Data, data and even more data. It seems like the world revolves around this topic. More and more companies are using data and more advanced technologies. In this era you don’t need to be a huge data company anymore to build a data lake in your company or have complex tools. Also, at the same time the news is full of examples about bad functioning AI. For example, if algorithms are created by a non-representative group, this algorithm can become discriminated against. Most companies are now struggling with the question: How can we avoid becoming a bad example, but at the same time increase the use of data? This can be done by thinking critically about the data which will be collected and how you are using it to be everyone’s job. However, this sounds easier than it is. Most employees are not very good at interpreting and understanding data. Companies should enhance the data literacy of their employees. Whereas in the past academic institutions were responsible for enhancing data literacy, it now has shifted to the responsibility of the employers. They have the resources and in the end it will be very rewarding. However, it can be very hard to teach your employees these data skills, since it is so deficient in many companies. Therefore, we would recommend to follow the following basic principles.
Make sure employees know how to use the tools and deploy L&D programs about data skills. It is important that your employees know how to use the data tools. According to Forbes this is even the most important step. Carefully select the data skills needed by your employees and start with the basics so it won’t be too overwhelming at once. After choosing the specific skills which need to be taught L&D programs can be set up. Learning is way more effective when it is social, personalized and contextual. These L&D programs are more resource intensive, but the benefits are worth it. Employees are having a higher engagement with the material, employee retention of the material and empowering your employees. To enhance data skills, you need to give your employees a lot of opportunities to do so. Some companies might say, but why is this our responsibility and why don’t they learn this in school? According to Harvard Business Review, in the past years this responsibility has shifted from academic institutions to the business. They should embrace this responsibility more, since they have plenty of resources and the rewards are high.
Include data in important decision making and reward data driven decision making. Managers should learn to show data upon which a decision is made and not purely a gut feeling. In the Harvard Business Review we can read that it works if you can put relevant, real time data in the hands of managers. In this way you force them to pay attention and improve their data skills. Then managers can ask and answer questions like ‘’What data do we have or do we get to support this case? To even stimulate managers more to use data in their decision making you can reward them if they do so. For example, by providing faster project approvals or larger budgets if they include date.
Make sure that data literacy is not perceived only as a problem for the technology department, but for the whole company. Data literacy is a professional skill and not a technical skill. Make sure that all the employees know that and encourage them all to develop their data literacy. This can be done by engagement sessions and webinars that you host, with topics such as: data driven decision making, the pros & cons of AI, how data is valuable for your business, ethics & AI. With these kinds of sessions and webinars the whole organization will feel connected to the problem. It really should become a habit to all departments in an organization to make decision based on data and not only have the idea that the data science teams should do this, was said in Forbes.
Our next tip is to develop an internal language for speaking about data. Not all parts of data are interesting for your company. For a finance organization risk management might be useful, but experimentation and visualization not at all. But these terms are useful for a technology firm. Make sure that you demonstrate how this language connects to your business, you can do this during the L&D program. In this way it is easier for employees to connect the dots between data literacy and their workflows.
Now we have given you some tools to help you further enhance the data literacy in your company. In the future, data literacy will become more important. Not only for the technical department, but for the whole organization. Companies need more employees who can interpret data and draw insights from them. Not only the data analysts should be having these skills, but every employee. Anyone can develop those skills with the right help. Companies really should support their employees and give them the right kind of training. Data literacy is about employees coping better in a data-driving world. That is why you need it now more than ever.