1 AUGUST, 2022


What is data literacy in the workplace?

Data literacy is the ability to read, analyse and work with data. In the workplace, data literacy allows all kinds of employees to grasp key insights into business performance and then use this information to ask the right questions and make purposeful decisions.

How to improve data literacy skills in your company

Data literacy has become an in-demand capability in the modern workforce. It provides employees with the ability to extract meaningful insights from an organisation’s data and then use that knowledge to identify and address problems or opportunities.

However, a recent Accenture survey of over 9,000 employees across a variety of roles found that only 21% were satisfied with their data literacy skills.

Data illiteracy not only impedes not individual performance. It also has wider ramifications that can impact the growth and success of an organisation. In a world where data is everywhere, organisations must improve their internal data literacy skill sets if they want to fully adapt to the modern business landscape.

Examples of data literacy in the workplace

From retailers tracking customer purchases to company websites making use of cookies and website beacons, businesses are collecting data at an unprecedented rate. In today’s world, all organisations have the ability to gather data, regardless of their size, industry or turnover. But without adept data literacy skills, the significance of this data remains untapped.

Data literacy has the potential to play a fundamental role in almost any kind of role within a business. By analysing data and drawing conclusions, employees can:

  • Ask the right questions
  • Test out hypotheses
  • Identify opportunities or areas of concern
  • More effectively mitigate risks
  • Create meaningful visualisations to communicate data-driven insights in an easy to understand format for leaders and stakeholders
What are the different types of data literacy skills?

Data literacy skills is an umbrella term used to describe the techniques necessary to evaluate, read and communicate data. There are numerous types of data literacy skills, including:

Quantitative skills

Quantitative literacy is the ability to use mathematical, statistical and computational methods across a variety of disciplines. This includes the ability to read and evaluate quantitative data and apply statistical analysis. One of the key aspects of quantitative literacy is understanding the Frequentist and Bayesian approaches to statistical problems, and knowing what contexts they should ideally be used in.

Technical skills

Technical skills are the specialised knowledge and expertise required to complete certain tasks and use specific tools. In the context of data literacy, technical skills include reading and writing programming languages (Python, R, SQL etc). It also encompasses proficiency in the application of certain tools, such as Excel or Google Analytics.

Data communication

Data communication is the process of using computing technologies to exchange data.

It includes data visualisation, the practice of representing data and information through infographics. The ability to transform data into infographics is an invaluable tool for organisations. Visualisation provides an easier-to-read form of data that is more accessible to different types of audiences.

Data communication skills also encompass knowing how to create and manage dashboards. A data dashboard is a data visualisation tool that tracks, analyses and displays real-time data in a clear layout that can be used by both technical and non-technical users.

Domain knowledge

Domain knowledge is another important, generic skill that can be employed in businesses to access and utilise real-time data. Domain knowledge refers to the background knowledge relating to data science. This includes the methods and tools required to model data and glean insights from data to make informed decisions. Employees skilled in domain knowledge are adept at framing business problems in data terms and asking the right questions when analysing data.

Data ethics

Data ethics concerns the moral problems that arise from collecting, storing, accessing and sharing data. It is a branch of ethics that looks at the most ethical behaviour when working with data. Data ethics is closely intertwined with modern life and the manner in which organisations regulate their data directly impacts everyone.

Individuals who understand data ethics will have better control over data. This includes being able to work with confidential data and take concerted action to avoid collecting or analysing misleading data.

7 tips on how to build data literacy in your company

Data literacy skills belong in every organisation, regardless of internal or external factors. To help you identify areas within your organisation that could benefit from improved data literacy skills, here are 7 tips on how to improve data literacy in your organisation.

1. Identify data literacy gaps

Most organisations will have noticeable gaps in data literacy within their workforce. In fact, a recent survey found that only 40% of employees are satisfied with the data literacy skills in their organisation, despite the fact that 79% of employers voiced contentment with their current training processes. This divergence in attitudes demonstrates a common point of contention within organisations interested in improving digital literacy in the workplace.

Organisations have to objectively assess data literacy gaps within their workforce. To ensure that they receive a full understanding of the issues affecting their employees, management should communicate with staff about the importance of big data analytics in business. If employees appreciate exactly how data literacy could empower them to fulfil their responsibilities, they will be able to assess whether data literacy training is a valuable investment into their performance.

2. Communicate importance of data literacy to leadership

The world of data literacy is constantly evolving, with new technologies constantly expanding the limits of data usage. What was considered impossible yesterday, could very well be a routine business process tomorrow.

