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4 Tips for Growing a Data-Literate Workforce

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Recently, I had the opportunity to host a live Twitter chat (#AlteryxChat), where I was joined by four exceptional women who are passionate about diversity and inclusion in the analytics and larger technology communities:

We discussed upskilling or reskilling employees, building out diverse teams, enabling value-driven analytics, and embarking on digital transformation journeys. A key message throughout the conversation was the importance of data literacy in the process.

Here, we share insights from our #AlteryxChat Tweeters, along with four tips for growing a data-literate workforce.

“Digital transformation is about people, processes and technology; give your people the learning path with permission to change processes and watch what happens.”
Libby Duane Adams, @alteryxlibby,#AlteryxChat

It’s raining data, but many companies are thirsty for data workers and encountering a limited supply of data literate talent. In a joint survey Alteryx conducted with Forrester, 66% of respondents cited data literacy among their employees as an area needing significant improvement or a complete overhaul. Data literacy has also been identified as a top challenge to growing analytics programs.

What is Data Literacy and Why is Data-Literate Talent so Essential?

Gartner defines data literacy as the ability to read, write, and communicate data in context, including an understanding of data sources and constructs, analytical methods and techniques applied — and the ability to describe the use case, application, and resulting value. A data literate workforce, where employees across all departments and levels of a company are encouraged and enabled to make data-driven decisions, is a huge competitive advantage for companies. Data is quickly becoming the new second language of business, so when all employees "speak data" and have access to self-service analytics technology they can drive better business outcomes. Rather than relying on another department for answers, employees can dive into the data themselves and leverage their business knowledge to discover previously overlooked opportunities faster. Employees build the habit of making data-driven decisions instead of intuition-based decisions and can uncover unique insights.

#DataLiteracy for any employee is only complete when the rubber hits the road. E.g. for a #citizenAnalyst marketer, data literacy is successful when they can demonstrate the reasonable application of the right level of data skills in their job on a project.”Piyanka Jain, @AnalyticsQueen, #AlteryxChat

Make sure you give employees a good answer to the question “Why do I need to learn this?” Learning a new skill, especially one that’s technical like analytics, can be intimidating and tough at times. Starting with why can give employees the motivation they need on their upskilling or reskilling journeys. Use case studies and success stories relevant to employees by role to show them the benefits of data skills, such as better judgement and decision making. Give them examples of what they can do with data and how analytics can improve outcomes. When employees see what’s possible with analytics, they’ll be more driven to learn.

“Digital transformation is a journey. The journey can only be successful if everybody joins. The biggest challenge is to take everybody on this journey and respect opinions, educate, and collaborate.”

Jacqui Van der Leij, @JacquiLeij, #AlteryxChat

The answer to “who is permissioned to data?” should be everyone. It would be difficult for employees to learn how to read, write, communicate, and analyze data when they don’t have access to it. Make sure access isn’t a barrier to building data literacy by making data readily available to all employees. When employees are permissioned to data, such as through self-service analytics platforms, they’ll be able to learn analytics at their own pace and get hands-on practice with data giving them the independence to take ownership of their learning.

"Digital transformation requires organizations to invest in new talent pools who are proficient in emerging technologies. Therefore, it is important for organizations to make investments in our future generations. However, that alone is not enough. Organizations need to continuously invest in efforts to leverage the untapped potential within the existing workforce by providing them with tools and resources.”

Diana De Soysa, @SoysaDiana, #AlteryxChat

Enable your employees to learn the skills to turn data into decisions. Give them the appropriate learning tools so that they can comfortably and confidently work with data and discover their own insights. It’s important that learning doesn't only focus on technical skills, but also data-driven problem solving enabling employees to ask the right questions, such as where and how data is acquired, are sources reliable, what data supports and/or contradicts the business case, which data is relevant and valid, etc.

Learning can take many forms from integrating into existing self-paced modules to online courses to webinars. Companies can motivate employees to take even more initiative in their learning by offering analytics certifications and career advancement opportunities.

“Technology requires continuous learning. Upskilling is an important part in this. Your current employees have valuable company knowledge which can be unlocked for new innovations.”

Tracey Welson-Rossman, @TWelsonRossman, #AlteryxChat

Data literacy and upskilling programs don’t happen overnight. Developing a program should be a continuous process. Every 6–12 months do a deep dive into what’s working, what’s not, and what can be improved. Stay innovative — see what other companies are doing and borrow ideas from them. Find ways to make learning more fun and interesting like through games, success stories, quizzes, competitions, etc. Just remember that developing data literacy is an ongoing process. Give employees and your upskilling program time to grow and evolve.

BONUS: Power to Your People


“Data can tell the story, but it's a diverse and inclusive culture that is going to identify the answer and drive the ROI.”

—Libby Duane Adams, @alteryxlibby, #AlteryxChat


As your team embarks on its journey to analytics growth, never underestimate the value and sheer power of establishing and engaging a diverse and inclusive culture. When we learn from each other, we’re able to unleash all potential and talent, leading to better ideas, faster problem solving, and improved analytic outcomes.


“Diversity directly leads to stronger hypotheses in our quest to solve data-driven problems.”

—Piyanka Jain, @AnalyticsQueen, #AlteryxChat

“Barriers are broken down in a diverse culture. Individual ideas become one amazing idea that is delivered exceeding expectations.”


—Jacqui van der Leij, @JacquiLeij, #AlteryxChat


“Considering the complexity of the business world today, we need representation from every group to come up with creative and innovative solutions.”
—Diana De Soysa, @SoysaDiana, #AlteryxChat



STAY PUT.

Include Alteryx as a Thought Leader for Your Program

Libby Duane Adams, analytics evangelist and one of the preeminent voices in the data analytics industry, along with additional Alteryx thought leaders, is available to speak to your organization on the following topics:

  • Upskilling of employees to enable a culture of analytics and data science
  • Career development, including analytics and data science for knowledge workers
  • Building a diverse team to enable value-driven analytics
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