Thursday, November 30, 2006

Computer Literacy

Many people are lagging in computer literacy -- the knowledge and skills needed to use computers effectively -- in the workplace.

Different jobs require different degrees of computer literacy. Virtually everybody needs to know how to keyboard nowadays. Speed and accuracy are more important issues for some jobs than others. Virtually everybody needs to understand the company’s IT policies and procedures related to privacy, security and appropriate use.

To some extent, advances in information technology (hardware and software) have made computers more user-friendly. The interfaces with machines have become more intuitive for people. For example, here are some computer tasks that almost everyone can do and that don’t even require keyboarding skills.
  • Get cash from an ATM
  • Take digital photos
  • Use a self-checkout lane at the supermarket
  • Pump self-service gasoline
  • Operate a cash register at McDonalds
  • Make calls on a cell phone
  • TiVo your favorite TV shows

WARNING: The pace of change in information technology is so rapid as to render anyone’s computer skills and capabilities obsolete unless they receive on-the-job training or learn on their own to keep up.

Many employers will not spend the time and money to educate/train employees in information technology, figuring that they can get the right mix of skills they need by hiring and firing people. So in many cases, the burden is on the individual to keep his or her skills up. Fall behind, and catching up is very hard. Fall behind and your career options diminish.

QUESTION: Who is keeping an eye on business leaders to make sure they are maintaining their computer literacy? It’s not like they are going to hire and fire themselves. While the CEO may not need to do much keyboarding, he or she does need to understand Moore’s Law, business process reengineering, data warehousing, the Internet, etc.

Ultimately, the market will do the job, and a lot of innocent people in the company may suffer. Directors, if there are any, can do the job if they are strong. Rank and file employees can promote technological change in a company through political means. They may not teach the CEO how to keyboard and do ad hoc database queries, but they can try to protect their jobs by trying to keep the company from falling behind technologically and subsequently failing in the marketplace. Having the inmates run the asylum is not a good IT strategy, however!

  • Every employee, including senior executives, should have a job description, including a description of the level of computer literacy he or she is expected to maintain.
  • Every employee should have a regular performance evaluation which includes computer literacy in the goal setting and performance evaluation process.
  • Companies should provide employees the time they need and/or pay for training to achieve each person’s computer literacy goals.

Keystone Computer Group has the expertise and capabilities that organizations in the Washington, DC area need to develop and implement these recommendations. We can help you improve computer literacy in your organization.

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