Data is sexy. It helps you make better decisions at work and in your personal life. The challenge is that it sounds stodgy. This stereotype is harmful, as the need for smart data analysts is hot and fast growing.
There is a lot of misunderstanding about this space. You probably think that a data scientist or analyst is a math geek, wearing 1950s black-rimmed glasses and sporting a pocket protector in their tight fitting white short-sleeved shirt.
Wendy Turner Williams is the Chief Data Officer at Tableau, a division of tech giant Salesforce. She holds a degree in history, and is cheery, upbeat, personable, friendly and has a great sense of humor. Her seemingly nontraditional college degree turned out to be very appropriate for a career in data.
Early on in her career, Williams was tasked to serve as an intermediary between the tech team and the business side. Her winning personality made it easy for her to gain the necessary information from the techies— who understandably are primarily concerned with writing great code more than looking at the big picture of the company— and translating their lingo into a way the marketing, finance and business groups could understand. This wasn’t her full time job, but after seeing her succeed on many occasions, she was solicited to join the data group.
Williams says that having strong interpersonal skills, along with a critical-thinking mindset is one of the biggest keys to doing well in a career focused on data. In her current role as Chief Data Officer, the former liberal arts student, manages Enterprise Data Strategy, Data Platforms & Services, Data Governance & Management Maturity, Data Risk and Data Literacy. Wendy and her team are charged with helping fuel data driven business innovation, transformation and operational excellence across all areas of Tableau’s business.
She joined Tableau after several years with parent company Salesforce, leading the Information Management & Strategy Enterprise program. She also worked at Microsoft on the Cloud and Enterprise Analytics & Insights Data Governance and Management team. She has over 20 years of management experience, spanning multiple business sectors. She graduated from Oklahoma State University with a bachelor’s in European history.
Williams is straightforward. She feels salary bumps and Calm app subscriptions aren’t saving companies from the Great Resignation and in-office perks like snacks, ping pong tables and nap pods don’t matter in today’s remote/hybrid work setting. Learning marketable skills, such as data analytics, is the answer.
A new survey from data analytics leader Tableau and Forrester Research reveals employees don’t just want to chill out, they want to get skilled up. For the global study, Forrester surveyed more than 2,000 executives, decision-makers and individual contributors in ten countries, all working at global companies with more than 500 employees.
New Research Performance Tableau study finds data literacy investments yield tangible business benefits, yet organizations are not adequately upskilling employees. Data training may be a key element to overcoming the Great Resignation, with nearly 80% of employees more likely to stay at a company offering data skilling programs
While data skills are vital, training lags behind. Nearly 82% of decision-makers expect every employee in their department to have basic data literacy. Meanwhile, only 39% of organizations surveyed make data training available to all employees.
Tableau President and CEO Mark Nelson said, “Data offers a key competitive advantage. Business success depends on training and enabling everyone across an organization to use data to make better decisions.” Nelson added, “To unlock the power of data, businesses must invest in their most essential resource —their people—by providing opportunities for data training and development beyond traditional data-focused roles.”
The global data literacy skills gap is evident, however so is the opportunity for big improvements. The disconnect between decision-makers’ beliefs and the reality employees face may result in steep costs for businesses. As smart forward thinking companies transition to digital-first models, the need for data literacy escalates. Leadership needs to ensure that they are on the vanguard of this trend so their businesses won’t get left behind.
Forrester found that upskilling produces benefits for employees and businesses. This includes improved performance, customer and employee satisfaction and employee retention. Employers highly prize data-skilled employees—viewing them as making better and faster decisions while being more productive and innovative.
Here are some of the highlights:
- At a time when companies are struggling to recruit and retain talent, investing in an employee’s data literacy is an incredible attraction and retention tool. The study found that nearly 80% of employees are more likely to stay at a company that helps them learn the data skills they need.
- 83% of employees surveyed said they make better decisions when they use data. This is a sign that leaders should take time to invest and start a data literacy program with customized data training that is based on roles.
- Almost three-quarters of decision-makers hold the optimistic—but unrealistic— belief that employees should improve their own data skills, pushing them to pick up skills through ad-hoc, on-the-job learning from coworkers and trial-and-error.
- Only 39% of organizations surveyed make data training available to all employees, often putting the responsibility to train employees on department or team levels.
“We’ve seen a 96-fold return on our data investments. Data culture is more of a journey than a destination. Celebrate your wins along the way but always look to improve. Data’s value is the existential: the existence of your business,” said Clive Benford, Data Officer Director at Jaguar Land Rover. “If you don’t become a data-driven business, I don’t think you’ll be here in 20 years. The long-term value is existence.”