Data Literacy Has Become an Essential Component of Career Success

Wed Sep 01 2021
BusinessData Science

Data is getting bigger and becoming ever more essential to the success of the modern business enterprise. Simply put, data literacy is now a requirement for nearly everyone to perform their job well. There are a number of ways to improve data literacy in the workplace, and it is worth the investment to do so.

There has never been a greater need for data literacy in the workplace.

Data is growing ever bigger and more sophisticated, and along with it our tools to store, retrieve, and analyze it. As data-driven decision-making increasingly proves its value, this trend is unlikely to reverse. Those who lack data literacy - the ability to process, understand, and draw meaningful insights from data - are increasingly falling behind.

As organizations realize the importance of a data literate workforce, an increasing number of companies are seeking to develop this critical skill in their employees. But the complexity of this task has grown in tandem with the complexity of big data. The solution isn’t merely a matter of improving technical skills, but also developing problem-solving abilities.

What is data literacy, and why does it matter?

Data literacy encompasses a broad skill set, including the ability to:

  • Read and understand a variety of different types of data
  • Acquire and manipulate data relevant to the task at hand
  • Select and perform analyses that extract meaningful insights
  • Communicate insights in the context of a meaningful narrative

It is also important to consider the context. The skills needed to perform one job well may differ greatly from those required for another. Each employee should be an expert at working with the types of data relevant to their specific job duties.

One thing is clear, though: in a modern organization, nearly everyone needs to have some level of data literacy to perform their job well. Even while an increasing number of tasks are being automated, there is still a need for human oversight and decision-making. Only the data literate are equipped to make sound, data-driven decisions - which nearly always result in the best outcomes.

How can beginners improve data literacy?

A successful data literacy improvement program begins with an evaluation of current skills and a determination of required skills. Next, a training plan can be designed to fill the gaps. Here are several important principles to keep in mind when developing a data literacy program:

1. Data literacy is more than just technical literacy. Data literate people know how to use the technical tools required for their job. But they also understand the problems being solved with those tools and know-how to ask the right questions and critically evaluate the solutions.

2. Study real-life examples. People tend to learn best in the context of real-life examples and narratives. A sound data literacy training program should include an examination of several applications of the concepts within the real business environment. Using example scenarios in practice exercises is also ideal.

3. Learn to recognize different types of data. Data comes from a wide variety of sources, and in many different types. A data literate person should be able to differentiate, for example, between qualitative and quantitative data. The origin and context of the data should also be scrutinized, as well as any prior manipulations.

4. Disorganized data is essentially useless. When working with raw data, the priority is organizing it into a structure and format that facilitates a meaningful analysis. Data often needs to be cleaned and reformatted for accuracy and consistency. It should also be stored in line with database best practices.

5. Let the data tell the real story. The real value of data is the insights it can provide into how things work. To attain these valuable insights, the right tools and techniques need to be used to perform data analyses. The patterns found in data are sometimes surprising, so it’s important to let the data speak for itself.

6. Good communication skills are essential. It’s not enough for the data-literate to understand data themselves - they must also be able to share their findings effectively. For many roles, this may include learning how to calculate meaningful statistics and create explanatory visualizations.

Looking to the future

It is clear that data literacy is an important driver of corporate success. Organizations with the most data-savvy workforce will enjoy a competitive advantage in the years to come. It is thus well worth the effort to invest in increasing data literacy.

Related Articles