Although once highly sought after by employers, computer proficiency has slid down the proverbial rankings of essential skills. In its place, data literacy and the ability to work effectively with it – whether analyzing, presenting or harvesting it – has become a differentiating factor, especially in top-level candidates.

The exponential growth of data has dramatically transformed our world. With the proliferation of the internet, social media, as well as the technology underlining both the consumer and corporate sectors, we’re generating more data than ever before. Every day, roughly 100 billion messages are sent on WhatsApp, 347.3 billion emails are sent, and 38.3 million contracts are traded on the New York Stock Exchange. It is estimated that by 2025, the daily generation of data in the world will reach 175 zettabytes.

The time has come for business owners and senior executives to recognize that the rules of the game have changed – decisions are not based on managerial intuition but on data. As data volumes surge, employees need to be able to improve complex processes, drive efficiencies, reduce errors and allow employees to create more value within workflows and systems.

As well as having the skill to reconcile and present usable data, a central consideration is understanding how to derive value from often large and disparate data sets. The increasing focus on data collection among organizations has resulted in a significant amount of wastage, with estimates showing that 68% of available data is never used. This inability to use all of this available data can have a huge impact on firms – whether through missed opportunities or a lack of critical information needed to make vital decisions, not to mention wasted time, money and effort used to collect data that ends up gathering dust.

A business-critical investment

Investing in employees’ collective data literacy can help to improve the overall functioning of a business. Firms need to make strategic decisions that are underlined by accurate and clean data – whether this means a fast pivot to a new region or territory or separating/merging business processes in the name of efficiency. The ultimate decision here is irrelevant, what matters is data that underpins it.

Data fuels modern business, it’s important to know how to implement and activate it. In the financial services industry especially, data literacy is becoming increasingly vital to process the sheer volume of data generated by the sector. Investing in the right training is therefore essential, delivering three key benefits:

  • Improving decision making: It’s crucial that employees can effectively manage, process, and interpret data to derive meaningful insights that can inform business decisions.
  • Driving efficiency and deriving insights: Data literacy allows employees to quickly identify trends, uncover patterns, and pinpoint potential issues, reduce risk, and increase efficiency.
  • Improving communication: Being data literate also enables employees to better communicate their findings and insights to their colleagues and clients. By presenting data in a clear, concise, and compelling manner, employees can build trust and credibility with clients and stakeholders, enhancing their reputation and boosting business success.

Data literacy is no longer just a nice-to-have. With data becoming increasingly complex and essential to business success, companies must invest in training and upskilling their employees to ensure they can keep pace with change and derive maximum value from their data.