Get Lit: 5 Steps to Building your Organization’s Data Literacy as you Prep for AI

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We all learned our ABCs as toddlers. Over time, as our reading, writing, comprehension, and communication skills grew, we could claim the title of “literate.” Now it’s time to do it again with the new language of business: Data. And it’s exponentially important with AI on everyone’s minds.

Data is basically information that can be collected and stored electronically. Being data literate means we have the ability to examine, understand, and communicate with that data. Because the world has access to more data than ever before, businesses that know how to tap into the full potential of this vital resource will find new avenues for driving business value. And that’s why having some degree of data literacy is critical for everyone in the organization. 

For typical employees in typical organizations, data literacy includes several elements:

  • Knowing what data is available and how it can be used or combined to gain insights
  • Understanding how the insights help tell your story 
  • Making decisions based on what the data reveals

In other words, it’s not a nice-to-have. It’s a need-to-have in every corner of the organization.  And right now, research shows that only about 20% of the workforce is confident in their own data literacy.

Getting started with a data literacy program

For businesses to capitalize on the valuable data available to them, they need to demystify and overcome barriers to data literacy. 

  1. Create a broad data-centric mindset.  Make sure that all employees understand the value of data to the organization – and the value of data literacy to their own careers and “real-life.”  
  2. Show, don’t tell.  Sharing sweeping details on the value of data could cause math- or data-phobic employees to tune out to the possibilities. Focus instead on specific, discrete examples and success stories that move the needle quickly.  ​Make it relatable, personal, human, and fun!
  3. Develop data-literate leaders. Make data literacy part of every leader’s expectations. Having a bench of leaders who understand and can lead their teams in the world of data can have a transformative impact on the entire organization. 
  4. Formalize your initiatives. Craft a thoughtful engagement and learning plan with examples of how and why employees benefit from becoming data literate. Appoint someone to lead the initiative and consider holding people accountable via the performance management system. Clarify entry points and learning paths – no matter where anyone is on the data literacy spectrum. 
  5. Provide hands-on learning. Open opportunities for employees to explore in a risk-free environment. In addition to self-paced learning, provide facilitated sessions to allow for conversations and strategic thinking.​​ Building a community of learners that will support one another. Give your data scientists opportunities to get involved.

The ultimate goal of data literacy is to provide a framework for data-driven decision-making. Nothing is stopping you from developing a learning program that’s also fun, engaging, and beneficial to employees in all parts of their lives.  They’ll thank you for the opportunity – and in return you’ll thank them for moving your organization to the next level!

About the Author

Christine Andrukonis is a Workplace Transformation Expert and founder of Notion Consulting, a change-management consultancy that helps leaders tackle their most complex business challenges.

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