What is data literacy? A graphic that describes data literacy and its value for organizations.

Image: Venngage

For job applicants across role types and industries, “multilingual” can be a strong differentiator on their resumes. As business technologies and operations continue to evolve, companies are pushing that trend further and looking for professionals who can demonstrate data literacy and fluency.

SEE: Hiring kit: Data Scientist (TechRepublic Premium)

The boon of data and analytics capabilities, as well as the increasing effectiveness of artificial intelligence, has made it essential that company stakeholders “‘speak data’ as a common language,” Gartner reported. “Data and analytics leaders must champion workforce data literacy as an enabler of digital business and treat information as a second language.”

Despite the importance of data literacy in today’s business world, few companies feel confident that their teams demonstrate true data literacy. In fact, many admit that their employees have a certain level of data phobia. In this article, TechRepublic covers potential resources as well as our own insights on how to combat data phobia and achieve data literacy across your organization.

An overview of data literacy in the workplace

Data literacy is an incredibly important asset and skill set that should be demonstrated at all levels of the workplace. In simple terms, data literacy is the fundamental understanding of what data means, how to interpret it, how to create it and how to use it both effectively and ethically across business use cases. Employees who have been trained in and applied their knowledge of how to use company data demonstrate a high level of data literacy. Although many people have traditionally associated data literacy skills with data professionals and experts, it’s becoming necessary for employees from all departments and job levels to develop certain levels of data literacy.

The Harvard Business Review stated: “Companies need more people with the ability to interpret data, to draw insights and to ask the right questions in the first place. These are skills that anyone can develop, and there are now many ways for individuals to upskill themselves and for companies to support them, lift capabilities,and drive change. Indeed, the data itself is clear on this: Data-driven decision-making markedly improves business performance.”

SEE: Hiring kit: Data Scientist (TechRepublic Premium)

Today, all team leaders and nearly all staff need to increase their abilities “inspiring the entire department to embrace data”. In addition to collecting and analyzing data, it’s equally important to be able to effectively share data with colleagues and clients. How data is interpreted and shared can lead to great successes or bottlenecks; organization-wide data literacy efforts can ensure more successes.

Steps to overcoming data literacy problems

Challenges related to data literacy can be overcome with appropriate training courses and hands-on learning opportunities. To overcome data literacy problems in your own organization, consider following this advice from one of our TechRepublic experts

Focus on the data first

While it’s important to understand the tools that store and apply company data, data literacy actually arises from an understanding of the data first. Find ways to isolate company data from toolsets and give employees learning opportunities where they can understand what they’re looking at before they get bogged down in the intricacies of data tools.

Offer cross-functional data training to all employees

Data skills and literacy training programs are the surest way to increase data literacy across your organization. While developing your program, be sure to focus on cross-functional data sets and use cases that impact a wide swath of employee work and operations. More specialized data training is necessary for certain departments and roles, but a foundational program with generalized training should be established as well.

Create a trickle-down data-driven culture

Organization-wide data literacy starts from the top. All managers and leaders should not only understand relevant company data and how it applies to their teams but should also demonstrate to their teams how they’re applying that data. When leadership is committed to data-driven decision-making, employees will notice and have more opportunities to encounter and better understand the data that impacts their jobs.

FULL STORY: Tips for increasing data literacy among your employees and customers (TechRepublic)

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