Photo Timon Studler
We are in the midst of a data revolution. Businesses and organizations across all sectors collect, store and analyze huge amounts of information. However, they often struggle to realize data’s full potential. According to a recent report from Accenture, Closing the Data Value Gap, only 32% of business executives surveyed said that they’re able to create tangible and measurable value from data.
Why? Because many companies struggle to fully utilize the capabilities of their entire workforces.
That’s why Qlik and Accenture commissioned The Human Impact of Data Literacy. The 2020 global survey of over nine thousand workers found that businesses at the tipping point of their journey to become data-driven are investing heavily in data-ready skills to help enhance individual and organizational performance.
The majority of workers surveyed said that they read and interpret data as part of their roles, and communicate with data, making data-driven decisions at least once a week. But only 25% of these employees believe they were fully prepared to use data effectively when entering their current role.
There is much progress to be made. With technology developing far more quickly than the typical employee’s ability to harness data insights, some employees feel they do not have the right tools or support, and are starting to feel overwhelmed. The research found that just 21% of global workers are confident in their data literacy skills — the ability to read, understand, question and work with data.
This can have significant consequences for their overall performance and, in turn, have an impact on the organization’s bottom line.
Empowering workers to fulfill their potential
Organizations with a workforce fully invested in the effective use of data are already seeing a competitive advantage. According to the 2018 Data Literacy Index, they have benefitted from increased performance and a higher total enterprise value of between three and five percent, equating to US $500 million. In contrast, the Human Impact of Data Literacy study found that companies lose an average of more than five working days (43 hours) per employee each year due to procrastination and sick leave stemming from stress around information, data and technology issues. This ultimately would equate to billions in lost productivity around the globe.
In order to realize that opportunity, organizations need to unlock their people’s potential with five key steps:
- Set your data expectations.
Setting clear expectations means that everyone — whether in product development, marketing or business intelligence—understands what is expected of them. By clarifying how data is going to be used, employers can start to define how different roles across the organization will align with and contribute to overall business goals.
To do that, organizations need to understand how their employees actually work with data and educate them on how data supports organizational goals. This empowers employees to see how their actions directly contribute to creating value for the business.
- Map the way to achieve data goals.
The next step is to assess the state of data within the organization. That covers everything from measuring individual levels of data literacy, to understanding the availability and adoption of technology and tools and defining who needs access to what data.
This has to be accurate – currently, there is a gap between what leaders think and what might actually be the case. Three-fourths (75%) of C-suite level respondents in our Human Impact report believe that all or most of their employees have the ability to work with data proficiently. Even more (79%) believe that their employees have access to the tools they need to be productive. But middle managers and below are less optimistic: half feel that all or most employees have the right abilities, and the same number echo the sentiment when it comes to access.
- Arm your employees for data-driven working.
Organizations must provide employees with the tools, processes and methodologies that enable them to use data as required and meet business goals. This includes not only tools, but training and continued support to advance skill sets.
- Close the data literacy skills gap.
However, simply having the right tools is not enough. Workers need to be data-literate. No matter how accessible data is, employees need to be capable of understanding, questioning and taking the right action based on the insights delivered. This improves their experience of and confidence in using data; employees who identify as data-literate were at least 50 percent more likely than their data-novice peers to say they feel empowered to make better decisions and trusted to make better decisions.
- Create a culture of co-evolution.
The way we access and use data is constantly evolving, and so must a workforce’s understanding and ability to use data — there is no fixed endpoint. That’s why businesses need to build a culture comfortable with this state of continual change. Regularly assessing abilities, skillsets, tools and overall requirements will help employees persistently gain skills in their data literacy and is a fundamental aspect of empowering them to use data effectively and appropriately.
Your most powerful data tool? Your people.
As Sanjeev Vohra, group technology officer and global lead for Accenture’s Data Business Group, put it: “A workforce comfortable with data is a powerful asset; forward-thinking employers that prioritize their teams’ data literacy will reap the rewards.”
Education and empowerment will be the true determining success factors in the data-literate world. Technology may be creating data and giving workers the means to harness it, but organizations can only realize its full potential. by establishing and building understanding of what data can do, how it should be used, and who should be using it.
This post is sponsored by Qlik.