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Data literacy is important for employees at all levels. With global spending on big data and business analytics up to $215.7 billion, these tools have become essential competitive elements for any organization. Data literacy is now the backbone of modern business.
We’ve entered a period of data democratization. However, information availability is worthless without data literacy. In our data-driven economy, business leaders must prioritize employee education in all elements of data literacy if they hope to innovate and scale successfully.
The data democratization era mandates teaching employees data literacy. By exploring the need for data education and the tools to cultivate it, you can build a workforce skilled for the modern economy.
Not long ago, data mining and analysis were relegated to a small group of highly trained professionals. That isn’t the case anymore. Data is accessible even through social media tools and other free platforms for insight and analysis.
By 2025, estimates suggest that the collective sum of global data will reach 175 zettabytes. In gigabytes, that’s a number with 12 zeros. This data is made possible by intelligent devices and the mobile revolution, in which we all contribute to this collective data by engaging with the Internet.
As technology becomes more accessible, so do the means to collect and assess data. From software tools to mobile applications, the platforms for data utilization are everywhere. Many of these tools are even free.
With these tools readily available to about anyone (over 6 billion people have a smartphone subscription), businesses can easily build data analysis programs to gain insight into the market and their processes. However, doing so is impossible without data literacy.
In this era of data democratization, being able to read data is becoming an essential skill for a wide margin of workers. This revolution in information is changing the nature of many occupations, placing a new emphasis on data literacy.
This change is not dissimilar to what happened when the printing press was invented in the 15th century. Suddenly, texts became much more accessible to the public. Jobs were created en masse that demanded the ability to read. As a result, literacy flourished as the population adapted, and the Renaissance kicked off in full force.
Now, we are living in a data renaissance, and we need workers with the skills to compete under these conditions. Future jobs will be increasingly data-driven, often supporting AI-powered systems that automate traditional workflows. Future-proofing your workforce starts with data literacy.
Data literacy is the ability to gather, interpret, and communicate insights from data. Since information is only democratize-able and understandable, data literacy is essential to the modern economy. Developing data-driven business insights is impossible without it.
For example, tracking Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) effectively requires a comprehensive and accessible data dashboard. Employees can use such a tool to monitor and improve business performance, but they have to have the skills to read it. This includes knowing what to look for, how to filter data, definitions of key data terms, and general comprehension of data visualization techniques.
From here, gathering and learning from data is a more straightforward process. It can even lead to a host of benefits for a data-literate workforce.
Data literacy for employees is vital for the competitiveness of any organization. If you don’t use data to track progress and improve, your competitors will. This makes teaching data literacy an essential element of conducting business.
In Fact, 93% of companies indicated that they planned to continue increasing investments in data and analytics in a survey. This demonstrates the nature of the gold rush, which is data utilization in business. Companies across all industries see the role data can play in success, and they are investing in data literacy as a result.
Additionally, poor uses of data lead to greater waste and business expenses. These instances stem from a lack of data literacy. Bad data cost $1.8 trillion in just a single year in the construction industry, as inaccurate or incomplete information creates inefficient business practices. A significant portion of these costs came from work that had to be redone due to poor quality data.
This demonstrates the need for data literacy, which includes assessing data quality and analyzing its usefulness. Being unable to do so will make your data investments worthless. However, a data-literate workforce can produce all kinds of competitive benefits for their organization.
When Tabluea commissioned Forrester Consulting to research the role of data literacy in modern business, their findings were conclusive. Data literacy produces positives for the companies that prioritize it. For example, 83% of employees trained in data literacy said they make better decisions because of it.
Image Source: Tableau
But this is just the beginning. A data-literate workforce has been shown to offer plenty of other benefits. These include:
- Improved customer experiences
- Better decision making
- Enhanced employee satisfaction and retention
- Reduced costs
- Enhanced ability to innovate
As you can see, education in data is paramount for business success in the competitive digital economy. However, teaching this literacy to your employees requires starting with the basics.
The elements of data literacy are the backbone of effective data education. These traits define what it means to be data literate, from the initial exploration stage to ongoing reflection and improvement.
You can foster these skills in employees by teaching them the elements of data literacy. The National Center for Systemic Improvement (NCSI) and its partners organized and defined these elements to assist organizations in data-driven decision-making. These elements are
Image Source: NCSI
Data literacy has to start here. Data exploration is about identifying questions and subjects for research, which the data you gather will allow you to learn. This process directly influences outcomes as it will define the data you collect, the KPIs you track, and the tools you use.
Next, data management entails collecting the pre-defined exploratory information in an accessible process. Employees have to sort data through various sources and storage locations to create a manageable approach to evaluating that data. The ability to do this is a key part of data literacy that can make or break the entire process.
Ultimately, you’ll apply the data you’ve explored and managed into analysis tools and processes. At this stage, the data truly starts to form a narrative that can be translated into actionable business insights. Knowing how to use data in real-world strategies is key to data literacy.
As a business, you’re never really done with data. Data literacy’s reflection and improvement element are about looking back at what worked and what didn’t base on your results’ analysis. This aspect is intended to take the pain out of data literacy for educators, creating a self-explanatory system for evaluating the quality and impact of the data processes you employ.
Employees are best served by learning each of these elements of data literacy and how they influence overall business success. From here, business leaders can take steps to teach data literacy across their organization more efficiently for a host of benefits.
Data literacy programs can be instituted however they best serve your organization. You might choose to bring in consultants to lead courses in-office. Alternatively, you might subscribe to online instructional modules that your employees can complete at their own pace.
Additionally, you can always develop an in-house employee training program that details what data literacy means for your specific organization. By doing so, you can teach employees the tools, tech, and strategies that align with your overall business goals.
Whatever your approach, it’s essential to ensure that data literacy is taught correctly by employing best practices. Use these steps for training your employees.
To start, make the importance of data literacy clear to your employees. You can use the data found here or assemble more industry-specific information that highlights this point, but demonstrating the value of a data education will help to motivate workers. Communicate how being literate in the digital economy expands not just business potential but also the potential of each employee individually.
Next, build a company culture that emphasizes data literacy. By making data a core principle of your organization, you’ll naturally consider where employee training is further needed to develop data-driven insights. Tie data literacy to performative metrics and overall goals, then create the training tools to support employees.
Developing effective training procedures requires that you evaluate your team’s specific needs regarding data comprehension. Start by assessing the current literacy levels of your employees, then look for solutions based on the elements of data literacy. Identify pain points, manage educational resources, use your insights, and constantly improve the training you offer for a more data-literate workforce.
Then, be sure the training you employ covers all the needs of your specific business model. Every business will want a scalable system. However, the individual tools or training courses you use may vary depending on your industry or the size of your business.
Finally, enhance your team’s data literacy with their help. Develop a system for gathering employee feedback on their learning needs and challenges. This kind of engagement helps improve employee happiness and success at work, and it can ensure your team gets the most out of a data education.
Data is the currency in the 21st century. It represents a vital resource that will take the global economy into a new era of prosperity. To take your workforce along for the ride, ensure they have the tools to understand and apply data effectively.
Data literacy is to the modern age what textual literacy was to the Renaissance period. Just as reading became a necessity for most jobs not long after that, the same will likely be true of data literacy. Give your workforce an edge by providing the skills they need to know to thrive in a data-driven world.
Are You Teaching Data Literacy Your Team?
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