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Data Literacy for Every Employee

Data Literacy for Every Employee: Top Development Strategies

8 minute read | January 31, 2024
Monica J. White

Written by:
Monica J. White

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Fostering data literacy among employees is critical in today’s dynamic business landscape. In an environment dominated by change — with tech advancements and microeconomic forces constantly impacting strategies — data-driven decision-making is essential to staying competitive and pivoting when necessary. 

According to a Harvard Business Review report, a striking 90% of business leaders recognize data literacy as pivotal to company success. However, a palpable gap exists, as only 25% of workers actually feel confident in their data skills.

The significance of data literacy resonates across industries. Companies have spent the past decades amassing a trove of data, but employees are underskilled at converting this data into actionable insights and tangible business growth. With competition and disruptive forces on the rise, achieving across-the-board workforce data fluency is a strategic imperative.

Regardless of their functional roles, employees need a solid foundation in data literacy to make informed and objective decisions that align with overarching business objectives. Running an always-on upskilling and reskilling program is an investment that pays dividends, equipping your team to thrive in both the short and long term. 

A recent survey by Springboard for Business (SB4B) sheds light on the escalating concern surrounding skills gaps. Startlingly, 40% of corporate leaders acknowledge that the skills gap has worsened in the past year. Moreover, the SB4B Survey indicates that more than one-third of these leaders believe the shelf life of hard skills is currently under two years, emphasizing the urgency for proactive measures in skill development.

Keep reading to discover the strategies that will empower your workforce to leverage data effectively and contribute to the sustained success of your organization. Here’s what we’ll cover:

What Is Data Literacy?

Data literacy is the ability to interpret data, glean insights, and effectively communicate recommendations to teams and stakeholders. Data informs virtually every business function. It extends beyond the purview of data scientists and analysts, bridging the gap between technical and non-technical domains. While there are misconceptions that data literacy is the exclusive terrain of technical specialists, its real power lies in enabling all employees in an organization to effectively utilize objective data in their day-to-day work.

At its core, data literacy allows individuals across various functions to navigate the vast sea of information to extract meaningful insights and contribute to informed decision-making. It goes beyond raw numbers, fostering an understanding of the narrative woven by data and translating it into actionable strategies. As well as helping individuals to make more strategic decisions, a good grasp of data also helps decrease ineffective decision-making driven by personal bias and limited information.

Investing in comprehensive data literacy training reverberates across the entire organizational structure. Business leaders who prioritize such initiatives not only cultivate a workforce adept at deciphering data but also create a shared language that permeates every team and department. This shared understanding becomes the linchpin of a collaborative and agile organization, where insights gleaned from data propel sharper decision-making company-wide.

Data literacy is not confined to the realm of specialized roles; it’s a dynamic and inclusive skill set that empowers every employee to harness the power of data, transforming it from mere information into a catalyst for organizational success.

Non-Technical Data Literacy Skills

Data literacy skills extend far beyond spreadsheet proficiency — they are a suite of competencies that enhance critical thinking, refine problem-solving approaches, facilitate prioritization, and boost effective communication within an organization. 

These skills can be divided into two categories: technical and non-technical. Let’s first explore the non-technical skill set that data literacy supports.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is the foundation of effective decision-making. It involves the ability to analyze information objectively, discern patterns, and evaluate the implications of various courses of action. 

In the context of data literacy, cultivating critical thinking skills empowers your employees to navigate complex datasets, identify relevant trends, and extract actionable insights. This skill is not confined to data-centric roles but permeates every aspect of business. Strengthening this crucial skill across your entire function will foster a company-wide culture of analytical reasoning and strategic foresight.

Problem Framing

Problem framing is an art that extends beyond the identification of challenges. It involves articulating these challenges in a way that paves the way for identifying effective solutions. When it comes to data literacy, individuals learn to frame business problems with precision, ensuring that data is not just a tool for analysis but a compass for problem-solving. By defining problems clearly, employees leverage data to inform strategic initiatives and drive organizational success.

The SMART framework, as taught in Springboard for Business’s Data-Driven Strategic Thinking course, is a guiding principle in problem framing. This methodology emphasizes Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound objectives. By applying the SMART framework, employees enhance their ability to set goals rooted in data-driven insights, aligning strategic initiatives with tangible and measurable outcomes.


Prioritization is the keystone of effective time and resource management and can be key to strengthening workforce productivity. Data can be pivotal in prioritization, providing objective information to inform decision-making. 

This skill ensures that efforts are focused on the most impactful tasks, contributing to efficient and targeted business operations.


Effective decision-making hinges on the synthesis of information into actionable insights. When coupled with decision-making skills, data literacy empowers your workforce to make informed choices based on evidence. 

Whether in leadership roles or operational positions, employees’ ability to leverage data in decision-making enhances the overall efficiency and efficacy of organizational processes.

Communication Tools and Storytelling

Contextualizing insights and coherently conveying complex information are crucial aspects of effective communication. The art of storytelling with data ensures that information is not just presented, but is comprehensible and compelling to stakeholders. 

This skill becomes a powerful instrument in influencing decision-makers and fostering a culture where data is a persuasive force rather than a mere collection of numbers.

