5 Ways to Make Data Literacy Stick
As head of the Tableau Center of Excellence at my company, data literacy is essential to my success and that of our organization. That’s become more important than ever as we push past 200 desktop users and 2,000 active users of data visualizations. Aspiring to scale a community the right way is what has led me to several strategies that I use with both new and longer-term colleagues. Here are a few:
- Train on data literacy, but always reinforce it. Data literacy is not an initiative that you run for a year, then move on to another topic like coding or advanced analytics. Of course, you rarely need to repeat an identical training program 12 months later, but you can revisit it and build on it with richer data analysis. Moving toward data literacy across an organization requires constant reinforcement and connecting the concepts to real-world projects and experiences. Another idea is to record your basic training content so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel on basics with new colleagues and can offer fresh content to them right away.
- Take popular data culture contests in-house. One way I try to connect data literacy to the world beyond our walls is via contests and competitions. For example, I have always enjoyed Workout Wednesday, which challenges users to recreate data-driven visualizations. Recently I decided to take this idea in-house. Now I find a dashboard that I like and give anyone in the company one month to try to reproduce and improve upon it. At the end of the month I invite all the contributors to meet up and discuss their approaches. People always learn from each other during these conversations, in part because they feel it’s a safe environment where they can try new things without feeling a lot of risk.
- Use literacy consultants. We are all trying to do more with less these days, so I have always reached out to HR, branding, and learning and developing colleagues to lend a hand with data literacy training. Onboarding a consultant to help with designing or launching training is also a great idea. It makes the initiative feel more official and lets you follow up with company-specific guidance afterward.
- Consider one-on-one demos and dialogues. Although it’s always nice to imagine converting a roomful of people to data literacy, the truth is that one-on-one conversations and learning are often where you get traction with users. Sitting across a table (or Zoom call), people are more likely to admit that they don’t quite understand how a visualization is working, and to get the help they need to move forward.
- Stay proactive. If you have a bird’s-eye view of your analytics program, take the opportunity to reach out to users when you see that their server might be operating slowly or that they haven’t opened a specific dashboard in a few months. Sometimes when users get stuck they pull back rather than asking for the help they need.
As your data community grows and scales, make sure that you are asking for help as well. If you are spending nearly all your time assisting users, it might be a sign that you should request another resource for your COE. As data leaders we need to keep everyone engaged and feeling positive about using data, and that starts with us.