12 Ways To Cultivate A Data-Savvy Workforce

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Organizations aspiring to become data-driven need to take a close look at their HR practices. If your company's hiring and retention standards aren't keeping up with the times, you may be losing valuable job candidates and employees. To minimize the pitfalls of building a data-savvy workforce, consider these tips.

Cultivating a data-savvy workforce can be a challenging proposition if your company is not among the rarefied ranks of data-first organizations such as Facebook, Google, and Amazon.

For starters, attracting top talent is a competitive sport and becoming more data-driven over time. For example, HR departments are able to track and analyze more types of data than ever. Using sophisticated software tools, they're gaining deeper insight into job candidates, employee performance, and the overall effectiveness of their HR practice.

Yet, even as data-driven human capital management is becoming a core element of the hiring and retention process in HR departments, many companies don't seem to really understand what it means to build a data-savvy workforce. That's partly because doing so can involve complete organizational transformation.

"Data-savvy workers think differently, ask questions, challenge the establishment, and demand improvements," said Kathy Marshall, director of recruitment quality and client engagement at Decision Toolbox, a recruitment products and services company, in an interview. "If a data-driven employee isn't challenged, can't affect change, or isn't able to access the information they need to drive results, [they] will quickly move on to other opportunities."

[How can you help build the next generation of techies? Read 9 Fun Tools For Teaching Kids To Code.]

To serve the company's best interests, HR departments should understand their company's data strategy and how becoming a data-driven organization affects everything from organizational structure and corporate culture to roles, skills, cross-functional collaboration, recruitment, and retention.

Meanwhile, some businesses are fine-tuning their structures, cultures, and operations to improve their ability to compete using data. One such example is GE, which is becoming a digital industry company. Its leaders understand how technologies, including data analytics, are fundamentally changing the way the company operates. And they are making sure the workforce understands how each aspect of the business is touched by digital transformation.

"Every employee needs [to understand] what it means to be part of a digital, datacentric organization," said Susan Peters, senior vice president of Human Resources at GE, in an interview. "Whether you're on the shop floor of a manufacturing plant, in a research lab, or at the corporate headquarters, everyone is responsible for a company's shift to becoming data-savvy."

Of course, not all companies have GE's vast resources. The company spends $1 billion a year worldwide on employee learning and development alone. Even without such resources, here are 12 things your company can do to effectively attract, build, and retain a data-savvy workforce. Once you've reviewed our tips, tell us what you think in the comments section below. Is your corporate culture ready for a data-driven workforce?

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