A common theme for organizations that successfully use data is the fact that everyone in the organization is on board with the approach to data. This can be difficult when faced with employees who might be set in their ways or who think they don’t have a handle on the data.

But if your organization is committed to using analytics, these are hurdles that need to be overcome. Here are five ways that you can improve data literacy in your organization.

Make data part of the culture

Sometimes the expectation to use data can be intimidating to someone for whom that has not been an expectation before. Making data part of the culture and part of the everyday routine can help break down that intimidation factor and help ease in the people who may be uncomfortable or otherwise resistant to it.

It starts at the top of an organization and works its way through, and it is important that everyone at every level is empowered to use data. If conversations are centered around the analysis of data and the positive results it can bring, it improves the chances of everyone becoming more comfortable with the data environment and adapting to use the same successful methods.

Conduct an assessment

A first step towards figuring out how to improve data literacy is figuring out what exactly needs improving. In some cases it could be a communication issue, where all the pieces are in place and employees understand all of the “hows” of analytics, but they may not understand the “why” of what they are doing. It could just be a simple matter of explaining your organization’s approach, or why a certain metric is measured the way it is, that is preventing the buy-in you need.

There are plenty of examples of training that can be done to fill in other blanks, whether it’s in regards to using a certain tool or how an individual is expected to use data specifically for their role. Before the organization invests in training, though, an assessment is advisable to figure out exactly where the gaps lie. It is also worth thinking about how much training needs to be given. Not everyone needs to be an expert, but the organization should figure out just how proficient they need everyone to be.

Ensure data governance

As with every conversation about data, data literacy is a good time to remember data governance. Understanding the data is also a time to understand the quality of the data, digging down to the source and understanding how a number was calculated and why…and whether that number is the best representation of what it is measuring.

The more transparent the data is, the better everyone’s comfort level with it and the easier it will be for everyone to be more comfortable with data moving forward. It could also help serve as a reminder for the people who are also responsible for inputting data how important it is that they are exact when doing so.

Start small

Just like you wouldn’t throw an early reader into a 1,000-page chapter book, it is best not to immediately overwhelm someone you are trying to ease into data literacy. The organization may be doing exciting things with data, but all of those exciting things might not be best to introduce at once.

If you’re easing someone in to a data journey with a dashboard, keep it simple. Set them up with manageable tasks that they can begin with, and then introduce more complex aspects gradually. In some cases with easy-to-use self-service tools they might venture into deeper waters and start dealing with more complex data on their own…and maybe even bring the organization some new exciting results.

Share success

Data literacy can mean different things to different organizations. Just because someone is comfortable manipulating the data doesn’t always mean they are understanding it in the context of the business.

By sharing successful stories about how the data has been used to improve a business method or a result for a patient or customer, it might help shed light on how others can replicate that success.

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John Sucich
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