Technical Data Literacy Skills

In a business landscape saturated with data, the need for technical data literacy skills is paramount. Surprisingly, most professionals lack formal data training beyond a statistics course they may have taken in college. Yet, data provides a critical foundation for the functioning of practically every department in an organization.  

Here are the technical skills that data literacy sharpens.

Gathering and Organizing Data

Gathering and organizing data is a foundational skill involving amalgamating disparate datasets. Individuals with technical data literacy learn how to navigate and merge datasets, making critical decisions about which data sources to prioritize. 

This skill set extends beyond basic spreadsheet proficiency and encompasses technical tasks such as string functions, manipulations, lookups, and logical functions. By mastering these techniques, professionals become adept at curating robust datasets that serve as the backbone for insightful analyses.

Data Analysis

Data analysis is the engine that propels informed decision-making. Technical data literacy equips individuals with the ability to dissect and interpret data sets, revealing patterns, trends, and outliers. This isn’t a vital skill that’s exclusive to data professionals. Whether assessing the efficacy of marketing campaigns, optimizing supply chain processes, or gauging customer behavior, data analysis skills empower all professionals to extract valuable insights. 

Proficiency in statistical analysis, regression models, and hypothesis testing becomes a valuable asset, enabling individuals to uncover actionable intelligence that drives strategic initiatives.

Data Visualization

Data visualization is the art of transforming complex datasets into easily understandable visuals like charts, graphs, and dashboards that convey information at a glance. 

Visualization goes beyond aesthetics; it is a strategic tool that aids in conveying insights to stakeholders effectively. Professionals with expertise in data visualization can tell a compelling story through data, facilitating quick comprehension and decision-making across diverse teams and departments.

Top Strategies for Enhancing Data Literacy for Every Employee

In the ever-evolving landscape of modern business, enhancing data literacy across the entire workforce is a strategic imperative but it’s also a huge undertaking. Here are the key strategies to embed and elevate data literacy throughout your organization.

Make Data Literacy a Business-Wide Priority

Data literacy should not be confined to the realm of specialists. Functional leaders, alongside HR and L&D teams, can play a pivotal role in embedding data literacy as a priority in the company culture. 

This involves recognizing the value of data literacy for every employee – irrespective of their role – and fostering an environment that encourages continuous upskilling. Providing protected time for employees to enhance their data literacy ensures that this priority becomes a tangible and integrated aspect of professional development.

Use Data To Drive Decisions Wherever Possible

Integrating data review into routine meetings, such as weekly standups, creates a habit of considering data in decision-making processes. Challenge teams to identify key patterns or trends within datasets, fostering a proactive approach to data exploration. 

Leaders should exemplify the use of data to back up their own strategic decision-making, such as quarterly goal setting, and transparently communicate the rationale behind their choices to the team.

Reward Data-Driven Decision-Making

Shifting employees’ decision-making from intuition to data is a transformative journey. Recognize and reward data-driven decision-making by prioritizing projects that are backed by data insights. You can do this by allocating higher budgets or granting faster approval for initiatives grounded in data analysis. 

By tying rewards to data-driven outcomes, organizations incentivize a culture where decisions are informed by evidence, fostering a more strategic and effective approach to problem-solving.

Deploy Data Literacy Programs Tied to Real Business Problems

Data literacy doesn’t inherently interest everyone, so it’s essential to seek out targeted programs that really engage employees. By making regular talent development a company-wide priority, you can integrate data literacy into your organizational culture. 

Human-led programs, like Springboard for Business’s Data-Driven Strategic Thinking, focus on 1-1 learning by pairing employees with industry experts and holding live instructor-led discussions. This keeps employees motivated and separates the journey to data literacy from the traditional passive online training offered by LMS and LXP providers. 

This human touch is impactful: upskilling programs that integrate cohort-based learning are 87% better for course completion and 41% better for memory retention. Self-paced courses have completion rates as low as 3%, while cohort-based programs see completion rates of over 90%, according to the Close the Gap Foundation.

As you’re looking for data literacy training, search for hands-on upskilling programs that include job-related projects. That way, employees can learn on the job through programs that are designed specifically to address real business problems – aligning the learning experience with practical application. This not only makes data literacy more relevant but also instills a sense of purpose and impact among employees.

These courses also prioritize showing employees how to utilize their new skills immediately. Springboard’s Data-Driven Strategic Thinking course includes a project employees complete alongside their manager to solve a real business problem so that they can put theory into practice immediately. Practical study methods like these speed up the learning process and allow employees to deliver real financial impact in 8 weeks.

This post summarizes findings from Springboard for Business’s The State of the Workforce Skills Gap 2024.

Springboard surveyed over 1,000 corporate professionals working at companies with at least 5,000 employees to understand where their workforce transformation priorities lie, how skills gaps are thwarting progress, and what employees are most eager to learn.

To grab a free copy of the full report, click here.

Since you’re here…
Springboard for Business grows businesses by empowering leaders and their teams with the critical thinking, data, and technology skills central to the future of work. Companies like Amazon, Walmart, HP, JPMorgan Chase, and Visa have partnered with Springboard for Business to upskill and reskill employees around the world. Click here to learn more.

About Monica J. White

Monica is a journalist with a lifelong interest in technology, from PC hardware to software and programming. She first started writing over ten years ago and has made a career out of it. Now, her focus is centered around technology and explaining complex concepts to a broader audience.