Information Literacy in the Workplace

Information Literacy in the Workplace

What is Information Literacy

Why do we need information literacy in the workplace?

A number of studies have demonstrated the problems with insufficient information literacy in the workplace. Bill Boyd (2005) estimates that in a 1,000 person organisation, if you eliminate five minutes of wasted time, such as deleting and organising emails, looking for information that you can’t find, or recreating information that already exists, you will save $4,167; if you do that everyday for a year, the organisation will have saved more than $1 million.

The 2011 National Strategic Skills Audit for Wales quotes evidence from the 2010 e-skills survey that 1 in 6 employers in all sectors in Wales consider the IT skills of their employees to be below a minimum standard.

The Delivering a Digital Wales document, meanwhile, reports on the use of the internet for business purposes amongst members of the Wales Federation of Small Businesses:

  • 73% use the internet to find advice guidance and information  (77% is the UK average)
  • 36% use the internet to search for information on competitors  (46% is the UK average)

The same document quotes internet usage among SMEs in Wales as 75%, below the UK average of 81%. These figures illustrate how businesses in Wales are not using the internet to its full potential. Most internet users are able to use popular, familiar search engines such as Google at a basic level, but many are unaware of how to refine searches or where to look for information that Google does not point to (Ojala 2002). Information literacy training would enable these businesses to find, gather and use information available to its fullest extent.

A 2006 survey of 132 UK small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) found that an average of 12.7 hours per week were spent using the internet with just over half of that (6.4 hours) spent looking for information (De Saulles 2007). This research estimates that an organisation employing 1,000 staff will lose 45.3 million a year through staff time wasted on poor searching strategies. It further estimates that the cost to UK SMEs of inefficient information searching and retrieval is between £3.7 billion and £8.2 billion per year.

Therefore, as an employer, consider:

  • Are you able to make business decisions using the best data or most reliable information available?
  • Do you make use of the latest knowledge in your field?
  • Are you managing your data efficiently and safely?
  • Are you using the information gained ethically and correctly?
  • Are you researching potential clients and your competitors?
  • Are you managing your information efficiently, or are you and your employees suffering ‘information overload’?
  • Are your employees communicating and sharing information in ways that best engages with their current and potential audiences?

Embedding information literacy training in your workplace can assist you in resolving these questions.

Useful documents

McDonald, Catherine. (2014) A leading digital nation by 2020:calculating the cost of delivering digital skills for all. London:Tinder Foundation. Online, PDF.

Espinoza, K. (2011) Hooked on e-mail: information overload, and an expectation that e-mails, tweets and text messages will be answered immediately, impact productivity. Here’s how to fight the digital attack. Leadership Mar.-Apr. 2011, p36.

De Saulles, M. (2007). Information literacy amongst UK SMEs: an information policy gap. Aslib Proceedings. Vol 59 Issue 1, pp. 68-79.

Boyd, B. (2005) The (Staggering) Cost of Information Overload. Communication World Bulletin. September 2005.

Ojala, M. (2002). Search soirees. Online. Vol 26, no. 1.

Adroddiad Cyngor Gwynedd Council

First report describing the Gwynedd Council Staff in-house IL Training Programme