Most businesses are managing an enormous amount of data. However, simply collecting data isn’t the same as understanding it. We’re facing a critical skills gap. Low data literacy is holding many organisations back and therefore stalling digital transformation initiatives across the enterprise.
But what is data literacy? Data literacy is the ability to read, work with, analyse and communicate with data. It’s a skill that empowers all levels of workers to ask the right questions of data and machines, build knowledge, make decisions, and communicate meaning to others.
In a world increasingly powered by data, data literacy is as important as literacy itself, and an organisation’s ability to succeed will be heavily dependent on its employees’ abilities to learn this new language. Professional performance is linked with a good grasp of data, helping us make better decisions and adding weight to our arguments.
While organisations continue to collect, store and analyse data, its real potential remains largely untapped. Indeed, only 32% of companies reported being able to realise tangible and measurable value from data. This is partly due to individuals not truly understanding data or its potential.
The Human Impact of Data Literacy report, a study recently commissioned by Accenture and Qlik, revealed that only 21% of the global working population reported they are fully confident in their data literacy skills, with just one quarter prepared to use data when entering their current role.
This not only impacts employee productivity (to the cost of £10 billion for British businesses each year), but prevents firms from reaping the rewards of data-informed business, as 36% of overwhelmed employees reported finding alternative methods to complete tasks without using data.
Making the language of data understood and communicated effectively by all is a global issue which needs to be addressed by organisations of all sizes.
The vast majority (87%) of employees recognise that data in the workplace is an asset. Yet, what many firms are struggling with is how to best blend the people, process and technology elements necessary to establish a truly data-informed culture.
Data literacy training can help overcome this challenge and can take many different forms. Some organisations integrate it into existing skills initiatives, while others provide standalone e-learning courses or offer specialised classroom training. We’re also seeing growing interest in data literacy consulting services that provide always-on access to education, consultancy and support, which help organisations drive higher data literacy rates while optimising the value trapped in their data.
Whichever approach firms take, data literacy training must not be approached as a tick-box exercise. It’s vital that all employees are fully confident when working with data. There’s a strong argument that the training should form part of a compulsory learning and development plan for employees, where they are measured in their reviews to ensure they continue to create the greatest value from the organisation’s data.
It’s clear there is a great desire amongst employees to improve their data literacy skills: 78% of employees previously reported in the Global Data Literacy Report (2018) that they would be willing to invest more time and energy into improving their data skillsets. This is perhaps unsurprising given that employees who identify as data-literate are at least 50% more likely to say they feel empowered to make better decisions and are trusted to make better decisions than their data novice peers.
To succeed in the digital age, business leaders must recognise the importance of data literacy and ensure that People is a key pillar of their data strategy. The potential for businesses that empower their employees with the skills, access and tools they need see massive returns, with data-literate firms associated with a 3-5% higher enterprise value.
It’s time for business leaders to wake up to not only the potential for data in their business, but the critical role that they play in unlocking it.
By Roberto Sigona, chief customer officer, Qlik