Industry Viewpoints

Want to Become a Data Literate Organization? You’ll Need These Seven Principles

Headshot of blog author Paul Barth

Paul Barth

5 min read

Diagram showing the seven principals to becoming a data literate organization

If you are asked in a job interview ‘what languages do you speak?’ would you consider your ability to read, analyze, work and communicate with data as an answer to that question? You’d be right to. Described as the second language of business by Gartner, data literacy is tipped to be the most in-demand skill by 2030.

Not only is a data literate organization more agile, prepared and innovative, it is more likely to hold on to its people. In the last 12 months, 35% of employees have changed jobs due to a lack of data literacy upskilling and training opportunities.

Becoming a data literate organization isn’t just about training, however, but also about behavior change and a mindset shift to reach a point where people actively and instinctively analyze and question the data that’s in front of them to drive in-the-moment insights and smarter decisions and action.

Establishing this culture of curiosity, collective problem solving, consistent questioning and testing of insights for every business decision doesn’t happen overnight. It’s an ongoing journey that can be enabled with seven key principles in mind.

  1. Champion curiosity. Give employees the tools to develop non-technical skills like curiosity, critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration to gain different perspectives and challenge assumptions about data.

  2. Action learning. Empower employees to put what they learn into action and use their skills on a daily basis, no matter their level or role.

  3. Empower everyone to use data to make decisions. From the intern to the CEO. Anyone with the right skills and mindset can learn. Keep it simple, communicate the benefits of data literacy widely and celebrate progress.

  4. Clarify the problem you want to solve. You can then more effectively explore, analyze and interrogate the pools of information that will help you find the solution.

  5. Measure impact. Processes and culture must be embedded for a few years to see the real value of a data literate organization. Employee satisfaction and retention, engagement in training and pulse surveys, and evidence of behavior change are good short-term measurable analytics. Longer term, you can look at metrics relating to revenue growth, time savings and cost reductions.

  6. Connect the dots between teams. Show how data literacy can elevate their work and strengthen the business by opening up conversations between different departments and encourage collaboration.

  7. Don’t get swept up in the latest innovations and technology fads. Match your technology investments to the processes and goals of your company and make sure to investigate if the user experience will match the needs and abilities of those it will serve.

The foundations for a data literate future

85% of executives believe that data literacy will be as vital in the future as the ability to use a computer is today. To be successful in that future means putting in the foundations now on which to start building a data literate organization. Foundations such as curiosity, intellectual humility, the ability to think differently and of course, the language with which to make smarter, more informed decisions.

To find out more about the journey to becoming a data literate organization, take a look at The Seven Principles of Data Literacy: A Blueprint to accelerate your business toward its data-driven future.

"85% of executives believe that data literacy will be as vital in the future as the ability to use a computer is today."

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