Every resume I’ve ever seen contains some variation of the bullet point “Proficient with Microsoft Office.” This statement is almost never accurate but it is also not an intentional error. Simply put, even for those who have had a formal education, training on the basics of computer use is non-existent or of exceedingly low quality. Every paralegal I have ever interviewed or hired claimed that he or she took classes on Microsoft Office. Nearly every one of those same paralegals could not demonstrate anything more than the most basic technical literacy. While this is frustrating, it also represents an enormous opportunity to dramatically improve office efficiency with a modest investment in time.
Finding such efficiencies requires three steps. First, the business must properly evaluate the skills of its potential hires and existing staff. As a consultant, when I perform a technical staff assessment, I cover six general areas of technical literacy including general computing (What’s a CPU? Basic keystroke shortcuts), software (familiarity with mail merge, Windows functions, email manipulation), networking (IP addresses, internet usage), security (good password practices, scam identification), imaging (creation, management and manipulation of images), and communication systems (set up voicemail, transfer a call, conference calls). This assessment is performed in a non-confrontational manner and is intended simply to identify strengths (how can we better put these to use) and weaknesses (determine what is necessary to fill these knowledge gaps).
Second, the business must determine what skills are necessary to perform a given job function. Your mailroom clerk is unlikely to require an advanced understanding of Excel financial formulas (although, discovery that he possesses such ability is a bonus). By the same token, a paralegal with poor Word skills is at a distinct disadvantage and likely to be inefficient. Then, there are skills that should be nearly universal. These include a basic understanding of the telephone system, how to change the toner in the copier, and, most importantly, how to make a good pot of coffee.
Third, the business must consider what resources are available to supply technical literacy. If you identify power users on your staff, are they able to effectively communicate and transfer their skills to others? Do you vendors provide training and if so, what is the nature of that training (free online webinars and tutorials are quite common)? Is it worth bringing on a professional trainer?
Once a business has performed this evaluation, closing the circle on technical literacy is relatively straightforward and the returns on such an investment are enormous. At Techaerus, this evaluation is an essential and central component of our process. For more information on how we can help your business perform such an evaluation, start here and feel free to contact us for additional assistance.
Allen Friedman is the owner and CEO of Techaerus LLC, an office efficiency consulting firm. He is also a licensed attorney. Allen founded and managed one of the largest consumer collections law firms in the country and managed over 50 attorneys as well as hundreds of non-attorney staff. Prior to founding that firm, he opened and managed the New York and Michigan operations for the largest consumer collections firm in the United States. Throughout his career, Allen has always placed great emphasis on ensuring that investments in office technology provide the greatest possible returns. In order to achieve these returns, he focuses on three pillars of office management; asset management, training, and automation. His expertise includes document/image management, software and hardware integration, training, and process management and automation. Allen lives in Scottsdale, Arizona with his wife Amy, his children Cassidy and Gideon, and two adorable dogs named Roxie (a labradoodle) and Bentley (an Old English Sheepdog).