Data: Employees and businesses want the same thing

James Eiloart, SVP EMEA at Tableau, explores the opportunity for businesses to embrace data skills now and get real benefits

The amount of data we generate personally and in the business world is staggering, fuelled by technology advances such as the cloud, artificial intelligence and Internet of Things. Data can now be processed in real-time, allowing people the ability to gather insights on the fly. Gone are the days of batch processing, data now moves not only in volume, but at speed, and with little predictability.

Few businesses believe they are getting the most value from their data in order to advance or improve business. Some are even unclear about the variety and amount of data they have at their fingers tips. But the problem is more serious that this – even if a company knows its data well, they often lack employees who have the necessary skills to capitalise on it.

A recent study published by Capgemini and LinkedIn found that 54 percent of companies surveyed believed they were at a competitive disadvantage due to a lack of digital skills amongst employees. Understanding how to use data in business is now a core competency for employees – and it doesn’t matter which department you work in – being able to analyse and understand your data is now a daily necessity.

It’s not just about graduate skills

According to a recent PwC study, 69 percent of employers by the year 2021 will demand data science and analytics skills from job candidates. In 2017, Glassdoor also reported that “data science,” for the second consecutive year, was a “top job.” As demand from employers grows, the urgency to fill businesses with highly-skilled data enthusiasts becomes more critical.

But there’s a reality gap. The same PwC report cites that only 23 percent of college graduates will have the necessary skills to compete at the level employers demand.

While preparing graduates with the skills necessary to understand and analyse data is good business sense in the medium term, it doesn’t address the urgent need and opportunity that exists today as businesses drown in data.  Even the largest companies are justifiably concerned that while they struggle to get business value from their data, a new generation of nimble, data-savvy disruptive start-ups will outpace them in the market.

Tableau’s study, of over 3,000 UK employees, reveals that four in five professionals (84 percent) believe data skills will be important for their career progression. While 83 percent professionals reported using data on a weekly basis as part of their role, nearly half (49 percent) responded that their employer hadn’t offered them any kind of data analytics training.

There is a certain irony to this as our study shows that Britain’s workforce wants to embrace data.  In fact, workers fully understand the growing significance of data within their organisation. Almost all stated they consider data to be an important skill for performing their job.

We’re moving in the right direction

What’s clear from our study is that companies know they are missing out. Employees know that working closely with data is now, and will continue to be, part of the day-to-day role and most want to learn the skills that will allow them to do it effectively. The onus lies with business leaders to support employees in this ambition.

Here are three key priorities for business leaders to focus on:

  • Build trust – Companies and employees need to be able to trust that the data they are using, in any form, is both timely and accurate. We cannot make decisions based on data if we cannot trust that it is giving us one version of the truth.
  • Build the foundation – Because data comes from so many sources, with volume and velocity, providing a technology platform that allows employees to act on data with speed and agility is crucial. That platform should be available across departments, so that those who know their business best can make decisions based on their own data. Employees need to have access to tools that are visual and easy to use, so they can focus on ‘what’ they want to analyse, rather than ‘how’ to do it.
  • Build the skills – Business leaders must invest in the training that will give employees the skills to use visualisation and analytics tools. Businesses should not be fearful of this, but embrace it knowing that greater business value is achieved when data is in the hands employees. Upskilling your employees is key to success. The most powerful dashboard and analytics tools are visual and intuitive, allowing staff to focus on their questions and quickly getting to the answers that will drive business.

Data skills and the right tools to democratise data

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) has been a leader in the automotive industry for more than six decades. JLR is Britain’s number one automotive manufacturer. They have three UK vehicle manufacturing plants, which made 544,401 cars in 2016, with 80 percent of UK production exported to 136 markets.

JLR currently provides staff access to Tableau’s analytics dashboards in order to democratise data across the business, while nurturing data skills and giving employees the opportunity to grow them further. Currently 35 percent of employees are using data as part of their daily job, analysing dashboards in various business areas to help them see and understand data, like never before.  JLR ensures that working with data is easy for employees to understand and access, with employees focusing on what to analyse, rather than how.

In fact, the company proved how powerful yet simple this could be by asking an intern to look at 39 business hypotheses ahead of a meeting. Within days, the intern narrowed them down to three significant findings, resulting in new opportunities for the business.

This is a partnership

Companies that start the journey of democratising data, and take the time to upskill staff will see results – from dashboards on the production floor to strategic planning in the boardroom. Improved data availability and literacy helps every member of staff better understand their role, the wider business, and become more creative in identifying opportunities.  UK employees are eager to develop basic data skills and businesses urgently need to get value from the data they own.  Not responding to this demand will hinder both employees and businesses from future progress.