Data Literacy – The Steps to Building a Data-Literate Workforce!

Data Literacy – The Steps to Building a Data-Literate Workforce!

Data Literacy – The Steps to Building a Data-Literate Workforce!

Data Literacy – The Steps to Building a Data-Literate Workforce!

Summary-Building data literacy is an iterative process. To unlock the power of data in an ever-accelerated world, leaders must focus on bringing skilled individuals on board, walk the walk and build a data mindset. It’s high time leaders start treating data as an asset, be accountable for it, and ensure that it is clean to enable business decisions.


The digital transformation, currently sweeping the business landscape, is also empowering organizations to make more strategic decisions. And, for data-based decisions to succeed, organizations need people who can handle, argue, comprehend and embrace data well.

Data literacy has never been more important to organizations. Yet, not every organization is good at untangling it. 

As Harvard Business Review puts it, “Only 25% of workers have confidence in their data abilities, even though 95% of executives say data literacy is critical to business success.”

Similarly, a Deloitte survey reveals that 63% of CEOs in large organizations deem their organizations to be lacking data-driven infrastructure, as well as, business teams lack interaction with data management teams. 

These surveys suggest that even though organizations are aware of the untapped potential that data literacy holds, they’re still unsure of how they can harness data for informed decision-making.

While organizations are busy collecting data, there seems to be a disinclination from data management teams. Likewise, there are many other barriers to data literacy including lack of data accessibility across organizations, scarcity of talent, absence of data culture, and the refusal to adopt data. 

To leverage data to its full potential, organizations need people who rely on it for even the subtlest of business decisions; because if internal stakeholders can’t see the potential in a given data set, they wouldn’t want to learn, implement or even prioritize data in their routine operations. Thus, data acceptance/adoption is the first step towards data literacy. 

How Can Organizations Maximize Data Adoption?

Assess the Team’s Data Literacy Skills- 

How adept is everyone when it comes to interpreting data? What keeps people from incorporating data in decision-making? How often do teams lean on data for decision-making? 

Answering these questions will help leaders bridge the gap between their workforce’s current data knowledge and where it should be. 

There’s no cookie-cutter approach to data literacy. Hence, leaders would want to analyze how each business unit connects with data. Analyzing current literacy levels is the first step toward data adoption and culture change. 

Share, Instead of Worrying About Data-

This is yet another stumbling block to data literacy. CDOs at some organizations are reluctant to share data throughout their teams. They’re uncomfortable giving more people authority over data. However, the key to unlocking value out of data is to make it accessible to all (including non-data experts and average users).

With democratized data, it becomes easy for employees to act on their insights and make a difference. 

Data democratization also ensures that people within the organization speak the same data language. When people use the same lingo in their day-to-day functions, their confidence with data multiplies. They’re better able to recognize which data is relevant and which is irrelevant – The more acquainted they’re with data, the easier it becomes for them to inculcate data in decision making.

Take the Lead on “People”-

Successful data literacy is established when leaders do not (just) pay all heed to its “data scientists” or “data managers”, but the whole lot in the organization. From middle management to the C-Suite, individuals at every tier in the organization must be trained with data management skills. This kind of shift where people understand the value of data and its ability to drive business performance happens only when people believe in its power. 

Gartner summarizes this well, “The data can only take an organization so far. The real drivers are the people.”

Walk the Walk-

Top executives and management drive the organization’s culture and values at an incredibly large scale. So, to maximize data adoption, leaders across all functions must buoy up a data-driven mindset. 

Leaders should act as change champions and utilize data in standard decision-making. Another excellent way to build trust and confidence in the team is to share data success stories – how (utilizing data-based decision making) in the past impacted productivity, business performance, outcomes, and so on. 

Data literacy can’t be compelled; nor does it happen overnight. Employees can’t be expected to enroll in a slew of courses and begin handling data right away. In lieu, leaders should practice a hands-on approach and lead by example to solidify others’ trust.  

Invest in a Data Framework-

Even though investing in data tools is an important part of the plan, data framework outstrips that. To use the data productively, having a data structure ready is critical. Set the foundation right by understanding-

  • The location of data.
  • Maintenance and management of data.
  • How relevant the data is?
  • Data sorting based on organization’s goals.
  • Tools for analyzing data.
  • Data security and back-up.

A solid infrastructure is must to enable data-based decision making.

Upskill People and Reward Them for Doing So-

As The Human Impact of Data Literacy, 2020 report affirms, “Only 21% of the world’s workforce felt confident working with data, and yet, 75% of them were expected to work with data in their capacity.”

Upskilling is, therefore, no longer good to have but a must-have!

If the workforce isn’t qualified enough to interpret, read, work, analyze or argue with data, businesses might run the risk of missing out on valuable insights that could further enhance their decision-making.

Mckinsey Global Institute estimates that data-driven organizations are not only 23 times more likely to acquire customers but also 6 times as likely to retain them and 19 times more likely to succeed.

