The cause and effect of lost productivity and poor data literacy in Australia, and how to overcome it

To build an effective data strategy that alleviates pain points requires a thorough assessment of the existing data literacy skills in the workforce. This can be achieved through a number of ways such as conducting focus groups to understand current attitudes towards data and undertaking a data literacy assessment to measure fundamental skills like reading and numeracy, writes Paul Leahy, Country Manager ANZ, Qlik

Data is the prerequisite to making well-informed and accurate decisions; but what is data without a data-literate workforce? When these two elements work in tandem, organisations are prepared to extract greater value out of data, make well-informed decisions and boost productivity across the board. More importantly, as we’ve seen, it enables businesses to stay agile and resilient against unpredictable forces that may otherwise knock them over.

As businesses attempt to navigate market uncertainty, high competition, a shrinking talent pool and an increasingly digitised workplace, having the skills to interpret and produce actionable insights from said data are critical. According to a recent report by Qlik, Australian businesses with a higher aptitude for data decision-making improved their revenue, profits, operational efficiency and customer satisfaction by an average of 21 per cent.

Achieving these outcomes starts by putting people at the heard of your data strategy. Alarmingly, almost $14 billion is lost in productivity due to Australian businesses failing to capitalise on the value of data. This comes as no surprise when almost three-quarters (74 per cen) of employees reported feeling overwhelmed or unhappy when working with data according to The Human Impact of Data Literacy report.

The workplace should be a continuous learning environment where training is both accessible and integrated into existing practices. Doing so will enable organisations to extract the most value from their data – a highly advantageous capability in today’s business landscape.

Initiatives like data literacy training and re-educating empowers employees with the right knowledge and tools to interact with data effectively. As massive amounts of data are generated by organisations every day, they must be able to operate with agility and resilience in a dynamic environment. It’s vital that companies invest in their workforce by enhancing the data skills of employees to prepare for the workplace of tomorrow.

Here are a few ways workplaces can get started on their data journey.

  1. Appoint a data champion/ambassador to instil a data literate culture

Leadership is a critical piece of this puzzle. Although it’s definitely not a one-person job, it starts with a senior role model, typically a Chief Data Officer (CDO) or Chief Information Officer (CIO), taking ownership and understanding where the challenges lie and identifying opportunities to improve data access across the organisation. A data champion must be appointed to establish a change management plan and set clear expectations for data-oriented working practices.

Applying these expectations to every level and function in an organisation helps hold individuals accountable for their progression in upskilling and learning outcomes. It is this mutual agreement that fosters a data literate culture.

  1. Assess the existing data literacy skills in the workforce

To build an effective data strategy that alleviates pain points requires a thorough assessment of the existing data literacy skills in the workforce. This can be achieved through a number of ways such as conducting focus groups to understand current attitudes towards data and undertaking a data literacy assessment to measure fundamental skills like reading and numeracy. Obtaining information through these methods helps paint an accurate picture of what stage in the data journey an organisation is in.

  1. Empower data literacy skills with the right tools and training

It is important to recognise that data serves different purposes depending on the user’s role and skills. Adopting tools to cater for these variations ensures teams are most effectively engaging with data. Reducing the typical frustrations experienced like complex tools or siloed data sources when working with data also encourages adoption. To select the right tools for each practice, it needs to be fit for purpose, and translate data so that it is easily digestible and be embedded into existing software so that insights are easily integrated.

Initiatives like data literacy training and re-educating empowers employees with the right knowledge and tools to interact with data effectively. As massive amounts of data are generated by organisations every day, they must be able to operate with agility and resilience in a dynamic environment.

Just like how new insights are constantly gleaned through different methods, skills must be constantly updated to be reinforced. The workplace should be a continuous learning environment where training is both accessible and integrated into existing practices. Doing so will enable organisations to extract the most value from their data – a highly advantageous capability in today’s business landscape.

Data literacy is fundamental to data-driven decision making. Organisations must prioritise empowering employees to comfortably and confidently use data. By putting people at the heart of their data strategy, businesses are better prepared to deal with adversity and market uncertainty – a state which we are yet to emerge.

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