Data is the new hygiene. Just like ‘computer literacy’ back in the day, employers are beginning to acknowledge ‘data literacy’ as a critical job skill. To succeed in any role, junior or senior, strategy or operation, employees are expected to make meaning of data at its various avatars. The basic grammar of modern times, data is not anymore exclusive to analytics or finance. It now runs wide and deep, rubs across roles and industries, irrespective of the color of the collar. Experts believe employees having trouble keeping up must start to place as high a value on their data skills as they do on their ability to correctly scroll their favorite app up and down. Yes, with support and will to get hands little dirty, everyone can learn to be a data literate, 

Data literacy and data-driven culture 

Data literacy is the ability to “read, understand, create, and communicate data as information.” But how is it that ‘data’ becomes so important for everyone? Is it true that organisations that fail to create data-driven culture are left behind due to their incapability to fully use the vital business resource of data-extract to their business advantage? Yes, businesses are collecting, storing, reporting, and analyzing data, there is a deluge of data and they are fundamental to the current need of digital transformation. Business value needs to be unlocked from data and its actionable analysis. According to Wharton professor Lorin Hitt and Qlik’s Jordan Morrow, businesses should avoid the temptation to centralise data. The challenge arises from both the scarcity of data skills and many companies’ inability to leverage them for data-driven decision making. To combat this, management needs to evolve their firm into a data-oriented business, which is no mean feat, given it can require significant changes to employee skill sets, departmental structures, and decision-making approaches. 

Even though businesses will spend $189.1 Billion on big data and analytics solutions through 2022 and increase tenfold by 2025 (IDC estimate, 2019), only 50% of businesses have the competence of data literacy to extract the required value (Gartner study, 2019). 

Creating data smart employees

Businesses can truly empower employees by helping them read, write, analyse, and communicate with data. This is a skill that empowers all levels of employees to ask the right questions concerning data, build knowledge, make decisions, and communicate meaning to others, believes Qlik, a data analytics and data integration company. Competent employees contribute more to their roles and help businesses sharpen their competitive edge in an aggressive global economy.

Whose responsibility is it to improve data literacy? 

Schools and colleges are highly ill-equipped to deal with change. From academia the responsibility has veered towards employers. Large corporates have created state-of-the-art digital academies worldwide with a focus on helping employees from all strata learn how to analyze data. 

Organisations can start data literacy programs in blended mode format (webinars, self-paced, contact sessions). The curriculum can include basic skills and general awareness of what is data today, demystifying it, how it can be used to solve problems, the values that it brings to the organization, and their role it plays in collecting and protecting it. That’s the only way to ensure that everyone in the organization is doing their part.

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