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How can firms address the tech skills divide?

To address the tech divide, workplaces should imbed a culture of psychological safety and make direct efforts to foster intergenerational connection throughout the workplaces.

user iconJess Feyder 24 October 2022 Big Law
How can firms address the tech skills divide?
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On a recent episode of LawTech Talks, LexisNexis head of UX research (Asia-Pacific region) Chantelle Maree discussed a new issue appearing in law firms: a divide in how people are utilising technology. 

The issue presents as employees holding different preferences about using technology as a tool for communicating and collaborating, and differences in capability — the issue is notably related to a person’s generation. 

Ms Maree delved into strategies to address the issue. 


The first step, she advised, is to know what your workforce and work environment look like; do you have older generational employees, do you have Millennials? To what extent are you leveraging technology?

Next, evaluate the culture of psychological safety in your workplace to understand if employees feel comfortable coming forward if they are struggling with the technology or the new form of communication and collaboration, she advised, keeping in mind the rapid uptake of technology throughout the pandemic.

“The concept of psychological safety is ingrained into this topic,” Ms Maree explained. “It’s not just about giving somebody a lesson on how to use a piece of technology.

“It’s about giving people the safety to make themselves vulnerable,” she posited; they must have the “inherent belief that there are no punitive consequences or interpersonal risks around asking for help”.

“Where psychological safety has not been well established in organisations, it is incredibly difficult for people to take those interpersonal risks,” she mused, “because, of course, there is a fear of punitive consequence; what if it means I lose my job?”

“What is required is a conversation to allow people the freedom and the safety to be able to not only talk about their own shortcomings and limitations but [also] be able to ask to be taught. 

“This is critically important,” she said. “What are you doing as an organisation to embed a culture of psychological safety in your organisation?

“What are you doing as an employer to encourage conversation, encourage people to come forward and go, ‘I took a risk on something. I got it wrong. I need somebody to show me how to do this correctly.

“Are you creating that environment where people are comfortable?”

There are practical steps also, she explained, like making training available and allowing people to self-serve training.

The ability to self-serve training goes a long way; they don’t have to go to somebody and ask them to teach something, they can go through a program by themselves and gain confidence to ask follow-up questions, she noted.

Another aspect of the issue is addressing the communication style that different employees prefer. 

One way to address this is by bridging gaps between generations in the organisation, she said; LexisNexis, for instance, implemented “coffee roulette” — a pairing of chance made of two people, throughout the organisation, who meet for a conversation. 

“Getting people from different departments, different teams, different walks of life, talking to each other, learning more about each other and fostering collaboration; it is certainly creating a space for diversity and inclusion,” she stated.

It also became clear there were reverse-mentoring relationships happening, Ms Maree observed; along with youngsters gleaning knowledge from older mentors, younger generations were able to impart knowledge about technology and collaboration to older generations.

Bridging the divide is going to “require proactive steps on behalf of both employees and employers,” she stated.

And don’t be limited by looking at what is happening in your industry only, she added.

“Branch out, there are amazing skills and processes that are being developed by things like plants that are manufacturing production lines to make themselves more efficient.

“It may not seem applicable,” she noted, “but there are learnings and applications that may be able to give you inspiration on how you could better leverage technology and collaboration within your own workforce,” Ms Maree said.

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