the organization benefit.
Lack of context / Understanding of the purpose
Some tech teams know "the how" of something but lack the proper context for why it matters to the organizations. For example, employees need to understand “how the cloud functions AND why it matters."
According to the Forbes article, 14 Things Tech Teams Wish Their Non-Tech Colleagues Knew About Their Work tech professionals:
“Believe that we need to provide non-tech colleagues as much context as possible about the problem(s) we are trying to solve and how we iterate through the solution (agile method), so they know we can ship a product quickly in small batches. Most people agree on goals and priorities but tend to disagree because of a lack of context, proactive communication on the project timeline.”
Leaders not driving the proper conversations/change management
How do you know which employees are or need to improve? Where to focus incremental efforts? How do you know when to celebrate a team member's learning success? How is it continually reinforced? Having a leadership dedicated to tech fluency is crucial to your programs' success.
Additionally, even the most ambitious tech champions need data and ongoing conversations to support their initiatives. Continual career conversations are easy for tech leaders to gather simple data and strike up the right conversations with their tech teams on areas that need improvement and areas they wish to improve.
Failure to assess capabilities before and after learning
Did you know that 52% of respondents consider leaving their job at least once a month? Technologists expect to feel content in their current and future roles and want a culture of healthy collaboration. If these aren’t top of mind, employees are much more comfortable moving on than ever. Tech leaders must work within a tech fluency program to ensure teams have learned the skills they need using assessments. If organizations aren’t careful, a lack of technology literacy can lead to tech teams that are overworked, misunderstood, disengaged, and on their way out the door.
Our Tech Skills Development Workbook highlights common barriers to tech skill development. We encourage you and your team to hone in on a few for learning.
How do you build a tech fluency program?
Organizational success starts with having a knowledgeable talent base and providing the tools they need to learn and grow. It also means a change in tactics. People readily welcome learning new technologies in their personal lives when they make life simpler, more convenient and efficient.
61% of respondents already use an online tech skills development platform. We’d love to see that number rise to at least 80% next year. But, to reach this goal, organizations must be willing to invest the time and resources needed for their employees to learn new technologies and create a learning environment that promotes a communication culture.
Invest in the right digital literacy resources for specific business and employee needs
Tech leaders should align on specific business and employee needs before investing in learning resources. But, if you’re starting your investing journey into learning resources, here are a few questions to answer to give yourself a good idea of what would help satisfy your needs.
Four simple questions to ask yourself before investing in learning resources:
What are my organization’s challenges?
What are my team’s challenges?
What are my customer’s challenges?
Which technologies solve these challenges?
Custom learning plans help overcome skills gaps across teams, whether team members need help with cloud enablement and secure systems or test-driven development. Team members can assess their skills and access on-demand learning specific to their level, increasing their knowledge of agile methodologies and gaining confidence through certification. The result? Happier, healthier technologists and safer, more secure systems.
Make technology literacy part of the culture.
Finally, tech leaders need to make learning a part of the culture. Learning is never one and done. Mastering any skill requires continual reinforcement. That’s why organizations must provide agile and modern upskilling options and consistently prioritize them as part of company culture. Tech leaders should consider setting aside time for learning and application as well as offering safe environments for discussion.
Also, tracking skills and continual coaching requires correct skill level data. This data can help tech leaders better assess their skills on teams and where they can pivot people into new roles that match their skill set. According to those surveyed, technologists prefer feedback (on their abilities) in varying frequency and multiple formats, indicating that leaders must provide frequent and ongoing feedback at various touch points throughout the year.
Preferred feedback methods:
Annual performance reviews: 44%
Monthly career conversations: 39%
Online skills assessments/tests: 39%
Mentoring sessions: 37%
Weekly 1:1s: 30%
Take advantage of on-demand learning through resources like Pluralsight's Tech Foundations
Only Pluralsight’s Tech Foundations provide a practical path toward tech fluency. It combines expert-led courses, pre-and post-assessments, and analytics. And it fits neatly into your daily work.
Pluralsight empowers every employee, regardless of technical background, to become conversant in key technologies and learn to apply tech concepts for business outcomes correctly.
Pluralsight creates a shared literacy that removes barriers, paves the way for cross-functional dialogue, increases collaboration, and accelerates everything with any touchpoint to technology.
Let’s face it—tech is a culture, and we want to help your business speak the language.
Learn how we can help you close opportunity and skills gaps.
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