HRM Five: Building data literacy across the organisation

It is up to HR professionals to ensure their organisations don't get left behind in the data-driven future. Here's a basic how-to to get started.
By: | September 9, 2018

In HRM Five, we offer pointers on everything you wanted to know about HR practices today, but were too afraid to ask. Check out previous editions of HRM Five here.


Organisations are increasingly realising the potential of big data and analytics in shaping their workforce strategy.

But as noted by Julian Quinn, the Regional Vice President for Qlik Asia-Pacific, you can’t have analytics if you don’t have people who know how to feed in the relevant data — and parse the output.

“With data and technology presenting opportunities for businesses everywhere, data literacy – the ability of people to read, work, analyse and argue with data – will become an important and common skill, and those without it will be limited in what they can accomplish,” he says.

As Singapore is a step ahead in both technology and connectivity, the data literacy skills gap locally is startling, he notes, adding that a global research study by Qlik found that 85 percent of local workers are not data literate — more than the Asia-Pacific average.

The responsibility to be data literate falls on everyone’s shoulders — government, employers, and individuals.

Governments and organisations can foster this mindset by providing all employees with access to relevant data as well as the tools and encouragement to turn it into insights.

On an individual level, people can take simple steps such as asking more questions, and interrogating facts and information given.

Below are Julian’s simple tips for any HR professional that wants to improve their data literacy:


1. Take it upon yourself to ask more questions, interrogating the facts and information you are given.

If you’re shown a graph, be critical and don’t take it at face value – make sure you understand the story it’s really telling.


2. Data is your friend. When you’re tempted to make a decision based on gut feel – stop yourself and check if you could use any data to back up what you’re saying.


3. Begin pinpointing areas where you’re struggling, and could use data to support you.

Make it a rolling effort, so that when you do have the resources to start collecting data, you know what information exactly you need.


4. Proactively make the business case for your company to drive a culture of data literacy.

Numbers talk, and are more effective at winning buy-in than empty rhetoric.


5. Start combining data sets to find even deeper insights.

You don’t necessarily need fancy tools to get started — take a closer look to see what is already available.