The modern workplace is rapidly changing Data Literacy, with data driving much of that change. Consider any conversation happening in the physical and virtual halls of every company: hiring trends, DE&I efforts, ESG goals, supply chain issues and inflation concerns. Data plays a central role in addressing each of these areas. Leaders need to ensure that their teams are capable and comfortable using data, especially as organizations work toward realizing the goal of being fully data-driven workplaces.
The hard truth is that we still have far to go.
Our most recent research shows data literacy is the skill employers want most in the workforce by 2030. Approximately 85% of the executives surveyed say that, in the years to come, data literacy will be just as vital as the ability to use a computer is today. And they are willing to pay an average of 26% more for candidates who can demonstrate their data literacy skills.
However, despite leaders’ expectations and the real-world need for a data literate workforce, businesses are not doing their part to prepare their teams. Our survey shows that just over 1 in 5 employees believe their employer is preparing them for a more data-oriented and automated workplace (21%). This dynamic is creating a widening and potentially damaging expectation gap on both sides.
Employees leave when progress stalls.
A lack of professional development is one of the top reasons for employee churn. The Work Institute’s annual surveys have repeatedly found that career development (specifically, opportunities for growth, achievement and security) is the number one reason people leave (pg. 11).
Similarly, CareerAddict’s survey shows that 82% of employees would quit over a lack of career progression. Businesses cannot afford to wait and allow other, more data-forward enterprises win top talent. This is especially true at a time when Gallup found that, after a decade of growth, employee engagement has fallen to an alarming 34% (versus 36% a year ago).
That churn can hold organizations back from advancing strategic goals while also hitting the bottom line. G&A Partners estimates that the cost of replacing an entry-level or nonskilled worker is 30% to 50% of that employee’s annual salary. For a professional, the cost rises to 75% to 125%. And for a technical or supervisory role, businesses could spend as much as 150% replacing that employee.
The costs go beyond recruiting and onboarding. Organizations can lose customers due to heavy employee churn, and there are cultural impacts as other employees feel less secure about their own positions. This sets the stage for a negative, self-perpetuating cycle that both limits the organization’s ability to keep customers and pursue new opportunities.
Data literacy creates personal and organizational opportunities.
The way forward is to embrace data literacy as a foundational pillar to build around for long-term success in a world that runs on data. Having the ability to scrutinize data, pinpoint relevant trends and ensure that data sources are reliable and trustworthy brings value to every position in an organization. Widespread data literacy engages and grows employees while empowering them to make every decision a better one.
That’s especially true for the C-suite. Efficient collaboration based on shared and trusted data among an organization’s executives is crucial when transforming into a fully data-driven enterprise. Truly data-driven organizations see CMOs proactively engaging with CIOs and CDOs to align on investments and program returns, and their CFOs are more involved in leveraging data for decisions related to areas such as supply chain management.
This increased C-level engagement drives top-down, deeper integration of data within the larger enterprise and sets the tone for a more integrated approach at all levels to leverage data for action.
Build data literacy into all levels of society.
While I believe corporations bear some responsibility for providing these skills, education systems at every level also need to begin teaching these critical skills to adults and children alike.
The key to unlocking data’s true potential for personal and professional transformation is embracing the need for data literacy at all levels of society. Business and education leaders both must set the example while also reaping the benefits.
Data literacy education fosters a positive and ongoing relationship with data, enabling higher-level thinking and skills that impact areas ranging from financial planning to data-infused storytelling. It also positions existing workers and students to secure higher salaries and more robust career paths going forward.
Enterprises and organizations of every shape and size are not lacking data. What’s lacking is individual and collective skills to understand data and leverage it to make impactful decisions when they matter most.