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Top Skills Needed to Succeed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Geoff Thomas, Senior Vice President, Asia Pacific, Qlik


Leveraging data literacy to gain a competitive edge.

Leveraging data literacy to gain a competitive edge

The Fourth Industrial Revolution has not halted despite the global pandemic. If anything, COVID-19 has only accelerated the adoption of Industry 4.0, leading businesses across industries to use Internet of Things (IoT) technology and Big Data in a more sophisticated manner.

AI and robotics are no longer science fiction. Businesses have to adapt to this reality quickly. The key to remaining competitive is to ensure that re-skilling of the existing workforce takes place, and that future generations are equipped with the right skillsets to succeed.

Labour-intensive businesses should also consider shifting focus to become more knowledge-based, working in tandem with new technologies to generate more significant business impact.

Data Literacy: The Answer to Thriving in Industry 4.0

But according to McKinsey, only a mere 13 percent of businesses in ASEAN have started their Industry 4.0 transformation process. If this number doesn’t increase, the majority of companies risk losing out on the opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

What then, should be the focus for businesses looking to transform and adapt to Industry 4.0?

The answer is simple: Build a workforce that understands and can leverage data and technology to attain success. Businesses need to ensure that every employee can hone their data skills so that they can efficiently process, interpret, and act upon data. This skillset, which is commonly referred to as data literacy, will empower individuals to use data-driven insights to make better decisions.

Data Literacy 101: Leveraging Data to Gain a Competitive Edge

Data literacy is the ability to read, work with, analyse, and argue with data to make better decisions for the organisation – and it has the potential to unlock up to $320-534 million in enterprise value. Business leaders need to prioritise giving employees access to data and provide them with the tools and technologies they need to improve their work environment and spur success.

Here is a six-step approach for leaders looking to implement a robust, data-literacy initiative:

1. Planning and Vision

Like any good initiative, leaders need to set the tone. Organisations can identify individuals, such as leaders and managers, to embed data-driven approaches into their daily work and communicate the advantages to their co-workers.

To make this even more effective, identified participants should get the chance to build and use their data skills within their day-to-day tasks. At a time where stress levels are already escalating, you can then avoid having the programme feel like a chore that requires non-work hours to succeed, while also simultaneously improving employees’ workflows. Lastly, organisations should set aside dedicated budget for the data literacy programme to allow it to grow independently from other existing organisational programmes.

2. Communication

Be transparent about the benefits of data literacy. When it comes to communicating those benefits, don’t be shy. Once staff see the advantages of a data-driven approach, it will give them a sense of excitement and empowerment, and the motivation to shape their careers according to Industry 4.0 advancements. Make it clear that data literacy is not a “one-hit wonder,” but a “solid gold classic” that will always be a part of an organisation’s growth.

4. Workforce Assessment

To ensure the data literacy programme kicks off as accurately as possible, it is essential that team leaders don’t make assumptions about the levels of comfort and capabilities of their members.

Instead, encourage them to take part in a data literacy assessment, where they will be able to learn more about their current proficiency with data literacy, and identify with data personas – Data Aristocrats, Data Knights, Data Dreamers, and Data Doubters – that will help them grow into a more experienced and skilled data expert. From there, the journey to believing in the power of data will begin based on each persona, and the team can then shift one step closer to transforming their work and their organisation through data.

4. Cultural Shift

Organisations should treat the data literacy programme like any other form of change. Introduce the programme and its goal of advancing the team towards meeting the data needs of Industry 4.0, and gradually weave the importance of data into the organisation’s culture.

Ease the team into using data in their day-to-day activities and help them understand how data can improve their workflow. However, be careful that employees don’t see the programme as an overwhelming change to their workflows, as this can then contribute to data stress that may cost organisations billions in lost productivity.

5. Learning, not Training

Promote the direct benefits of learning about data literacy, and how using data can transform work while advancing employees’ careers in line with Industry 4.0. Steer conversations surrounding data literacy away from simply just being another training session, and instead intertwine data usage in the current workflow and emphasise its positive impact on everyone’s job.

For instance, GovTech Singapore – an agency working towards the delivery of Singapore’s government’s digital services to the public – developed a Data Literacy ePrimer programme. It enforces data literacy education through contemporary and interesting modules that involve audiobooks, videos and animated shorts. This approach helps them hit the sweet spot between conveying deep knowledge and injecting fun.

6. Measurement

No programme is complete until there are metrics to measure its success. Define the timeline of your data literacy programme and mark items, such as positive trends, data usage, or number of courses completed, to see how employees perceive the programme and the impact it has had on your organisation. There are also certificates that employees can obtain, such as the Data Literacy Project’s world-first comprehensive certification for data literacy. It is important to know how the organisation is growing with data literacy and which areas need to be improved. For progression’s sake, positive results can be celebrated and replicated, whereas negative results can be reviewed as steppingstones for future improvement.

As data literacy becomes the norm in your organisation, you can celebrate as your business gains a competitive edge, with a workforce that is empowered to make use of data correctly. The focus on preparing your organisation to become data literate will define how we move forward in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. There is no time to waste in adapting and pursuing the new opportunities it presents.