Why Data Literacy Should Be Your #1 Investment in 2024
Account Executive & Data Analyst at Maven Analytics
Dec 12, 2024
Data plays a crucial role in businesses today, more than any other time in the past. The importance of data isn't limited to one business unit or department anymore; instead, it affects all aspects of an organization and is vital in driving overarching success and sustainability. Without using data effectively, businesses risk making poor decisions, losing customers, and falling behind their competitors.
Businesses can use data to inform decision-making, better understand customers, improve operational efficiency, manage risk, inform strategic planning, and much more. Along with this, the successful use of data can help organizations navigate market changes, foster innovation, and capitalize on emerging opportunities.
Despite the obvious advantages of utilizing data, many businesses fail to fully harness the power of their data and have yet to fully embrace, or understand, the importance of developing company-wide data literacy skills. In today's data-driven world, businesses need to be able to use data to make informed decisions at all levels of the organization.
Alright, so there it is! But what are you doing to make sure your organization is data-literate and set up for success in 2024?
We’re seeing a significant shift toward data-driven decision-making within the business world. As technology continues to advance and access to data grows exponentially, companies have begun to take advantage of the wealth of available information to derive valuable and actionable insights. Gone are the days when decision-making is based solely on gut instinct, intuition, or anecdotal evidence. Decisions today can be made with hard evidence and comprehensive data analysis.
Entire industries have transformed the way they operate as they become more data-driven. Want proof? Just look at the finance, supply chain and manufacturing, retail, and entertainment industries and how they’ve all evolved as their data literacy has grown. How about the transportation and logistics industry? Yep, same story here. Companies in this industry are using data to manage their entire logistics operations.
Take J.B. Hunt for example, a U.S.-based transportation and logistics company that recognized the importance of data analytics and invested in organization-wide data literacy training. J.B. Hunt didn’t limit their data literacy training to typical analytics teams but instead made it an organizational standard and included their Finance, Compensation, People Analytics, Customer Experience, and Safety teams.
The transportation and logistics industry is a great example but other industries have also transformed the way they operate as they become more data-driven. The healthcare industry digitized patient information and embraced the use of Electronic Health Records (EHRs), which supports informed decision-making. The marketing industry uses social media analytics to better understand their audiences’ engagement and sentiments. Manufacturing companies are using data to reduce costs, better plan production, and enhance productivity - the list goes on and on.
The point here is that data has enabled all of these industries and businesses to operate more efficiently, effectively, and create new markets and opportunities. As the world becomes increasingly data-driven, it is more important than ever for businesses to invest in data-driven decision-making and understand the benefits of data literacy.
Benefits of Data Literacy
Before we outline the benefits, it’s important to define what data literacy is and, just as importantly, what it’s not. There are plenty of definitions of data literacy out there. At its core, data literacy can be defined as:
The ability to interpret, manage, analyze, and communicate with data
That means that a data-literate person should be able to:
Understand and make sense of the data presented to them
Work with data to transform and prepare it for analysis
Identify patterns and insights within the data
Translate the data into clear and simple stories to influence decisions
The goal for an organization shouldn’t be that all of its employees master complex statistics or write advanced code; rather, the organization should focus on making sure its employees have the skills they need to do their jobs effectively.
As for why businesses should make data literacy a priority in 2024, let’s look at four of the numerous benefits of having a data-literate workforce!
Smarter decision-making. Data-literate individuals can interpret and analyze data more effectively, enabling them to make decisions based on accurate, relevant information. Those decisions are more reliable and objective than anecdotal evidence or opinion.
Additionally, data literacy allows employees to leverage current trends and patterns to more accurately forecast future outcomes and respond to those potential outcomes proactively.
Finally, not only are decisions more informed, they're also happening quicker. Data literacy can increase the speed at which decisions are made, which is particularly valuable in fast-paced environments where timely decisions are critical.
Identify opportunities for innovation. For improved innovation to truly occur, an organization needs to have a strong data culture. In a data-driven culture, employees are encouraged to explore, experiment, and innovate while using data as a guide.
Enhanced collaboration across departments. Employees who understand how to work with data can share insights, collaborate on projects, and come together to make more well-informed decisions. Data literacy also improves general communication within an organization. When there is a universal language and framework around data, employees can better understand what colleagues are doing and why.
