Magazine excerpt: Information into insight

UK employees want to learn more about data, and they want to do it now, says James Eiloart.

Today, it’s clear that ‘data’ is a business buzzword in organisations across the world. Now, more than ever, companies are looking for data analysts and data scientists. A recent study by Emsi and CareerBuilder in the US showed that there were on average 2,900 unique job postings per month for data scientists – roles that didn’t exist a mere 50 years ago.

Companies often turn externally for their talent search. However, a look internally could be beneficial for both employees and the business. The curiosity around data is there, fully alive and kicking, inside organisations.

With just a bit of investment in training to stoke this curiosity, employees would have the opportunity to develop the skills needed to take on new, more enriching, roles in data, and companies would benefit from better business decisions and a more motivated workforce.

The data… on data

Let’s look at the numbers. A recent Censuswide study of more than 3,000 UK employees revealed that, while four in five professionals (84%) believe data skills will be important for their career progression, and a similar percentage (83%) are using data on a weekly basis as part of their role, nearly half (49%) responded that their employer hadn’t offered them any kind of data analytics training.

Further statistics from our study show that Britain’s workforce does not want to shy away from data. In fact, workers fully understand the growing significance of data within their organisation. Almost all the participants in the study said they consider data to be an important skill for performing their job.

The curiosity around data is there, fully alive and kicking, inside organisations. 

In fact, data skills were ranked as fourth in a list of the most important skills – with only traditional, ‘soft’ skills such as ‘communication’, ‘organisational skills’ and ‘people management’ ranking ahead of data – which may surprise organisations who believe employees are confused and scared by data.

Additionally, despite an employer- focused study from LinkedIn revealing that ‘statistical analysis and data mining’ was the number one skill to get you hired in the UK, the results of our survey suggest that companies aren’t as focused on nurturing these skills in existing staff as they could be.

This makes it harder to not only hire future employees, but also for organisations to retain the data-curious employees, they do have. It’s clear to see that employees understand the importance of data, so what’s stopping organisations from responding to it?

Lack of urgency

As our world becomes flooded with information, and smart devices continue to leave reams of data in their wake, this could represent a great opportunity for companies. But data is only valuable when business insights are gleaned from it. So how does an organisation do that? By putting data into the hands of employees.

However, that’s not enough. Organisations need to provide guidance and education about data so that both the company and the employee get the best possible return on its use within the organisation. Having said that, like all good things, training and education takes time and investment.

With everything from politics to cyber attacks creeping its way onto the boardroom’s agenda, data literacy and training fall further down the list of priorities. The result? Training courses in data analytics aren’t keeping pace with the growing and more complex data needs in most companies.

Some companies, however, are doing it well – take Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) as an example. JLL is a financial and professional services firm specialising in property services and investment management.

With more than 70,000 people in 1,000 locations and 80countries, JLL is at the forefront when it comes to empowering employees to work with data – particularly in roles that aren’t traditionally expected to be ‘data savvy’, such as its property agents.

To do this, the company created a global business intelligence and data governance team to ensure data security and compliance. What makes this team different is how it goes one step further, collaborating with the business, driving conversations and  sharing best practice across teams. JLL has a wonderful, data-driven culture now, but it began with short-term plans implemented at the executive level.

Even taking small steps to identify talent and train up employees can make a huge impact – everyone has to start somewhere, and once you do, you’ll be surprised at how quickly a seemingly small initiative grows into something much bigger. The important thing is to start today.

The full version of this article appears in the July issue of TJ Magazine. You can subscribe here.


About the author

James Eiloart is SVP EMEA at Tableau Software



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