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It is often assumed that the modern office workforce is computer literate if not savvy, especially as computers have become ubiquitous in the modern office. However, that is simply not the case—there is often great disparity in the computer literacy among the personnel in any office. If you are a manager or business owner, it is important to know if portions of your workforce are not as computer literate as you would like.

You would think that with millennials comprising more and more of the workforce, basic computer knowhow would be deeply ingrained in its skillset. However, there is evidence that perhaps they are not as connected as expected. According to a 2011 U.S. Department of Commerce study, 28% of the population does not use the internet. More importantly however, the results of a computer literacy test revealed that of 32% of respondents were unable to send an e-mail.

So it seems that computer literacy should not be assumed by hiring managers. Thankfully there are some options to help managers gauge the computer aptitude of their workforce as well as that of potential new hires. To help decision makers, we have compiled a list of methods that will gauge your workforce’s IT aptitude.

Computer literacy exams and certifications are an obvious method of literally testing your staff’s level computer competency. They can offer insight into your workforce’s level of computer literacy, which you can then bolster with additional support or training. There are several options if you wish to pursue the exam and certification route.

  1. ECDL / ICDL
    A foundation that offers computer skills exams and certifications, they offer solutions for SMBs, non-profits, government entities, educational institutions, and more. ECDL has a catalog of different modules that you can choose from, ranging from basic computer essentials to advanced database and spreadsheet skills. Your staff will also benefit from having a certification that acknowledges their computer proficiency.
  2. SHL
    A more complete workforce management solution that offers talent auditing along with recruitment services. They advertise being able to provide insights on your workforce’s strengths and weaknesses. Compared to ECDL and ICDL, they offer a wider variety of assessment services, including presentation and marketing testing in addition to computer literacy.
  3. In-house
    If outsourcing your assessment and certification needs is not a right fit for your organization’s industry or budget however, one alternative is to develop an in-house solution. This approach has fewer costs and is infinitely adaptable to your workplace. There are a variety of free online quiz makers that you can leverage to make your in-house IT exams.


If you feel mandatory exams and certifications are too draconian however, there are softer approaches to gauging your workforce’s computer aptitude. In fact, exams and certifications may lead professionals to feel that their skills are being called into question. In addition, they can create a stressful competitive environment.

Surveys are an alternative to gauging your staff’s computer aptitude that may be able to give you even more insight than exams and certifications. Ask them which skills they feel they lack or want to learn. You can even offer industry-accepted exams and certification as an option in your survey.

Closing Thoughts

Despite a workforce that is more exposed to computers than ever before, managers should not assume computer aptitude is guaranteed. The methods mentioned above can help you gauge your staff’s computer competency, which you can then use to help support them. What methods have you tried in an effort to gauge your workforce’s computer aptitude?

Photo by Tuomas Puikkonen, taken from Flickr Creative Commons
Wallace Chu

Author Wallace Chu

A self-professed tech hipster that loves computers and music. Uses an iPhone ironically.

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