1. Indian Population: 1.3 Billion
2. Indian Urban Population By 2030: 600 Million
3. India Water Deficit By 2030: 50%
4. Number Of Rural Indians Lacking Access To Clean Water: 63.4 Million
The above info-dump is hardly revealing. While such disparate data points might be helpful in drawing a co-relation, extracting information of any value from it is next to impossible. This is because it presents us with no context and we have been trained to draw information from running text or a narrative. This is the difference that data literacy makes possible since it enables individuals with the ability to explore and draw correlations between disparate data sets through contextual narratives. Information becomes more accessible and consumable, serving as a compelling call‑to-action. But, while the above example establishes the need for greater data literacy in today’s data-driven world, what assumes importance is whether businesses are ready for such changing paradigm.
Data literacy: The current scenario
Figures indicate that, on average, only 17% of employees in Europe, 20% in the APAC region, and 33% in the US are comfortable with handling data. At 45%, India fares better among others when it comes to the percentage of working professionals with the ability to read, work with, analyse, and argue with data. But, with only 29% of Indian employees believing that everyone in their organisation is data literate, there is an immediate and an urgent need to address the massive skills gap.
And, this is owing to the mind-boggling amount of data that is in circulation today. It can be used to drive growth, optimise operations, achieve business objectives, unlock untapped synergies, and deliver better services. Doing so successfully, however, requires a workforce that is capable of interpreting this data and drawing meaningful insights from it. And, with a majority of fresh graduates joining the workforce unequipped with adequate data skills, HR has an unparalleled opportunity to address this skills gap and raise data literacy across the board.
The role of HR in data literacy
To begin with, HR should look to provide employees with training in data skills and create a data-driven work culture. Developing an environment where everyone is informed about data, and, is actively using it to support their decision-making processes fosters data literacy. It is also critical to raise data fluency; the ability to initiate and engage in data-driven conversations, as it allows business users to communicate their message in a manner that is more compelling. Data literate employees also perform better at their jobs, are more confident, and, manage their job responsibilities with greater effectiveness.
It is also important to extend adequate support when it comes to resolving employee concerns about using data. Through internal group discussions, as well as external expert sessions, HR has a real opportunity to give employees a platform where they can put forth and find solutions to their data-centric issues. Several online resources are also now available for data skills assessment, self-paced training, and certification which provides HR with the required tools to help employees navigate their data literacy journeys, while reducing the complexity involved.
The First Industrial Revolution had the world running on coal. The second saw petroleum become the fuel that powered global operations, while the third saw the focus shift to silicon-based chips. In the wake of the current trends, it would be safe to say that the Fourth Industrial Revolution will be powered by data. Adopting a data-led approach is a critical necessity for organisations today, for the data-driven future that we have been envisioning is here and happening now. Success, in this digital-first age, will only come to those who can satisfy this most basic requirement.
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