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Building a Data-Driven Culture Through Data Literacy

Data literacy initiates the cultural foundation for becoming an Insight-Driven Organisation

Shalini Gupta
Stuart Byford

As companies begin their journeys to embrace data and AI across their organisations, a recurring challenge we see is that they don’t put enough time, effort, and money into the significant cultural change this means for their employees. Often, employees at all levels of seniority are anxious about data and AI and what it will mean for their jobs, their daily activities at work, and whether they will be able to cope with the changes coming.

One way to help alleviate these fears and drive more successful adoption of new tools, technologies and behaviours is to increase the data literacy of the organisation at large, giving people the confidence to ask the right questions of data and embed analytics thinking into their jobs.

Companies that invest sufficient resources into improving data literacy across the organisation will have leaders and employees that understand the value and significance of data, know how to utilise it to make informed decisions, and are therefore more inclined to embrace a data-driven culture.

Why Data Literacy Matters


One of the key components of a strong data culture is a having a workforce who is data literate. Data literacy refers to the ability and the mindset to read, work with, analyse, and use data ethically to solve challenges, drive innovation, and create value collaboratively.

Data literacy unlocks the behaviours that define a successful data culture. It follows that data literacy is an integral part of your culture and therefore the journey to becoming an Insight Driven Organisation.

Of course, that doesn’t mean every single person in your organisation needs to suddenly learn how to code but being able to accurately interpret the outputs is key. Data literacy initiatives need to include the broad spectrum of employees across the organisation, from the front lines to executives. The next steps are to form your data literacy vision, develop your learner personas (profiles of your target audience) and build your programme accordingly. We know that organisations with a strong data literate workforce are able to:

  • Ask insightful questions of data
  • Effectively communicate insights to those around them
  • Entrust decision-making authority to various levels
  • Experiment and play with the data they have to unlock new insights
  • Support customers, vendors and colleagues in increasing their literacy levels

Laying the Foundation


Just like a data platform requires the right architectural foundation and processes, your people need the right training to develop their data literacy.

Through our experience across a variety of different client projects we have implemented the 70:20:10 Model for developing data literacy programmes. This means that 70% of learning should come from on-the-job experience, 20% from formal training programmes, and 10% from exposure to external events like conferences and Hackathons.

Let’s breakdown some of the key components that are required when building a learning and data literacy programme such as this:

1. Find a sponsor

Programmes that have strong executive sponsorship are able to catalyse new behaviours and thus, amplify the changes they wish to bring about. Find a passionate and influential sponsor to help drive your data literacy initiatives from the front.

2. Define a clear vision

Understand what cultural behaviours you want to drive, and the corresponding skills which underpin them, and use them as your north star. You can’t create a data literate organisation unless you understand what skills your various personas need first.

3. Understand the quantum of the gap

Now that you understand what your data literate rockstars need to look like, you will need to understand how long the journey is going to be. A basic data literacy evaluation will be able to help you understand how much time, energy and effort is required to move between proficiency levels as you embark on your programme.

4. Map curriculum to learner personas

More and more employees are asking for training that is not only relevant to them and their needs, but also easy to consume. Ensure that you understand your personas (e.g., Frontline Staff personas vs Back Office personas vs Executive personas) so that you can provide content and training which is pertinent, but also delivered in a way that will have the most impact for your organisation.

5. Focus first on foundational data skills

While terms like Generative AI and Neural Networks sound cool, they are at the far end of the spectrum when it comes to extracting relevant insights and being able to ask the right questions of your data. This relies on a base understanding of the core principles in data analysis. Additionally, most employees will need to be able to generate and interpret basic descriptive and predictive statistics in their roles long before using artificial intelligence. So, focus on getting the basics right first.

6. Seek out opportunities for people to apply their new skills

As we know from years of research in the learning space, 80% of what is covered in training courses is forgotten within a month of completing the course. Unless the person has an opportunity to start applying their new-found skills in their day-to-day work. So, as a leader, try to make space for employees to safely test out their new skills.

7. Celebrate the successes (yes, we mean hold a Graduation!)

While your organisation is on their journey to becoming data literate there will be a few moments where it gets difficult, and people may want to give up. That’s perfectly normal. One of the ways to encourage people to stick with it, is to provide them with a “Finish Line” that celebrates their achievements. So don’t hold back on organising that Graduation Ceremony.

Closing Thoughts


Data literacy initiates the cultural foundation for becoming Insight-Driven. How will you build these critical capabilities across your teams? Start by defining your literacy vision and assessing your needs. Partner with business units to provide experiential training. A data literate workforce unlocks data culture transformation.

If you would like to further understand what data literacy and other activation levers can unlock for your organisation, come and do an IDO Scaling Lab with us. We deep dive the 3 topics of value, literacy, and culture with your people in mind, explore and prioritise the cultural levers which will be key to your success and develop a personalised, actionable roadmap so you know the steps you need to take in turning ambition into action.

Don't get left behind – get started today.

Note that you can check out our latest IDO playbook to explore how we make this happen in practice, along with all the rest of our in-depth guidance on becoming an Insight-Driven Organisation.

Meet the authors

Natalie Williams


Natalie specialises in helping our financial services and insurance clients build analytics capabilities, including the organisational structure, talent and processes needed to drive analytics transformation. Natalie’s experience centres upon designing and implementing analytics operating models and the agile execution and industrialisation of analytics projects. Natalie is a subject matter expert in Deloitte’s proprietary Insight Driven Organisation methodology (IDO) and leads our IDO Lab sessions for Deloitte in the UK.