Chapter 6: Workplace Essential Skills
One of the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic is that digital literacy has become more important than ever. Skills/Compétences Canada (2021), refers to digital skills “as those needed to understand and process information from digital sources, use digital systems, technical tools, and applications” including but not limited to “cash registers, word processing software, and computers”. Digital skills work with other essential skills to help you produce and share ideas, work together, and find solutions to problems (UNESCO, 2018).
Your workplace will likely require you to demonstrate your digital skills in some of these ways:
- use a computer
- send and receive messages
- use a search engine
- protect propriety and confidential information
- design and disseminate documents (European Commission, 2021)
Common Digital Skills at Work
Choose the right device and software for the task. You will likely work using different types of devices, such as a desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or mobile device and be able to shift between them easily. However, for efficiency, know what device is best for which purpose. For example, it will be more difficult and time consuming to create a spreadsheet on your phone. Employers will also expect that you will know certain types of software and be able to learn others, you may be familiar with Google Docs, but you could translate that knowledge and quickly adapt to Microsoft Word. Similarly, when a new software is introduced, embrace it and learn it (Live&Learn, 2021).
Create content. As we discussed in XX, writing for work means that you acknowledge the audience and purpose of the document. Don’t forget to chunk information into manageable pieces and embed hyperlinks and multimedia. More advanced skills in this area may include creating infographics, audio, video, and visual materials and editing images (Live&Learn, 2021).
Source reliable information. Googling is easy, but assessing the results of a search is challenging. You will need to learn how to identify credible data that is relevant and specific to your purpose. One method for this kind of evaluation is the CARS system: credibility, accuracy, reasonableness, and support.
Use data ethically. Plagiarism matters even after college! You need to understand how to use online information without breaking copyright rules or committing plagiarism. This can be achieved through using a citation style for referencing materials and information, using open educational resources, and resources shared with a creative commons license.
Practice online safety: In the area of online safety, you need to know the safety rules. For example, you should:
- identify the characteristics of a reliable website,
- practice safe online habits such as using strong passwords,
- keeping passwords and other confidential datasecure,
- understand confidentiality,
- know what is appropriate information you should share,
- be aware of cybercrime trends, such as phishing (Live&Learn, 2021).
Collaborate online. Know how to use collaborative writing tools like Microsoft Teams and Google Docs that allow users to create, revise, comment, and edit simultaneously is a definite bonus in today’s job market. You also will be expected to be familiar with virtual meeting software, like Zoom (Live&Learn, 2021).
Use social media. Social media for work is more directed and restrictive than for your personal use. You may be asked to maintain and create content for the company’s social media accounts following clear procedures. On the personal front, you will be expected to know how to appropriately manage your own online presence in a professional manner. Never assume that a future employer won’t search for you on social media platforms.
Organize and store your files logically. It is easy to create files but it can be harder to find and share them. If your employer has a file organization structure and rules about security, follow that. Decide which documents are meant to be shared, and which ones can be stored on your computer. You likely will need to learn about shared drives and cloud sharing. Establish a system that is logical and easy to remember.
Problem-solve on your own first. Employers value those who take initiative and attempt to troubleshoot issues first before seeking help from others. Don’t be afraid seek out an answer. Some problem-solving digital skills include the ability to research an answer, use a live chat customer service, read advice forums, and use FAQs (Dixon, 2019).
Complete transactions. Know the safe and efficient ways to order, sell, and purchase online, book appointments, and manage money. Again, most organizations have protocols and preferred providers you will need to use.
How to Improve Your Digital Skills
Here are some ways to improve your digital skills:
- Use the tools regularly. Start with something basic and as you gain confidence, integrate more advanced use into your work.
- Take advantage of virtual supports, forums, and tutorials. You can take free online courses and tutorials, such as Microsoft free tutorials and DigitalLearn.org. You can also try to access the LinkedIn Library of courses or Udemy.
- Follow the rules and be risk adverse. As a new employee, it will be difficult to learn the digital culture of your workplace. Until you learn the norms, look for guidance from those around you. If you have questions, ask a computer savvy coworker for help.
- Look for professional development opportunities. Your employer may sponsor you to take a course, or engage in a training session with the IT department.
In all jobs you will need to work with others. Like class presentations, group work is one way your college instructors try to prepare you for collaborating with others in the work force. Here you will need to draw on several of the other skills we have identified in this book’s chapters, Effective Communication , Interpersonal Skills, Critical Thinking, and Time Management, along with many more skills such as goal setting, motivation, and assertiveness.
Starting a new project? Here is a great checklist you can follow:
- Start with a clear objective and/or direction. Write out the team’s goals.
- Set ground rules and timelines up front.
- Agree to open and honest communication.
- Ensure mutual accountability.
- Define roles.
- Identify action items and set time goals.
- Support risk taking and change. If a team member wants to learn a new skill allow that growth opportunity whenever possible.
- Determine how conflict will be managed and deal with any conflicts quickly and fairly.
- Encourage differences in opinions in a respectful, appropriate way.
How to Improve Your Collaboration Skills
Here are some ways to improve your collaboration skills:
- Know and communicate your strengths and weaknesses. Reflect on your group work experiences and honestly assess your strengths and areas where you could improve.
- Communicate to fellow group members about your skills and areas you would like to develop.
- Work on projects or skills outside your comfort zone to increase your capacity, but don’t be afraid to ask for help if things aren’t going well.
- Engage with a mentor. If a member of your team has a skill you would like to develop, ask them for guidance.
- Be a reliable, positive member of the group. Communicate and complete tasks in a timely manner. There will be issues to address but avoid complaining and use constructive feedback (see Chapter XX).
- Is the information from incredible source?
- Is there evidence of quality control system?
- What are the author’s/creator’s credentials?
- Is it up-to-date?
- Does it provide the whole picture or show a strong bias?
- Are the facts complete?
- Does the source appear to be fair and objective?
- Is there an apparent conflict of interest?
- Does the information I count for both sides of the story or at least acknowledge the opposing side?
- Is the author clear about where the information came from?
- Is the information supported by other sources?
- “Figure 6.3 CARS Method of Evaluating Research” by Deb Nielsen, Emily Ballantyne, Faatimah Murad and Melissa Fournier, adapted from Harris, 2002, 2020 is licensed under a CC BY-NC 4.0 licence.