Likewise, a survey of 1000+ senior executives at PwC says that organizations that rely strongly on data are 3x more likely to experience breakthroughs in decision-making vs. those that rely less on it.

Gartner’s recent survey of CDOs states that inadequate data literacy skills is one of the major barriers to building a data-smart team.

When it comes to data literacy, investing in data analysts, data scientists or data managers shouldn’t be the only goal. Every single department should understand that data is an asset and it contributes to the organization’s overall objectives. 

With this mindset, employees will eventually draw interest in implementing new methods. Incentivizing people to use data-driven techniques works wonders, too. This also reduces reluctance when adjusting to a change.  

Building data literacy is an iterative process. When people within an organization understand the data lingo, they’re able to accurately communicate facts, narrate stories, and extract hidden insights out of it- Else, everything looks abstract. 

Know more about how to promote data literacy here!

Now Let’s Put Data to Work!

Once data adoption is out of the way, it’s time to extract value from data.

In this day and age, collecting data isn’t a hassle, but extracting the right value from it is. Often, businesses experience difficulty determining what kind of data they need – how to maintain it, how to administer it, how to derive value from it. That’s where having a data strategy saves them.

A data strategy outlines how businesses want to maneuver data, identify top data concerns, figure out what data they’ll need, where they’ll obtain that data, and how they’ll process that data. Basically, a data strategy helps a business make smarter use of data.

Data strategy is also important because it helps drive 6 key areas of any business:

1. Decision-Making Enhancement: With more access to useful data, it will be easier for businesses to make better decisions.

2. Identifying Prospects and Opportunities: Based on likes/dislikes, organizations can introduce new products or services that suits their customer’s preferences.

3. Designing High-Quality Products:  Based on an understanding of customers and their preferences, businesses can decide which product/service to focus on going forward and which to discontinue.

4. Delivering Better Services: Data gives businesses a means to tailor services that complement their customers’ lives.

5. Refining Processes: This key aspect allows organizations to use data to tweak their internal procedures, be more efficient and, of course, align with their policies to reach their business goals.

6. Making Money from Data: When businesses create a new product or service around data, they’re instantly bringing in money.

Any business that works by creating use cases along these areas is likely to position itself for success in a data-driven world.

Data Literacy – a Prerequisite to Thriving in the Digital Age!

Soon after the term “data-driven” “data literacy” was coined, data experts started perceiving it as the new trend. However, “data-based decision making” has been common for a while. The only difference is that earlier a lot of importance was given to tools and technology, leaving out people, processes, mindset, and the data culture. 

Now that businesses of all sizes have started accepting data to stay ahead, the myths about data literacy are also blurring. Leaders have started taking into consideration the importance of data storytelling, data visualization, data governance, and data democratization to overcome cultural resistance. 

It’s the data-centric approach that has led firms like Amazon, Netflix, and Google to expand aggressively. Their data-led approach to products and services goes beyond merely being efficient. Why? They put data at the heart of their operations and culture. They think beyond silos to nurture productive partnerships. 

To unlock the power of data in an ever-accelerated world, leaders must focus on bringing skilled individuals on board, walk the walk and know what data to rely upon. It’s high time leaders start treating data as an asset, be accountable for it, and ensure that it is clean to support reliable decisions.

Start the Data Literacy Journey with KNOLSKAPE!

We at KNOLSKAPE believe that data literacy is not all about technology- but building a data culture holistically. Right from data visualization, storytelling, analysis, and building a data-driven culture, there’s a lot to explore!

Data literacy coupled with storytelling gives leaders the evidence to support their arguments. It also facilitates healthy productive debates, rather than disagreements. Besides, being able to use the right metrics, insights and understanding the tale behind data promotes confidence in decision making. 

Even the smartest data experts will face hurdles unless they know how to frame a narrative with data. Data analysts can analyze the data, data visualization experts can render colorful spreadsheets- However, that’s just half the battle won. Organizations still need data storytelling skills to translate those insights into a reasoned narrative.

Thus, at KNOLSKAPE, we leverage experiential learning to enable organizations with the skills they need for decision-making based on data. 

KNOLSKAPE’s Data & Decisions simulation places participants in a team within an organization. Its objective is to analyze the data available and arrive at the right decisions or recommendations. During the simulation, the participant will have to choose between various strategies for analyzing and interpreting data. The experience will help participants understand how to capitalize data and analytics to drive high-quality, result-oriented decision-making

The simulation adopts a framework-based approach and helps leaders address any gaps in using data and analysis for making business decisions.

Read more about it here.

With Data & Decisions, we greatly believe that businesses can build a data-driven culture that enhances productivity and reduces the time and effort wasted on poor decisions. 

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KNOLSKAPE is a global leader in experiential learning with a mission to help organizations and employees become future ready. Using a large award-winning portfolio of simulations aligned with 100+ competencies and cutting-edge talent intelligence, KNOLSKAPE produces stellar outcomes for more than 375+ organizations across 75 countries. Driven by research and thought leadership, KNOLSKAPE offers its products and solutions in a flexible subscription model powered by omni-channel delivery.

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