While we still find ourselves amidst a global pandemic, business contingency plans are subject to not only focus on the now and unforeseen future, but also on the landscape they may face years from now.
Simultaneously devoting management efforts to continuity and stability, leaders are continuously asking the question – ‘What can we learn from this?’ as adaption remains at the forefront of daily modus operandi.
What COVID-19 has Taught us About the Power of Data
New understandings and findings have become lessons now been implemented, monitored and integrated into systems that took on a different pace and form prior to the onset of COVID-19. However, many takeaways require adequate time and thought for how they, as necessary as they are, can be done both efficiently and effectively for sustainable longevity.
One such takeaway is the importance of creating a culture of data-literate employees, where everyone can tap into and understand what data is telling them. Over the course of this year, COVID has pushed a strong wave on all of us as we have looked to news outlets for daily statistics and local government orders; we’ve researched the stores that have what we need when we need it; and have taken in pieces of information and guidelines that were inherently new for so many at the start.
This skill – data literacy – is a critical skill that extends past the walls of individuals’ professional lives, but into their every-day lives as well. Our various roles stretch beyond those that define our work to include others such as active members of our community, guardians and parents, customers, volunteers/supporters, etc. These are roles that can all require us to be decision-makers as some point, educated and guided by the information that’s surrounding us.
Across all these roles and jobs we do, simultaneously for many during these busy unprecedented times, we have the personal responsibility to understand as best we can for the sake of what could otherwise be consequences of poorly informed decisions.
In our lifestyles and these roles we take on, especially those of our careers and professions, we make decisions every single day that impact us and those around us. Often, we do not think twice about it, perhaps if it’s a quick trip to the grocery store or meeting a friend for dinner. Other times, we are a bit more consciously aware like when we’re looking to buy a house or have sons and daughters that are applying to colleges. Regardless of our level of present awareness in those moments, we are just the same influenced by the information and the data circulating in front of us.
We as humans are processors, consumers, and decision-makers – even if some of us are more ‘spontaneous’ or quick-minded about it. No matter what we do or who we are, we must recognize in today’s digital, data-prosperous world, we all have a relationship to data around us. Our work roles should embody that too.
So what steps can you and your teammates start taking to improve data literacy across the organization?
Solutions and steps to Improve Data Capabilities
1. Assess, assess, assess
As it is with learning most things or acquiring/building upon skills, it is difficult to understand where you want to get to without first knowing where you are. Take the time to figure out where the specific breaks are in your data literacy so you can begin to see the opportunities that are available for improving in ways respective to those areas. For example, start by asking yourself what side of the data you live on in your role. Are you already involved with analytics on a daily or weekly basis but just need to broaden your bandwidth of tactical data science skills? Or are you more involved with the decisions that come with the latter half of the data journey that bring data into the business conversation? Maybe you handle a unique mix of both?
Once you’ve assessed at large where your experience lies, it’s important to dig a little deeper. Depending on how you answered that first question above, the next two questions can be a good follow-up for knowing which direction to head in:
- Whether your baseline is more in analytical knowledge or on the business decision-making side – what capabilities and skills do you bring from the other that already supports you in conducting your responsibilities?
- Of those gaps that still exist, which areas are still necessary for executing your job successfully and which may not be necessary, but could bring supplemental value to your role and lead to career/organizational development?
These questions are more than just a few short answers, they will require adequate thought and processing; but will better ease the transition to the next step.
2. Get to know your tools and resources
Once employees are more consciously aware of their unique knowledge base, they individually, as well as the organization as a whole can look at current tools on hand. For efficiency sake, it’s not possible to have every team member know the ins and outs of every tool, departments and roles are created to specialize in certain areas for that reason. However, progress can improve process which can lead to profit. Teams that can be universal and cross-functional can result in creating solutions to current or new problems, which can lead to unforeseen efficiencies.
That being said, become aware of the most applicable tools to your role that you don’t know and how they may have accessible methods to become trained and knowledgeable to the level that suits your needs. Doing so can align with the goals of the first step above to open your skillset in new ways that still pertain to the growth within your role and the impact it brings to the organization. Often times, you can do a lot of this self-learning on your own or in your own time, but it can also be helpful to explore the opportunities your organization may offer for internal training and personal development.
3. Think about data differently
This last step requires a gradual shift in both your own mindset and the collaboration of your team. It’s about bringing data into the conversation in ways you may not have always done before. Especially during this time of remote work or mixed schedules for many teams, this can be seemingly more difficult, although still a critical step to incorporate throughout virtual meetings, one-on-one chats, etc. Depending on where your experience currently lies and the tools you are exposing yourself too as a result of the two previous steps, it’s always important to continue asking questions – clarifying or exploratory. Ask your team members how they reached a certain conclusion or were able to perform a specific data function; to not only increase your own knowledge of the subject, but to push the team to dive deeper into the story the data is telling. Doing so allows new perspectives to emerge and possibly alternative methods that no one thought of prior. Overall, it influences a system to be more habitual in conversations around data and remain conscious about efforts to establish data governance; therefore creating an organization that leads with a data-driven culture.
Looking to learn more about what you can do to get more out of your data? Check out our related reading here: