data literacy

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Data literacy is still low as AI transforms global workplaces

While everyone talks about data today, data literacy is still not as high as it should be. The reality is despite the demand for data-related technologies, the data literacy rate is still very low.

According to Data Literacy: The Upskilling Evolution, new research from Qlik, just over one in five employees believe their employer is preparing them for a more data-oriented and automated workplace. This is despite most business leaders predicting an upheaval in working practices due to the rapid onset of artificial intelligence (AI).

There is no denying that AI will revolutionize the workforce. However, what’s more important is to have a workforce that is able to understand the technology they are working with. The report showed that 35% of employees changed jobs simply because their employer was not offering enough upskilling and training opportunities for them.

While 85% of executives believe data literacy will become as vital in the future as the ability to use a computer is today, only 11% of employees are fully confident in their ability to read, analyze, work with, and communicate with data.

Employees need to learn new skills. They need to understand data and the findings of the research support that. As organizations shift from passive data consumption toward a state of Active Intelligence, where continuous data becomes integrated into working practices to trigger immediate actions, the report predicts how this will impact skills requirements and professional opportunities.

The study found that business leaders and employees alike predict that data literacy, defined as the ability to read, work with, analyze and communicate with data, will be the most in-demand skill by 2030. In the US, the study showed that workers who demonstrated data literacy skills can expect a 20% salary increase.

According to Gartner’s Annual Chief Data Office Survey, poor data literacy is ranked as the second biggest internal roadblock to the success of the CDO’s office. By 2023, Gartner predicts data literacy to become essential in driving business value, demonstrated by its formal inclusion in over 80% of data and analytics strategies and change management operations.

True enough, the study shows that 89% of executives expect their team members to be able to explain how data has informed their decisions. It’s no longer just about taking the data and following everything it says. Employees need to understand how the decision was made and the only way they can do that is by being data literate.

Data literacy underpinning more intelligent and automated working practices

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The demand for data skills reflects the significant shift in the workplace, due to the rise of AI. The enterprise leaders who took part in the study believe employee working practices will change to become more collaborative, with intelligent tools helping them make better decisions (84%) and become more productive (83%).

Moreover, 40% of C-level respondents predict their organization will hire a Chief Automation Officer within the next 3 years, rising to above 99% within the next decade. But the investment cannot end at senior hires; those on the front line need support during this transition. And 58% of employees surveyed believe that data literacy will help them stay relevant in their role with the growing use of AI.

Elif Tutuk, VP of Innovation & Design at Qlik explained, “we often hear people talk about how employees need to understand how Artificial Intelligence will change how they complete their role, but more importantly we need to be helping them develop the skills that enable them to add value to the output of these intelligent algorithms.

Tutuk added that data literacy will be critical in extending workplace collaboration beyond human-to-human engagements, to employees augmenting machine intelligence with creativity and critical thinking.

The research also showed that for organizations increasing their data literacy training, it is primarily offered to those working in specific data-related roles (58%), such as data analysts and data scientists. Just one-in-10 offer this training to those in HR, finance, and marketing (12%, 11%, and 10% respectively) despite more than two-thirds of employees working in these functions stating data literacy is already necessary to fulfill their current role (70%, 74%, and 67% respectively).

Surprisingly, over three-quarters, (78%) of employees are instead investing their own time and money (64%) to plug the professional skills gap needed for the future enterprise – with these employees spending an average of nearly 7 hours each month and nearly US $2,800 each year.

For Dr. Paul Barth, Global Head of Data Literacy at Qlik, over the past few years, investments in digitizing most business processes have transformed the data resources available, and this will continue as organizations move towards a more intelligent and automated workplace.

“But investment in leading-edge data platforms has revealed a large—and expanding—gap in data literacy skills in the workforce. To become a data-driven company, where employees regularly use data and analytics to make better decisions and take informed actions, business leaders need to make investments in upskilling workers in every role to close the data literacy gap,” added Dr. Barth.