Data Literacy is Not Just for Data Scientists

Data literacy—the ability to parse and organize complex data, interpret and summarize information, develop predictions, or appreciate the ethical implications of algorithms— is becoming increasingly important within the modern workforce. Once reserved for those in technical fields like IT, analytics or finance, today data skills add value to departments across the organization. From salespeople better leveraging insights on new prospects to HR learning how best to motivate their employees, these skills are rapidly becoming as essential as knowing how to use a computer.  

Yet a nagging skills gap remains. A recent study by Tableau and Forrester found that over 80% of employers expect their workers to have data skills, and that 70% of employees expect to use data heavily by 2025but that only 40% of employees believed they were being equipped with the data skills they needed. 

This disconnect shows that employers’ expectations from their employees and the resources that they’re offering aren’t adding up. Implementing data literacy across an organization can yield improved productivity, better decision-making, and greater employee satisfaction as well as other benefits, so employers have many reasons to teach this skill set now. 

The rise in demand for data literacy, coupled with its benefits, is why organizations must strive to empower every employee with the proficiency they need to keep pace with an ever-changing digital age. But how do they pull it off? First, they need to know what they can expect to gain from their investment. Then, they must learn where to look internally for prospective data talent. 

Data Literacy for All: 4 Benefits

Data science, analytics, and IT teams will likely always have greater technical knowledge than other departments. Far from bringing every employee up to expert status, data literacy is about equipping even non-technical staff with a foundation of data principles. That way, they can better understand the data you give them, work more smoothly on data-focused teams, and leverage data to make better business decisions within their own context.

There are many ways that fostering a culture of data literacy can improve an organization's business outcomes, but the four that follow routinely top the list. 

Better Decision-Making and Problem-Solving

The reason that companies are investing so heavily in implementing data-driven decision-making is that it helps them objectively pursue the most favorable business outcomes. Employees across an organization can leverage better data literacy to improve their performance in several ways, including:

  • Asking the right questions
  • Gathering relevant data that helps answer those questions
  • Using data principles to draw conclusions from the data at their disposal

Intuition will always be a part of the problem-solving process, but employees who rely on data to make their decisions can expand their toolkit to combine the two, helping them reach better conclusions.  

Clearer Communication

A Harris Poll survey from Grammarly found that poor communication cost teams an average of 7.47 hours per week, for a total of over $1.2 trillion nationwide. 

Part of the reason for communication breakdown comes from the fact that non-technical employees don't necessarily know how to handle the data that their more technical colleagues throw at them. Too much jargon, complex graphs, and spreadsheets filled with numbers can leave non-technical personnel confused, causing them to live with knowledge gaps, make decisions based on erroneous assumptions, or slow down the pace of decision-making. 

When employees learn data literacy skills, they're able to follow their technical colleagues' work and can communicate more smoothly throughout the project. This reduces costly errors, speeds up project completion time, and enables non-technical employees to make more meaningful contributions to the team. By bringing everyone together around the facts, data literacy helps the entire workforce speak the same language. 

Increased Efficiency 

The superior decision-making, better problem-solving, and clearer communication that data literacy brings to the table all lead to greater efficiency as employees complete their tasks. Data literacy hones critical thinking skills, which helps workers find ways to get more done and use their time and resources wisely. The result is improved productivity levels, fewer errors, and innovative solutions to long-standing problems within business processes. 

Improved Engagement

In addition to the benefits provided above, providing data literacy training to the workforce may have positive implications for employee engagement and retention. Researchers at Amazon and Workplace Intelligence found that 89% of employees were "extremely" or "somewhat" interested in improving their skills, and that 74% of Gen-Zers and millennials would likely quit their job within the next year due to a lack of skills development opportunities. 

Implementing a company-wide culture of data literacy is one way that organizations can satisfy the demand for skills development and boost employee satisfaction. When digital upskilling is offered to all employees, workers not only gain new competencies that make them more marketable to today's tech-savvy world, but can take pride in the fact that they're continuing to sharpen their skills. It takes more than a massive open online course (MOOC) solution to fully activate their potential, but a relevant, contextualized data literacy program can elevate employee engagement — and may even help companies discover their next data professionals. 

How to Launch a Data Literacy Program

Launching a large-scale data literacy initiative can help you realize some of these benefits, but knowing where to start can be a challenge. These steps can help get you started: 

  • Gain executive buy-in. Without support from the top, data literacy initiatives may have trouble succeeding. Many executives have a non-technical background, so explain to them how improved data literacy can help their employees perform better — and make the company more profitable. 
  • Assess existing data literacy skills and gaps. Each organization is unique, so their employees will have unique strengths and weaknesses tooEvaluate which data skills your employees seem to lack most and which ones they already have, so that your program gives them the skills they need.
  • Partner with a training provider. MOOCs rarely achieve the completion rates or outcomes that employers hope for because their context isn’t tailored to the employee’s or company’s niche. Find a data literacy training provider that offers personalized, contextualized, inspiring data content, and your workers’ digital skills will be much more likely to grow. 

Non-technical employees who are good communicators may be especially effective at conveying data concepts to others throughout the industry, as they can relate to others without a tech background. This gives them great potential to be data advocates, and they can be tremendous assets in helping your data literacy program spread throughout the company. Find them where you can.

Upskill Your Workforce With Correlation One

Enhanced problem-solving, clearer communication, increased efficiency — adopting a culture of data literacy bears fruit that every organization can profit from. Finding people to become citizen technologists within their department or data advocates who drive digital literacy forward will be effective in gaining momentum across the company.

Correlation One programs have been used by industry leaders to elevate digital skill sets across entire enterprises. Curious how Correlation One can help advance your data literacy initiatives? Reach out to learn more.