Direct impact on the bottom line. By optimizing revenue, reducing costs, managing risks, and enhancing operational efficiency, data literacy empowers organizations to stay adaptable and dynamic amidst rapid change and impact the company’s bottom line.
The question isn’t if your organization should invest in data literacy in 2024, but rather after investment how will your organization implement a data literacy strategy?
A comprehensive data literacy strategy requires time, planning, and dedication. It consists of leadership commitment, developing a data-driven culture, assessing current data literacy skills and practices, defining data literacy goals, and implementing a data literacy skills development program. It’s also important to note that data literacy is an ongoing process of continuous iteration and improvement to meet the evolving needs of the organization.
Support from executives and other top leaders is essential to create buy-in throughout the business. Leaders can begin by emphasizing the importance of data, promoting a data-driven culture, and leading by example.
Build a Data-Driven Culture
This means ensuring that employees view data as a strategic asset, one that they should leverage to develop insights and drive business decisions. It also means that data is a trusted source of information; confidence in the data is imperative to a successful data culture.
Assess Current Data Literacy Skills & Practices
Before developing data literacy goals, an organization needs to determine, assess, and index their employees’ current understanding of, comfort with, and use of data. As a starting point, businesses should aim to answer questions like:
Are my employees using data to make decisions?
What tools/software are my employees using for data-related tasks?
How frequently do employees engage with data in their day-to-day tasks?
Are my employees comfortable with the data available to them?
Can my employees adequately interpret, manage, analyze, and communicate with data?
What specific data skills do my employees need to use data effectively?
What data literacy resources are already available to my employees, if any?
Are my managers encouraging data-driven decision-making?
Do my employees understand the significance of data in achieving organizational goals?
What challenges do my employees face when working with data?
Define Data Literacy Goals
Benchmarking your employees’ current ability and comfort with data will produce a result that an organization can use to define program goals. When it comes to developing goals for your data literacy program, it’s important to think about your employees and team members, their job function(s), and what level of data literacy they need to do their job effectively. Not every employee is going to need to become “fluent” in data literacy so make sure your literacy program goals clearly set expectations.
Implement a Data Literacy Skills Development Program
After establishing clear goals for the program, organizations need to find the right data literacy development program. The right program should be comprehensive and accomplish the following goals:
Increase awareness and understanding of data. Ensure a basic understanding of key data concepts and terminology that have been agreed upon by your organization.
Promote a data-driven culture. Encourage a mindset that embraces data as a valuable asset and allows for innovation.
Develop data skills and competencies by providing hands-on training with data tools and technologies. Tailor the training to specific roles so that employees can acquire the relevant skills for their job functions.
Teach employees about data quality and governance. Instill an understanding of how to manage and handle data responsibly.
Encourage collaboration by creating opportunities for cross-functional teams to work together on data projects.
Educate employees about the importance of data security and privacy.
Include ongoing support. Establish a system for continuous learning and sharing with access to resources and guidance.
How Maven Analytics Can Help
By now, it’s obvious that creating a data-literate workforce takes time, commitment, and investment; however, it’s also obvious that having a data-literate workforce pays dividends. So if you’re thinking, “This all sounds great! …but we don’t have any internal SMEs with the bandwidth or resources to adequately develop those data skills,” that’s where Maven comes in.
Maven Analytics is the fastest, most effective way to empower your team with data literacy skills. From developing strong analytical thinking skills to brushing up on Excel basics to learning best practices for data visualization, we’ve got your team covered.
Not only can you use our platform to assess and index your teams’ skills via benchmark assessments, you can also use those assessments as a guide to creating personalized paths to help employees learn at their own pace and develop the skills they need most to be successful in their job functions.
Data has become increasingly significant across all businesses and industries, impacting decision-making, understanding of customers, operational efficiency, and overall success
Industries have evolved toward data-driven decision-making but employees need core data-literacy skills to make them comfortable and confident handling data
A data-literate workforce enhances decision-making, fosters innovation, improves collaboration, and directly impacts the bottom line
A successful data literacy strategy requires leadership commitment, a data-driven culture, a clear understanding of current skills and abilities, specific and objective goals, and a tailored data skills development program
Maven for Business can improve your team’s data literacy skills via skills assessments, personalized learning plans, and ongoing support