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Overcoming Top Challenges in Data Upskilling: Insights from the State of Data Literacy 2023 Report

Explore insights from the State of Data Literacy 2023 Report, revealing top challenges in data upskilling and actionable strategies to create a data-literate workforce.
Apr 2023  · 8 min read

While many organizations recognize the importance of data literacy, they often face challenges when it comes to upskilling their workforce in this area. The State of Data Literacy 2023 Report has identified the top challenges leaders face in improving their workforce's data skills, which include cultural, logistical, and financial obstacles. This blog post will explore these challenges and provide insights into how organizations can overcome them. 

data skills challenge chart

Top Challenges in Data Upskilling

According to the report, the top five challenges organizations face when upskilling their workforce in data literacy are:

  1. Lack of budget (40%)
  2. Inadequate training resources (36%)
  3. Lack of executive support (29%)
  4. Lack of ownership of the training program (29%)
  5. Employee resistance (27%)

These challenges suggest that many organizations have yet to develop comprehensive data strategies that prioritize people at the center of data transformation. 

As Vijay Yadav, Director of Quantitative Sciences & Head of Data Science at the Center for Mathematical Sciences at Merck, points out:

Data culture and skills are a big part of a successful data strategy. Because ultimately, what leaders need to understand is whether everybody in the company sees data as an asset and, if so, how do they see it? For example, somebody who’s worked on the shop floor all their life may not know how data can deliver value for them. So I think the upskilling and data literacy program is definitely something that you want to do early as part of your data strategy to be able to deliver value down the line.

Vijay YadavDirector of Quantitative Sciences & Head of Data Science at the Center for Mathematical Sciences at Merck

The Importance of Interactive Learning Experiences

The State of Data Literacy Report also highlights the dissatisfaction with traditional, video-based learning providers. Data skills require active learning, often tool- or concept-specific, making it fundamentally different from acquiring other skills like presentation or project management skills.

In fact, 43% of respondents to the report stated that video-only-based learning makes it difficult to apply learned skills in the real world. Additionally, 30% of respondents highlighted that employees struggle to understand where to start learning, with 29% stating that even if they do understand where to get started, the skills people learn are irrelevant to their roles. 

These results showcase how traditional learning providers center their learning content around a large breadth of video-based content and resources, which, counterintuitively, makes it difficult for employees to know where to begin and apply their skills. 

As Lawrence Liew, Director of AI Innovation at AI Singapore, emphasizes: 

The future of learning enables learners to take what they learned today and start applying it tomorrow, and DataCamp does that with the latest data technologies.

Lawrence LiewDirector of AI Innovation at AI Singapore

Overcoming the Challenges in Data Upskilling

Securing Executive Support and Ownership

Perhaps the main challenge in data upskilling is the lacking of executive support and ownership. To overcome this challenge, organizations must shift the mindset of leadership and recognize data upskilling as a strategic necessity. This change in mindset can be achieved through the following approaches:

  • Emphasize the strategic value of data literacy: Leadership must understand the long-term benefits of data literacy for the organization, including improved decision-making, increased operational efficiency, and enhanced innovation. Demonstrating the connection between data literacy and positive business outcomes can help convince leaders to prioritize data upskilling.
  • Align data upskilling with business goals: Data upskilling initiatives should be closely aligned with the organization's overall business objectives to secure commitment and resources. Leaders can better appreciate the importance of investing in data upskilling by linking data literacy to achieving key performance indicators (KPIs) and other strategic goals.
  • Leverage success stories and best practices: Sharing case studies and success stories from other organizations that have successfully implemented data upskilling programs can provide leaders with tangible examples of the benefits and return on investment (ROI) that can be achieved. Showcasing best practices from industry leaders can help build a compelling case for prioritizing data upskilling.

Addressing Employee Resistance

To tackle employee resistance, organizations should focus on cultivating a data-driven culture that emphasizes the value of data literacy for all employees, regardless of their roles. The following strategies can help address employee resistance and encourage participation in upskilling programs:

  1. Communicate the benefits of data literacy: Clearly articulate the advantages of data skills for employees, such as improved job performance, enhanced career opportunities, and the ability to contribute more effectively to the organization's success.
  2. Provide tailored learning paths: Offer customized learning pathways that cater to the specific needs and interests of different employee roles and levels of expertise. This can help ensure that employees see the relevance of data skills to their daily work and are motivated to participate in upskilling programs.
  3. Offer incentives and recognition: Implement incentives, such as bonuses or other rewards, for employees who complete data literacy training or demonstrate improvements in their data skills. Additionally, recognize and celebrate employees' achievements in data upskilling to further motivate and encourage participation.

Choosing the Right Training Providers

Selecting the right training providers is essential for overcoming challenges related to inadequate training resources and the relevance of skills learned. When evaluating potential training providers, organizations should consider the following factors to ensure their chosen provider offers an engaging, effective, and tailored learning experience:

  1. Interactive learning experiences: Seek out training providers that prioritize hands-on, interactive learning approaches over passive, video-based methods. Interactive learning experiences like gamification, coding exercises, and real-world case studies can help employees better understand and retain data skills.
  2. Tailored learning paths: Choose providers that offer tailored content that caters to the specific needs of different learner personas within your organization. Customized learning paths can help ensure that employees acquire relevant data skills that can be applied directly to their roles.
  3. Industry-specific curriculum: Look for training providers focusing on data skills within your organization's industry or sector. This can help ensure that the data skills taught directly apply to your organization's unique challenges and opportunities.

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Measuring the Success of Data Upskilling Programs

Another challenge organizations face when upskilling their workforce is the inability to report on the return on investment (ROI) from data training. While this is a notoriously difficult problem to solve, the tangible benefits of data upskilling, when done right, can be measured. Successful organizations have used the following methods to measure the success of their learning programs:

  1. Tracking the number of employees who have completed data literacy training and earned certifications.
  2. Assessing improvements in data-driven decision-making and business outcomes.
  3. Evaluating employee satisfaction and engagement with data upskilling programs.

Dive Deeper Into the State of Data Literacy 2023 Report

Overcoming the top challenges in data upskilling is essential for organizations to harness the power of data and drive business successfully. By securing executive support and ownership, addressing employee resistance, allocating budget and resources, choosing the right training providers, and measuring the success of data upskilling programs, organizations can create a workforce that is more data literate and better equipped to make data-driven decisions. 

data training results chart

Are you ready to tackle these challenges and improve your organization's data literacy? Download the State of Data Literacy 2023 white paper to learn more about the current landscape and how your organization can overcome these obstacles to achieve success in data upskilling.

Download the State of Data Literacy Report 2023

Discover the latest data literacy stats and insights from industry leaders and experts.

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