Employees Demand Data Skilling, Employers Not Listening

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Here’s one reason employees will remain in your company: a promising data literacy program.

According to the study “Building Data Literacy: The Key To Better Decisions, Greater Productivity, And Data-Driven Organizations,” done by Forrester Consulting and commissioned by Tableau, insufficient training, and investments in data are creating a “false sense of security” for employers.

The global study, which surveyed more than 2,000 executives, decision-makers, and individual contributors in 10 countries working at international companies with 500+ employees, showed that employees viewed data skills as vital.

The survey respondents agreed that data and analytics are mission-critical to thriving in rapidly-changing circumstances — informing decisions, seeing opportunities, and navigating change. Data literacy is increasingly crucial, and employees know it — 83% believe they make better decisions, and 82% make faster decisions when using data.

Today, 82% of decision-makers expect basic data literacy from employees in every department — including product, IT, HR, and operations. And expectations are only increasing. By 2025, close to 70% of employees are expected to use data heavily in their job, up from 40% in 2018.

"Data offers a key competitive advantage. Business success depends on training and enabling everyone across an organization to use data to make better decisions. To unlock the power of data, businesses must invest in their most essential resource — their people — by providing opportunities for data training and development beyond traditional data-focused roles," said Mark Nelson, president, and chief executive officer at Tableau.

Yet, despite recognizing its importance, employers are not doing enough on data literacy for their employees.

Almost three-quarters of decision-makers believe it's the employees’ responsibility to improve their data skills. They believe their employees should be looking at getting ad-hoc, on-the-job knowledge, usually from coworkers or trial-and-error. Only 39% of companies are making data training available to all employees, although many see this as a responsibility of the department or team heads.

This is creating challenges for retention. Nearly 80% of employees surveyed say they're more likely to stay at a company that sufficiently trains them with the data skills they need.

The gap between what decision-makers believe employees should do for data literacy and the reality employees face impacts employers. That’s because many are looking to leave.

However, some forward-looking companies see this as an opportunity to shift their mindset and reset their culture to become more data-driven.

"We've seen a 96-fold return on our data investments. Data culture is more of a journey than a destination. Celebrate your wins along the way but always look to improve. Data's value is the existential: the existence of your business," said Clive Benford, data officer director at Jaguar Land Rover. "If you don't become a data-driven business, I don't think you'll be here in 20 years. The long-term value is existence."

Companies don’t even have to invest big. Forrester found that upskilling initiatives, formal and informal, can produce clear benefits for employees and businesses alike, including improved performance, customer and employee satisfaction, and employee retention.

The most important step forward, as the survey highlighted, is to make data literacy a core part of the company — not an afterthought or some other department’s responsibility.

Image credit: iStockphoto/SIphotography