The value of information literacy to employers
What benefits do employers derive from recruiting, retaining and developing individuals who are information literate? What returns on investment might be achieved in areas like providing information skills training to employees, developing new information handling procedures, or even reconfiguring an office and going ‘paperless’? What does the information literacy of employees, at all levels, add to the performance of enterprises?
These questions were addressed by a project, funded by the CILIP IL Group Research Bursary scheme and carried out during the summer of 2015 by InformAll, in association with the University of Manchester. The project, known as DeVIL – ‘Determining the Value of Information Literacy’ – was undertaken by Stéphane Goldstein, of the Research Information Network, and Andrew Whitworth, from the University of Manchester.
This page provides access to the outputs of DeVIL as they presently stand, and invite further participation. Use these links to download or view:
- the DeVIL spreadsheet tool, and a guide to its application in different workplace settings
- the report submitted to the CILIP IL Group
- a presentation about DeVIL, made at ECIL, the European Conference on Information Literacy, October 2015, in Tallinn, Estonia
- two blog pieces for the CILIP IL Group and for the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) summarising the purpose and results of the project
A summary of the project follows below.
Even if the term ‘information literacy’ is not always used, there is no shortage of evidence on the way that information-related know-how, competences and skills are perceived and deployed in employment contexts; and on how these are related to business factors such as knowledge-sharing, problem solving and business communication.
But there is very little evidence of the impact of information literacy on enterprises; on how, for instance, it contributes to efficiency; or conversely, how its absence may lead to weakened corporate performance. As recognised by Williams et al, greater evidence of impact of information literacy, expressed in terms that relate to industry and professional priority areas is urgently needed if business, government and professions are to be convinced of its relevance and significance.
What does not really exist at the moment is a way of identifying relevant processes and data. This is the work that the DeVIL project began in summer 2015. The aim was to research and propose, in terms that enterprises can understand and relate to, a way of identifying, or at least estimating the value that is added by information literacy; in other words, the value that is added by employing and training individuals that have appropriate and relevant know-how, competencies and skills in the use and handling of information and data, whatever form that takes.
The value might be financial, but it might also relate to other factors that are important to enterprises, such as enhanced efficiency or competitive advantage. Competencies, skills and know-how are often deployed when using ICTs, but just as important might be interpersonal communications skills, or customer relations, or investments in systems and space. As tacit knowledge builds up over time in employees and would be lost if they left, investments in staff development, even in improving morale, may have returns on investment when it comes to the effective management of information throughout the enterprise.
The DeVIL project has thus far engaged with three employers, in the commercial, public and not-for-profit sectors, to develop a spreadsheet tool that can be used to cross-refer areas of potential investment with areas of return on these investments. This can now be deployed by employers or anyone interested in information literacy in workplace settings, to begin dialogues in particular workplaces and suggest new areas for attention and analysis. Visit the spreadsheet page to download the tool and also read more on how we seek feedback from users in order that it can continue to evolve.