Data is a core asset for businesses today. It makes it possible for us to understand our customers’ true desires and behaviors, and it lets us make smarter decisions. Advantages like these enable data-literate companies to flourish while those reluctant to embrace data fall behind. So naturally, when you’re undergoing a digital transformation, data must be top-of-mind at every stage, from letting it inform your objectives to choosing data-enabling solutions.

But it can’t stop there.

You also need to boost the data literacy of your organization’s day-to-day decision-makers, innovators, and technology users: Your employees.

Why Data Literacy Matters in Digital Transformation

Hard data can be intimidating, especially to staff who don’t consider themselves “numbers people.” For that reason, some organizations lean solely on their data analysts and other data-oriented employees to be “data scientists” on behalf of the rest. Sure, these professionals have the expertise to gather and interpret data. But the key to your digital transformation’s success isn’t just collecting and understanding data. What you do with it afterward is even more vital. As a result, it’s to your advantage to train everyone in your organization to read and use data.

For example, if an HR leader is trained in data analysis, they’ll have the business area expertise and context to make more informed decisions that lead to action than a generalized data scientist could. By equipping everyone with the ability to interpret and implement data, employees can apply it to their daily activities and bigger-picture decisions. These widespread individual actions will add up to create impactful results across your organization that strengthen your digital transformation.

Now that we’ve established the why behind digital literacy, let’s dive into the how. Here are 6 steps you can take to improve your workforce’s data literacy:

6 Steps to Improve Your Employees’ Data Literacy

1.     Assess Your Current State and Data Gaps

Before anything else, you need to assess your organization’s current level of data literacy. That means understanding your staff’s data literacy gaps and needs based on their roles. Plus, you need to weigh the pros and cons of your current tech stack and data infrastructure. These insights will help you prioritize your actions going forward so your resources are used as efficiently as possible.

To collect all this information, you can:

  • Check the accessibility, quality, and user-friendliness of your current data sources, applications, and platforms.
  • Measure your staff’s data literacy across various roles and departments using:
    • Surveys, tests, self-assessments, or interviews

2.     Establish Your Goals and Metrics

Next, you need to build a strategy based on your data literacy goals and metrics. Your strategy must align with your overarching business objectives, so this step should involve input from the higher-ups in your organization. Additionally, establishing clear and realistic expectations and performance indicators is vital if you’re going to measure your initiative’s progress and hone your program over time. Many organizations use the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) framework to outline their goals and metrics. To ensure these goals and metrics are revisited regularly, and progress can continue, determine when you will perform check-ins, whether quarterly or less frequently.

3.     Educate Your Staff

Here’s where change management really comes to the forefront: It’s time to communicate to your staff what data literacy is and why it should matter to them.

If you face resistance after explaining the “why” behind data, try to focus on the benefits individual departments or roles can enjoy by harnessing data. Whether it’s solving frustrating process bottlenecks, understanding your audience better, or creating more impressive pitches and presentations, find something that speaks to the wary employee.

4.     Create Your Data Literacy Training Program

When it comes to setting up a data literacy program, fundamentals every employee needs to know include:

  • How to Use Your Tech: Each employee needs a baseline level of knowledge of how to use your organization’s tools that are relevant to data analysis.
  • Understanding Data Ethics: Using data without skepticism and deep consideration can be dangerous, so teach your staff to question any data they come across. They should look for potential bias and the data’s sourcing and validity. This way, they’ll be able to make informed decisions that are fair and accurate.
  • Learning Role-Specific Skills: Meet each employee where they’re at. An efficient way to accomplish this is to encourage role-based training programs. With this tailored approach, each employee has a set requirement of data knowledge depending on the needs of their position. If you can tie training to the interests of your staff, even better.

Your training program can include workshops, online courses, books, blogs, or webinars. Additionally, many organizations create a data literacy handbook that employees can reference to recall organizational standards, concepts, and terms that make up your data strategy.

If you have limited resources, that’s not a problem. There are plenty of affordable and free courses available on sites like YouTube. Finally, bake data literacy education into your reskilling program if you already have one as part of your digital transformation preparation.

5.     Help Your Employees Embrace and Practice Data Literacy

Since embracing data may require many employees to leave their comfort zones, it may take considerable effort to normalize it, much less help them embrace it. One solution starting out is making data literacy a part of your company culture. For example, make data a routine part of meetings and communications by asking employees to pair ideas and projects with data that support them. It’s also important to cultivate an environment of feedback and collaboration. You can accomplish this by encouraging employees to share their data findings and challenges and pose questions to their managers and peers. This collaboration could occur during a Q&A session during departmental meetings or via a designated “data literacy hub” portal.

And to help your staff retain what they’ve learned and develop their skills, encourage them to practice what they’ve learned with hands-on applications. This could include introducing them to ways to apply their new skills to their daily tasks or real-world projects. For added excitement, you could implement gamification, rewards, or friendly competitions among teams. With practice, your employees will become more comfortable with data and see its value to them, which may help them ultimately embrace it.

6.     Recognize Employees for Their Data Literacy Innovation and Improvement

So, your employees are practicing their data literacy skills, and their efforts are even starting to make an impact. That deserves a little recognition!

Beyond gamification and rewards, it’s helpful to call out data literacy improvement and achievement among your employees. Create a segment in your newsletter, company-wide webinars, or dedicated social media posts to spotlight employees who have used data to solve problems. This is an effective way to both encourage the employee being highlighted and to inspire others to further hone their data skills.

Empower Your Workforce to Make a Difference

Data literacy must be the foundation of your skill transformation program. Without it, your employees won’t have the skills and background knowledge necessary to support your digital transformation’s new technology and processes. However, with ongoing data literacy training, your employees can use your new tools to further optimize your processes and boost efficiency. And since they will have a comprehensive understanding of your data, they’ll be better able to identify opportunities to progress your digital transformation and create strategies to make them a reality.

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About Kara

As a Naviant Content Writer since 2019, Kara is passionate about helping organizations unleash the power of technology to solve their business challenges. In her weekly articles, Kara breaks down the latest research, trends, and tips in the digital transformation world, specializing in intelligent automation, the cloud, AP & HR automation, artificial intelligence, change management, and more. She is also a Copywriter for the American Marketing Association-Madison, where she contributes bimonthly articles that interview industry experts and highlight the latest marketing trends. When she’s not writing, Kara is working on her latest art project, scoping out new music, or out for a run.