Computer Literacy in the Workplace: What You Need to Know

Updated January 22, 2023

The vast majority of jobs now involve some level of computer usage. Being an employee with strong computer literacy skills is a valuable asset that hiring managers are seeking. In this article, we discuss the definition of computer literacy, the importance of this vital skill-set and specific examples of skills to develop.

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What is computer literacy?

Computer literacy is having the knowledge and ability to use computers and information technology efficiently. The term includes someone's understanding of the terminology, functional operations and concepts regarding computers. Computer literacy can range from basic skills, such as turning a computer on and off and using basic word processing or email programs, to advanced programming and software development knowledge. As information technology and computers advance, so does the definition of the term computer literacy.

Related: Basic Computer Skills (Plus Ways to Highlight Them)

Why is computer literacy a vital skill to develop?

As information technology integrates into every aspect of our lives, understanding computer literacy becomes an ever-increasingly essential competence in the workplace. Here are several reasons computer literacy is an important skill to develop:

More available job opportunities

As a job seeker, having computer literacy skills opens up more job opportunities for you to explore. It is a critical skill that most companies look for when interviewing candidates. Highlighting your computer and software skills on your resume enhances your professionalism when applying for positions.

Related: How to Say You Are Good with Computers on Your Resume (Examples)

Computers are everywhere

In today's society, we find computers almost everywhere. From the computer that powers your smartphone to your email software and social media applications, computers are infused into your daily life. Since computers are everywhere, understanding the basics of how they work and how to use the technology allows you to be more efficient and effective in your personal and professional life.

Solid foundational skills

Having even basic computer literacy skills provides you with an advantage in the workplace. You can perform essential computer-related duties with little guidance from the beginning of your position. By having a solid foundation in using computer technology, you can provide value to a job by being ready to learn company-specific programs and software. This minimizes the time an organization needs to train you on basic concepts before introducing you to more advanced or specific company platforms.

Increased productivity and efficiency

Computer literacy enhances productivity and efficiency in the workplace. For example, you can produce more work in less time and with better accuracy. You can keep better records, organize files digitally and search for documents within seconds. Computer literacy skills improve job efficiency by enhancing workflow and freeing up additional resources to complete other tasks.

Better communication

Having foundational computer literacy allows you to stay up to date with current events in real-time and keep in touch with people worldwide in a fraction of a second. Understanding computer programs, such as search engines and email service providers, provides for streamlined communication, which is essential in today's economy. Employees can quickly share documents, meeting notes and project information via computer software. Employers use computer technology to update staff on new policies, upcoming events and important notices.

What are examples of computer literacy skills?

There are many types of skills that create computer literacy. Here are several specific examples:

Basic computer skills

If you are not familiar with working on a computer, then the first place to develop your computer literacy is with the basics. Learning how to power a computer on and off, typing skills, using a mouse and simple computer commands are all part of foundational computer skills. Once you have mastered the basics, then you are ready to move into programs and software.

Operating systems

All computers use an operating system, which is the framework that allows the computer to manage essential functions. There are two standard operating systems that most organizations use: Windows or macOS. It is common to have proficiency in one operating system, but you may find it helpful to familiarize yourself with both. You can find many resources at your local library, community center or online to learn more about each operating system.

Office productivity suites

Basic operating knowledge of office productivity suites can enhance your resume and provide valuable skills to your employer. An office productivity suite is a collection of software programs that typically offer word processing, spreadsheet and presentation tools all-in-one. The most common office productivity suites are:

  • Microsoft Office, which functions on Windows operating systems

  • GSuite, which is cloud or internet-based

  • iWork, which works on macOS operating systems

Within each productivity suite, three basic programs are commonly used throughout the workplace:

Word processing programs (Microsoft Word, Google Docs and Mac Pages)

A word processing program allows you to create professional and formatted documents. If you have an administrative position, you will typically use a word processing program to create letters, reports, memos and any written document. As a result of the popularity of word processing programs, employers often assume that candidates have basic skills to use the software. As a result, they may not list this qualification in a job description. If you are unfamiliar with these programs, there are many resources available to introduce you to the essential functions of word processing programs, such as local colleges, online training, books and videos.

A computer literate employee will know how to create a new document, format the page's look, change font sizes and type, print the form and save the file.

Spreadsheet programs (Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets and Mac Numbers)

A spreadsheet program allows you to organize and analyze data, create tables, and perform calculations. If you have a position that involves tracking information or analyzing numerical data, then developing your spreadsheet skills is an essential task. Similar to word processing programs, many employers assume that candidates have a basic understanding of spreadsheets. However, because of the advanced level of data analysis available with spreadsheet programs, companies will often indicate if they require specialized skills for a position. For example, they may detail the need for experience with pivot tables and advanced formulas.

An employee with basic computer literacy will understand how to create a new spreadsheet, create basic formulas, print the spreadsheet, and save the file.

Presentation programs (Microsoft PowerPoint, Google Slides and Mac Keynote)

A presentation program allows you to create professional-looking slideshows. If your position requires presenting reports, strategies, or concepts, you will probably use a presentation program to create a captivating slideshow with graphs, tables, and pictures.

A computer literate employee will have the basic knowledge to create a new presentation, add photos and other elements to each slide, and present from the program via a slideshow.

Email and communication programs

Another essential skill of computer literacy for the workplace is understanding how to use email and other communication programs. Effective communication is a critical component of a successful organization. Companies rely on email to provide information to employees and customers. Other communication programs allow for alternative forms of connection, such as video conference programs like Skype and Zoom, and chat programs like Slack.

An employee who is computer literate will understand the basic process of sending and receiving emails, attaching files to messages and logging onto chat or video conference programs.

Search engines

A search engine allows you to go onto the internet and research information from the world wide web. The ability to use a search engine is a vital skill for most employees, as it provides a way to look for answers and conduct research independently. Computer literacy includes the ability to look up keywords or phrases on a search engine.

Payroll and accounting systems

As more of our work has turned digital, many companies perform payroll and accounting functions via computer programs. If you are interested in a career within human resources or accounting, understanding these software programs will be critical to your success. As an employee, you may need to understand the basics to log your hours, check pay statements or submit expense reports. Often a human resources representative will assist you in logging into a payroll system for the first time, help you set up your password and provide guidance for essential documents that you need to fill out.

Social media programs and platforms

If you are working within marketing, you need to have solid computer literacy in social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter. Many companies highly value social media skills to increase their public marketing by posting content on these platforms. Specific software, such as Hootsuite or Tailwind, aid marketing staff in planning out social media campaigns. Becoming proficient in these platforms and programs can increase the level of success in your career.

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How can you develop and improve your computer literacy skills?

Hiring managers often look for candidates with solid computer literacy skills and experience in specific programs. To enhance your value as a potential or current employee, here are several ways you can improve your computer literacy skills:

1. Search for answers online using a search engine

When you're using a specific program and want to know how to do something, or get stumped with the correct process, search for the answer online. Use a search engine by typing in the program's name and what you are trying to accomplish. There are usually multitudes of step-by-step tutorials in writing and video to walk you through solving your challenge.

2. Enroll in training

A great way to develop your computer knowledge is to enroll in training courses. There are many available online and local areas, such as libraries, community centers and local colleges. You can quickly gain experience and foundational knowledge that is an asset to your resume and your employer.

3. Continue to practice

Many computer programs contain basic and advanced levels of knowledge to effectively and efficiently use them. Practice what you learn and implement the skills into your daily workflow to build your confidence and ability.

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