Data Literacy: A Key Skill In The Future Workplace

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When reading the title of this article, you may be thinking that data literacy is not a skill that YOU will need in your profession. Surely that responsibility falls on the likes of data scientists and data analysts?

Well at this moment in time that may be true, but it is important to remember that data scientists, in particular, are highly qualified, highly sought after and therefore highly paid. They are also only human.

You have probably heard it a thousand times by now but big data is everywhere and growing rapidly, hiring more and more data professionals is not financially feasible for the majority of organisations (outside big hitting tech firms). The burden must be spread throughout an entire organisation. Just like IT was once a singular department, data literacy must become a skill that is widespread throughout the workforce.

What is data literacy?

A quick search will churn out half a dozen different definitions, to put it simply in a way that resonates highly with me is:

“Data literacy spans a broad set of processes in the analytics workflow. It is the ability to read, work with, analyse and argue with data.”

Data literacy entails the ability to not only make sense of presented data but also detect any anomalies which are presented also. However, It is virtually impossible for human cognition to detect anomalies on the scale in which big data is generated. 

Rather, literacy assists the analysis process, allowing for the human element of critique to be involved. Understanding of where the data came from, how it was collected, how it was analyzed and visualized are all essential elements of data literacy.

The human element will still be essential within the analysis process, regardless of the level of automation that we reach.

Making strides towards higher data literacy in the workplace.

As an organisation wakes up to the necessity of greater levels of data literacy in their workforce, the steps taken to amend this expanding skills gap will fall largely on an organisations Chief Data Officer (CDO)

This will require a reshaping of a companies culture…

However, CDOs cannot simply tell people to change their culture and suddenly become data-driven. They must use both rational and emotional arguments to inspire people to believe that cultural change is necessary.

They need to help people develop a new mindset that drives a new set of behaviours by explaining, in detail, how data influences different styles of decision making and how people can engage with data.

On the other hand, education is largely a personal process and there are many professionals that have taken steps towards increasing their data skills. Pocket-friendly online courses with Udemy and Coursera can provide a great base from which to begin your data literacy journey. All the while adding value to your CV.

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