Data Literacy Is the Hidden Ingredient to Hybrid Work Success

By Paul Barth, Global Head of Data Literacy, Qlik

The end of stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines may be in sight, but the freedom to work from home isn’t going anywhere. Salesforce, Dropbox and Zillow are just some of the major corporations that are embracing remote or hybrid working policies. Countless reports have pointed to the growing support for flexible ways of working, a perk that is especially appealing to millennial and Gen-Z job seekers. As much as 82 percent of company leaders intend to permit remote working some of the time as employees return to the workplace, according to a report by Gartner.

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Remote work is here to stay for many individuals. But what does this mean for life after the pandemic? And what will employers and their employees need to succeed in a more flexible working environment?

Understand how people perform their best 

After an abrupt shift to the home office, most companies are now prepared for flexible working arrangements. The tools and services they used to navigate 2020 are now making it possible for employees to choose where they want to work. With the technical infrastructure already in place to support internal and external collaboration, along with the data insights that empowered leadership teams to adapt quickly, enterprises are in a strong position going forward. This could explain why, according to McKinsey, executives plan to reduce their office space by 30 percent.

That said, organizations shouldn’t assume that there are no challenges left to iron out. While many are happy with the great work from home experiment, some have felt that it was more of a make-do-and-mend situation. In order to make this shift work well for all, businesses must recognize that this is as much about people using technology as it is about empowering them with it. And that empowerment means giving them the tools and the fluency to be able to read, understand, work with and collaborate through data, unlocking new opportunities for the business. 

Disseminate data for success

While collaboration tools have certainly had their day in the remote working spotlight, organizations should not ignore the important role that data has also played over the last year. Those enterprises that were already data-literate were able to quickly leverage data-driven insights to identify potential business opportunities and make smarter decisions.

There is concern, however, that the mixture of physical and digital workspaces in a hybrid working arrangement could lead to data silos. Businesses must focus on providing employees with access to trusted, cleaned and governed data across all environments – in real-time and the right context. With the right analytics technology, organizations can prioritize collaboration and avoid silos that could limit their potential to utilize their data.

Improve data literacy for a stronger data strategy

There’s a notable discrepancy between how executives rank their employees’ level of data literacy and the confidence that employees have in using data. In a pre-pandemic study from Accenture and Qlik, 75 percent of C-level decision makers believed that all or most of their employees could proficiently work with data. However, only 21 percent of the global workforce said they felt confident in their data literacy skills.

This suggests that data literacy is still a foreign concept to many workers, but it shouldn’t be. They should instead feel empowered to process, interpret and act upon data. Instead of relying on data scientists and BI specialists, relevant and enterprise-ready data should be democratized across every organization, but that is only possible with data literacy. Without it, worker productivity will be limited by the availability of specialist teams that have their own goals and may not be able to meet or explain insights on-demand. Leaders must ensure that data literacy training accommodates both office and home-based learning and is a core part of their organization’s data strategy.

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Foster a culture that’s flexible and driven by data

Most employees say they are more or equally as productive working at home, so it’s no surprise that the majority are content to make the shift permanent. A McKinsey survey reveals that 80 percent have enjoyed their at-home experience, and a Gallup poll shows that 59 percent would like to continue working remotely. However, a return to the office is inevitable for many employees, if only for a few days a week. It’s imperative that leaders build on the digital foundations established over the last year. They should focus on eliminating data silos and upskill their employees in data literacy to foster a culture of data-driven decision-making. In doing so, organizations will be better positioned for a work environment that’s flexible and driven by data, meeting the needs of employers and employees alike.

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