Leaders seeking competitive advantages in all facets of their business, from operations and sales to recruiting and retention, cite employee data skills as a top need. But when it comes to providing these data education opportunities, companies continue to fail.
Recently, my company, Tableau, commissioned Forrester Consulting to explore organizational issues and challenges around data literacy and culture. the research found that nearly 82% of decision makers expect every employee in their department to have at least basic knowledge of data. Yet less than half of workers surveyed say they have received data training from their organization.
Even more surprising: nearly three-quarters of decision makers have an optimistic, if not unrealistic, belief that employees should improve theirs data skills, pushing them to acquire them through ad hoc means, such as the field knowledge of their colleagues as well as their own practice.
It’s time to end the conversation and commit to perfecting your employees with data. The question of who is responsible for providing the data skills and bridging the gap should no longer be.
One thing business leaders and workers agree on: the value of data. Forrester has found that decision makers and employees in every department considerr Basic data skills, the most important skill needed for employee success. By 2025, nearly 70% of employees are expected to use data heavily in their work, nearly doubling since 2018.
This is not limited to the traditional realm of analysts and data scientists; it applies to every worker in every role. So where to start ?
Here are three ways employers can invest time, resources, and training to help their employees understand and use data.
Formalize an internal data literacy program
While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, implementing company-wide data skills training or even launching an in-house data literacy program if possible, is the first step. Senior management must buy in and lead by example. Learn these data skills and start every meeting with data. Anyone in leadership positions should use data to support their decisions and explain why and how they used it to reach those conclusions.
Customize data training for people roles
A salesperson doesn’t need the same level of knowledge as a data scientist, but they both need to be able to use data in their role. All current employees and new hires should receive training. Consider strategic partners for data training to facilitate the process. Consulting partners, technology providers, data literacy specialists and others can provide a wide variety of on-demand, in-person, individual or group training for specific technologies and roles tailored to your organization.
Foster a strong data culture across your organization
Although the implementation of a training program is imperative, it must be supported by a truly committed holistic approach. Organizations should explore and pursue powerful training add-ons, like “office hours” with data experts who can help colleagues with questions and challenges. Every decision should be data-driven, with everyone seeing, sharing and using the same sets of data.
By encouraging the use of data and starting conversations with data, the transition to a truly data-driven organization becomes possible and part of the daily workflow.
Investing in data skills is worth it
Investments in data are happening across all sectors, with leaders such as Jaguar Land Rover already seeing tangible feedback of their data initiatives. Clive Benford, director of the company’s chief data officer, identifies the long-term value of data as “existence” – noting 96x returns on their data investments. He even went as far as to say, “If you don’t become a data-driven company, I don’t think you’ll be here in 20 years.”
Data has also proven critical to the Seattle Seahawks’ business operations, whose CRO Amy Sprangers attributes the win to their “data-driven culture” and ability to analyze areas for improvement.
You can’t argue with numbers. Organizations that engage in data literacy efforts see benefits, such as improved innovation, better customer experiences, better decision making, reduced costs, improved retention and increased revenue.
When it comes to investing in data skills, the question is no longer who is in charge, but how to accelerate our path to a data culture by involving everyone.
Mark Nelson is President and CEO of Picturea Salesforce company, who works towards his 10 million people of data initiative train at least 10 million people in data skills over the next 5 years.