How to build an organizational culture grounded in data literacy
Taryn Hess of software specialists EPAM tells us that it's all very well committing to data literacy, but it's setting up a truly data-enabling culture that really makes the difference.
EPAM's Taryn Hess on the importance of cultures of data literacy / Crissy Jarvis via Unsplash
In today's workforce, data literacy – reading, working with and communicating with data – is vital to an organization's success. However, there is a large gap between the importance of data literacy within businesses and the necessary infrastructure to support data capabilities and data culture.
According to The Data Literacy Project, 93% of business decision-makers believe that data literacy is relevant and essential to their employees. However, only 34% provide data literacy training, and only 36% are willing to pay a higher salary for data-literate employees. Although companies are now starting to bridge this gap, with 63% of large businesses planning to increase the amount of data-literate employees, smart businesses are now looking at different factors to build an organization and culture grounded in data literacy.
Starting the data literacy transformation
A culture with data literacy at its forefront requires more than simply launching a literacy program. Organizations must transform how employees think, use and communicate with data.
One of the first steps toward this culture change is that employees must understand the importance of data and its use. Employees want to hear the organization's vision, mission and goals for implementing the data. They must be aware of their role within the company and the actions they can take to push the adoption of data. Employees need to be educated in data transformation; its goals, benefits, and their role in making this a reality.
Employees need to have common terminology and frameworks to communicate efficiently. Education of data literacy should include a curriculum that covers security, regulations, data mindset, ethics, governance, assets and tools, quality, communicating with data, and data-informed decision-making. This learning program will allow a company to scale efficiently and support the creation of a data-rich language, which is the backbone of data culture.
Not only do business leaders need to educate their staff on all data transformation fields; they must model the data practices they would like to see. The C-suite needs to be prepared to spearhead data transformation in culture, processes and behaviors, while being aware of their role and the data-related needs of employees. They must show how the company wants to use data and be able to offer feedback on how to achieve targets.
The components of a data-literate culture
A data-literate company will align targeted skills and communicate these expectations to everyone. A strong talent infrastructure will drive engagement and alignment across the organization by integrating data skills into job requirements, aligning hiring practices and providing additional role-based data-focused learning opportunities for everyone.
Leaders must build structures that support data literacy long-term. Formal support structures that are data-focused continue to build connections across an organization, support deeper cognition and enable the development of a rich data culture. For example, a mentorship program can offer assistance and guidance for individuals to hone new data skills. Also, a strong network of data stewards, the company's data advocates, will support forward momentum.
Business processes should be re-engineered to include data at every level – from the beginning of a project through to the end and maintenance phase. This will allow the company's processes to support new and changing data advancements and emphasizes the use of data to make decisions throughout a process lifecycle.
Companies should celebrate their data triumphs and highlight these victories across the organization. Exhibiting the positive effect of leveraging data provides favorable reinforcement and inspiration. Wins can be shared in small team meetings, larger town hall forums or even globally in company news releases and websites.
Moving forward with data literacy
Companies implementing a data-driven culture have seen the difference it makes in their successes, workforce and profits. In a 2021 survey by UiPath, 83% of workers across industries stated that training in data science, analytics, and machine learning would help them become more effective in their role. Data is the driving force and differentiator for companies successfully revolutionizing their industries. With this knowledge and use of data, they are meeting the constantly changing demands of their clients.
Shifting to a data-literate culture is complex and requires an assessed and unified approach to ensure success. The method will always be unique to each organization, allowing it to have a powerful impact by increasing value and economic benefits, creating a shared vision and philosophy, and supporting the expansion and retention of the organization's workforce.
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