Eradicating tech-shaming in the workplace

With a mixed generation workforce, we are finding that more and more employees are facing different types of challenges with technology: Gen Z can't figure out printers, while their older counterparts struggle to grapple with Google Docs.

Technology is ephemeral and pervasive. It has had an impact on our everyday lives: from how we keep in touch with old friends all the way to how we do our weekly shop, as well as our work lives.

The skills which are in demand are vastly differently to what they were just a decade ago, resulting in the current generation needing to develop a different skillset to their predecessors.

But there was something different about the post generation: they grew up alongside the wonders of the internet.

They developed their skills in line with technological developments and, rather ignorantly, the previous generations which had to learn the ins and outs of the desktop computers, floppy disks and the subtle art of making a perfect photocopy, assume that the current generation of workers are digitally prepared.

This isn’t the case. Dell Technologies found that 56% of respondents between the ages 18 to 26 across 15 countries, said “they had very basic to no digital skills education".

A third of them said their education had not provided them “with the digital skill they need to propel their career” and what they know comes from the apps they use on their own time.

Other research supports this, with one stating that one in five young office workers report “feeling judged for having tech issues”, which made them less likely to ask for help, and another finding that almost half of the class of 2022 felt “underprepared” when it came to the technical skills relevant for entering the workforce.

Closing the digital skills gap:

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As technology becomes integrated with our everyday lives, digital skills are becoming more and more important. The issue is that levels of proficiency will vary.

For the younger generations, it is partially up to educational institutes to prepare them for this.

Offering students classes where they can refine their digital literacy skills – regardless of their current ability – is a good place to start.

I have previously witnessed students struggle to open Microsoft Word and met others that are eager to be a pro at Excel; universities ought to be guiding and helping students to learn these vital skills, taking into account students will have different levels of proficiencies. It should be included for all students to ensure they graduate with the same digital skills as one another.

For the current workforce, the same notion needs to be applied: we cannot assume that all employees have the same digital skills.

Offering digital skills training when workers first join so they know how to use all the technology the job will require them to, as well as offering refresher classes along the way, are both ways to help workers feel more confident when it comes to embracing technology.

The problem doesn’t really end there, however. Basic digital literacy has become an essential skill, on a par with reading and writing. Our 2030 Workforce Report found that as more jobs require digital skills, upskilling the population is a key priority.

For many employees, however, their jobs are not directly threatened by automation. Instead, the rapid development of technology will mean they are more likely to be working alongside machines.

While this will not present a challenge for everyone, a significant minority will need to upskill and require support in accessing that education, whether from their employer or the state.

Despite worries that certain jobs will become obsolete, many future roles will be created by, and revolve around, the fifth industrial revolution and the digitisation of the workplace.

Alongside digital proficiency, this will result in companies seeking employees with a set of foundation skills that fall into the following categories: digital, cognitive, interpersonal and self-leadership, with the latter including self-awareness, self-management, entrepreneurship and skills.

But with AI, tech developments and automation assisting the labour market, the talents employees bring to the table will also need to complement digital advancements.

This will influence what companies will be seeking in the next decade. So alongside eradicating tech-shaming, businesses will need to shift away ‘tech-blaming’: the perception that technology will shove people out of work.

In reality, technology will only change the jobs we see today, resulting in the people working them needing to upskill to keep in line with such developments.

Aaron Taylor is head of the School of Human Resource Management at Arden University