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May 2020
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TD Magazine

Empower Data Literacy

Companies can help employees become comfortable understanding and using data.

There is no argument that data has incredible potential to help organizations achieve key business results. But employees may feel ill-equipped to understand and use it, according to The Human Impact of Data Literacy, a research report from Accenture and Qlik. The companies asked 9,000 employees from around the world about their comfort level with using data to make business decisions. The research found a significant gap between the perceived importance of data and employees' data-oriented skill sets.

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A sizable majority—87 percent—of respondents agreed that data is an asset. However, only 25 percent said they are fully prepared to use it effectively, and just 21 percent reported being confident in their data literacy skills.

The research also uncovered the extent to which employees' discomfort around data leads to a decline in productivity. Three-quarters of employees reported feeling overwhelmed or unhappy when working with data, and 61 percent reported that data overload has contributed to workplace stress. Nearly one-third of employees said that they have taken at least one day of sick leave because of stress related to information, data, and technology issues. Overall, the report reveals that companies lose an average of more than five working days (43 hours) per employee each year because of workers' lack of data literacy.

Accenture and Qlik recommend that organizations take a series of actions to help their employees feel empowered when using data to make decisions. That includes setting clear expectations around the role data should play in the workplace and taking steps to close the data literacy skills gap.

Of particular note to talent development is the role that training programs can play in empowering employees, with 37 percent of survey respondents saying that data literacy training courses would make them more productive. As talent development professionals look to broaden their business impact, helping to improve employees' comfort with data is a tangible way to drive results, increase productivity, and foster engagement.

About the Author

Eliza Blanchard, APTD, is ATD's Learning & Development content manager. Contact her at [email protected]

3 Comments
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Thanks Eliza, I'll check this out.
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I'm an instructional designer at Liberty Mutual Insurance and I've been asked to design a training program that helps my peers become more data literate. Are you aware of any frameworks that outline what a data-literacy training program might look like? What skills should I focus on? What topics should be included in a program like this - understanding that I'm not trying to turn instructional designers into data scientists. Any help you could offer is greatly appreciated. Thanks.
Hi Michael! I'm not aware of a set data literacy curriculum, but this issue of TD at Work might have some good topics to explore: https://www.td.org/td-at-work/fuel-business-strategies-with-l-d-analytics
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