By: Kendra Vant, Head of Data, Xero UK
Thursday 10 June 2021: It goes without saying that the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation. This could be a silver lining for those under the age of 25, who recent research indicates have been hit especially hard when it comes to unemployment. That’s because digital transformation has provided them with the perfect opportunity to thrive professionally. We have entered a golden age of data – data is everywhere, with almost every company using it to make smarter decisions. And with the world running on data, we’re paying more attention to it than ever.
According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), we are on the brink of a ‘Reskilling Revolution’. This means that emerging jobs will require a different set of skills to enable employees to work more efficiently alongside intelligent machines, data, and algorithms – highlighting the importance of data literacy.
As AI becomes more central in the world of business, there is a growing need for professionals to have a deeper understanding of how to understand and challenge the outputs of algorithms. But data literacy isn’t just for scientists or analysts – you can use it day-to-day to add value to your team and your company.
Being data-literate not only enables you to make decisions for your business that are based on fact, but to experiment with the data to uncover new insights and opportunities for your business. For example, the savvy use of data can help employees achieve their objectives, perform their work better and contribute to the overall business performance. Not only that, but operations will become more streamlined and efficient without the need for a third-party data scientist to interpret data on your behalf.
Data literacy is one out of a host of important skills for any candidate. When hiring a candidate to join the team, I look for someone who is naturally curious and comfortable with ambiguity. They should be able to switch between ways of thinking and join up the logic between the big picture and the little details. It’s also important for them to be self motivated and with a demonstrable track record in being a lifetime learner.
Responsibilities are also shifting when it comes to upskilling. While academic institutions were once expected to offer skill development programmes in areas like data literacy, now it is up to employers to do the same. Not only do they have the resources to train their employees and help them to learn about data – but it’s in their best interests to reap the rewards of this new knowledge and confidence, too.
It’s key for employees to take action now to ensure they can take full advantage of this digital transformation – whether it’s reviewing what kind of training your company offers, or checking whether they have the relevant funds for learning and development courses. At Xero for example we’re passionate about ensuring the accountants of tomorrow are data literate and digitally-minded, which is why we offer learning courses for everyone, regardless of whether or not they are a Xero customer.
Ultimately, learning about data is like learning any other skill – it’s an ongoing process and something that you will continue to refine and improve over time.
Data literacy has become important for almost all companies. This is especially true as we come out the other side of the global pandemic, which has acted as a catalyst for digital transformation. Now more than ever, businesses need their people to be able to interpret data, draw insights, and ask the right questions. To put it simply, it’s evident that data-driven decision-making improves business performance significantly – so both employers and employees should take full advantage of it. At the end of the day, data literacy is one out of a host of important skills – so remember to stay curious, adaptable with situations and logic, and self-motivated.