Understanding the role of employees in digital transformation: conceptualization of digital literacy of employees as a multi-dimensional organizational affordance

Dilek Cetindamar Kozanoglu, Babak Abedin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Citations (Scopus)
2003 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: Much of recent academic and professional interest in exploring digital transformation and enterprise systems has focused on the technology or the organizations' external forces, leaving internal factors, in particular employees, overlooked. The purpose of this paper is to explore digital literacy of employees as an organizational affordance to capture contextual factors within which digital technologies are situated and are used.

Design/methodology/approach: We used the evidence-based practice for information systems approach, and undertook a systematic literature review of 30 papers coupled with brainstorming with 11 professional experts on the neglected topic of digital literacy and its assessment.

Findings: This paper draws upon affordance theory, and develops a novel framework for conceptualization of digital literacy of employees as an organizational affordance. We do this by distinguishing digital literacy at the individual level and organizational level, and by assessing digital literacy through Information/Cognitive and Social Practice/Articulation affordances.

Research limitations/implications: The current paper contributes to the notion of organizational affordances by examining the effect of interactions between employee-technology through digital literacy of employees in using digital technologies. We offer a novel conceptualization of digital literacy to improve understanding of the role of employee in digital transformation and utilization of enterprise systems. Thus, our definition of digital literacy offers an extension to the recent discussions in the IS literature regarding the actualization of affordances by bringing a lens of employees into the process.

Practical implications: This paper operationalizes digital literacy at organizational and individual levels, and offers managers a high-level tool to assess digital literacy of their employees. By doing so, managers can achieve the fit between employees' capabilities and digital technologies that will improve affordance actualization and support their digital transformation initiatives.

Originality/value: The study is one of early attempts to apply and extend affordance theory on digital literacy at organizational level by not limiting the concept to the individual level. The proposed framework improves the communication among researchers and between researchers and practitioners.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1649-1672
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Enterprise Information Management
Issue number6
Early online date22 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 11 Nov 2021


  • Affordance theory
  • Assessment
  • Digital literacy
  • Digital skills
  • Digital transformation
  • Employee experience


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