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When employees hear the word data, many think of a series of numbers and calculations that remain understood by data scientists alone. Beyond believing that data is too complex to understand, many think that incorporating data into their work will add hours to everything they do.
But most teams are already using data in their jobs every day. They just don’t recognize it as such.
Data can be defined as anything that tracks performance, processes, people, platforms and profitability across an organization. This means everything from how projects are progressing and the efficiencies of internal processes to employee turnover, sales and revenue numbers. There are many forms of data and most of it — especially with today’s technology — is accessible and easy to understand without a data science degree.
Once teams realize that they’re using data regularly and that it’s not as intimidating as it seems, they can put it to work.
Introducing the data generation: Gen Z
Like every generation before them, Gen Z employees are taking a new approach to the workplace.
While their commitment to a healthy work-life balance, a culture they align with and an opportunity for career development is top of mind for most companies, this new generation of workers also places importance on performing well in their jobs. But, instead of relying on frequent check-ins and feedback from their manager, they’re looking to workplace data to quantify their work and track performance.
Data has become a critical component of how Gen Z workers do their jobs and grow in their careers. While older generations may find the idea of data daunting, as digital natives, data is not something Gen Z initially see as “too complicated or complex.” According to Slingshot’s 2023 Digital Work Trends Report, Gen Z workers use data more than any other generation. While nearly three-fourths (74%) of Gen Z workers use data to improve performance, only 61% of Boomer workers (ages 59+) say the same.
For these Gen Z employees, data–or any metric that tracks progress and performance–is not something they occasionally use in the workplace either. One hundred percent (100%) of Gen Z workers say they use data at work at least a few times a week, with 61% saying they use it daily.
Data drives productivity, performance and better decisions for Gen Z workers, but its impact on work isn’t exclusive to this generation alone.
Here are three ways companies can get the rest of the company to follow Gen Z’s lead and create a data-driven organization:
1. Showcase the power of data.
Employees use data — many without knowing it — to complete daily tasks and share status updates. But data is so much more powerful than a number in a spreadsheet. Data can be used to improve performance, understand customer behaviors and needs, prioritize goals and drive better decisions.
Decisions, for instance, are currently made in the workplace from gut instinct, by a senior decision-maker, or simply by guessing. While these kinds of decisions work out every now and then — companies can’t risk that. With data, teams can look back and find trends to help them make more informed decisions for what’s ahead.
There have been many instances where companies have launched a product because they simply think there’s a fit in the market — but they haven’t actually spoken with the market directly. Or teams that launch a new social campaign without looking at how similar campaigns have performed. It’s not surprising that, in these cases, the projects are not successful.
Data is quite simply the key to success for every business. Teams just need to start to unlock their power.
2. Make data accessible to everyone–at any time.
Once teams understand how impactful data can be to their performance and productivity, it’s up to companies to help them put it at the center of everything they do.
This means breaking down the data silos so not just one person or one team is the gatekeeper of specific data. Every individual should be able to access data across all departments at any time, to get a 360-view into the organization.
This makes it easier to power projects that cross multiple departments and enables every team member to make better decisions because they have a holistic view of the organization. With every piece of data easily accessible, teams no longer see just one side of the story.
3. Upskill employees and implement data-driven workplace tools.
Employees don’t need to have extensive training to understand data. Much of the data they use daily can be interpreted at face value. Spotting trends in data, on the other hand, can be trickier–but not impossible.
Companies can implement workplace tools that help workers to easily visualize and understand data–at any level of data training. Of course, there will likely be some upskilling and onboarding along the way, but this will only help workers make the most out of their data. With these kinds of tools in place, employees can spot trends and interpret the meaning of these trends to make better, more intelligent decisions.
A new generation of workers in town is utilizing workplace data in the way that it should be used. Companies need to extend the data-driven work Gen Z workers do across their organizations to drive productivity, performance and better decisions.