While this leads to countless opportunities for growth, the ever-changing landscape of data has left many leaders and stakeholders unaware of how far data has progressed in recent years. This has led to a disillusionment in many organisations regarding the expectations of data literacy.

To ensure that your organisation’s leaders are aware of the importance of data literacy, you will need to demonstrate how data literacy could be utilised within your organisation and across different roles. Pinpoint specific areas that will benefit most from enhanced data literacy skills. Encourage leaders to ask a variety of questions and voice their perspectives on the role of data literacy in your organisation.

Describe how data literacy can be implemented in the day-to-day operation of your organisation. Are you looking into building and leading a data science team? Or will digital literacy skills be integrated into current roles?

Data-driven companies are built from the top down. Enlisting the enthusiasm of leadership will help foster a data-driven culture that prioritises teaching and applying data literacy skills.

3. Set smart goals and KPIs

It’s easy to become overwhelmed with excessive amounts of data. To ensure that data remains accessible and meaningful to employees, assign each individual with a specific KPI to track. This will help them manage their data on a more personal level and focus on data that is relevant to their role.

With assigned KPIs, you can more efficiently track individual performance and team progress. Smart goals and individual KPIs will contribute towards a data-driven company culture, where individuals are empowered to actively utilise data in their role. Tracking KPIs also provides organisations with real-time insights on how to build data literacy within specific business functions.

4. Develop a common data language in the organisation

Developing and implementing a standardised data language across your organisation will streamline the transition towards a data-driven culture. This language will act as a framework for the method and format in which data is communicated, stored, processed and shared. It will help to ensure a single version of the truth rather than a mismatch of competing numbers and information. Contradictory data can be dangerous to an organisation, contributing to paralysis and ineffective decision making.

Aligning processes and agreeing on key metrics to monitor business progress will enable your organisation to develop a more established approach to data. This will not only improve data literacy, but also remove the white noise of meaningless data. Ensuring that everyone remains on the same page when it comes to the collection and analysis is necessary for organisations wanting to improve data literacy.

5. Tailor your program to employee needs

Successful data literacy programs will be tailored to each employee’s needs. There is no one-size-fits all approach to data literacy and every role will require a different level of understanding. It’s important to note that a customised data program begins with training.

Small groups are highly useful when it comes to training employees on data literacy. By grouping together different functions within the organisation for training purposes, individuals can access training that explicitly targets the responsibilities and concerns relevant to their roles. A more personalised approach to training will also encourage employees to seek new ways to engage with data in their day-to-day work.

6. Make data accessible to employees

Democratising data (i.e. allowing for increased access) will provide employees with greater opportunities for exploration and discovery. Data democratisation fosters innovation amongst employees and drives collaboration between departments, as everyone has access to the same knowledge and metrics.

Data dashboards are a valuable tool that simplifies the visualisation of real-time data and ensures it is accessible to everyone. Dashboards also grant employees a greater amount of autonomy. With a dashboard, an employee can focus on their KPIs, notice trends unassisted, streamline their decision making processes and more easily apply data in their day-to-day responsibilities.

Ultimately, giving employees greater control over data is closely connected with their data literacy training. Data democratisation offers employees practical opportunities to employ their data literacy skills, making it a vital step in your organisation’s shift towards a data-driven culture.

7. Gather feedback and improve your program

The applications of data are constantly changing – and so should your data literacy program.

As always, feedback is the most reliable way to guide and inform important decisions. Encourage employees to detail their highs and lows in the application of their data literacy skills. Ideally, they should also provide suggestions on practical ways to better incentivise data literacy in the workplace.

Consistent employee feedback can improve data literacy programs by providing genuine advice into how the framework can be amended to better inspire productivity and engagement.

Launch your data literacy program with DeakinCo.

In an increasingly online world, the role of data literacy is becoming more and more pronounced. Organisations with a workforce skilled in data literacy can more efficiently capitalise on historic and present data-driven insights to prepare for future growth.

While data literacy belongs in all organisations, the manner in which it will be utilised will differ according to individual needs. This makes it all the more important for organisations to deliver personalised learning experiences that empower individuals to apply data literacy skills in their everyday duties.

DeakinCo. offers organisations personalised learning solutions that can be tailored to target technical skills, including data literacy skills. Learn more about the diverse benefits that come with fostering key skills within your workforce and get in touch with the team at DeakinCo. today.

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