To make the most out of data tools, empower your people

Tanja Juul Christiansen

By Tanja Juul Christiansen

Our recent research into data maturity found that the organisations that empower their people do more with data. Having the right tools, and the space to use them, is only part of the picture. People, and leaders, are paramount.

Data-driven technology is part of everyone’s lives, even if they don’t know it. The influx of data-fuelled tech is helping to deepen business insights, enhance customer experience, and deliver hyper-personalised products and services. But, for employees, data-driven tools can be anxiety-inducing. There’s a prevailing worry that these tools will replace current jobs. On top of that, the speed of technological development is adding pressure to keep up. Getting familiar with new tools – and exploring opportunities – requires time, space, and new competencies. All of this can lead people to shy away from data tools.

Our research into data maturity across a wide range of Nordic businesses shows that while organisations anticipate an upsurge in the use of data analysis tools like cloud and artificial intelligence (AI), they aren’t making the investments to get there. A major reason for this is people, and their attitudes towards new data tools.

Looking to leaders

Most roles will be impacted by AI, cloud, and data-fuelled technologies, but this impact doesn’t have to be negative. In fact, it can be hugely beneficial. Leaders have a clear role in articulating the future vision of an augmented workforce. In an artificial workforce, people control technology as it carries out work that was previously completed by humans. In contrast, an augmented workforce uses technology to automate repetitive work and enhance people's strengths.

As our research shows, companies that embrace new data-driven technology experience higher business value. But, although data-driven tools are more accessible than ever, reticence remains. There are various reasons for this that go well beyond technical ability. Take ChatGPT. While no special skills are required to use the generative AI application, people need time, confidence, guidance, and explorative competencies to understand how it can help them in their roles. Leaders are uniquely placed to provide this support.

Leaders can shepherd their teams to confidently move towards using data-driven tools by cultivating a growth mindset across the organisation. This includes recognising what’s needed to help employees to feel comfortable and confident in exploring new tools and taking steps to put these things in place.

From fixed mindset to growth mindset

Traditionally, change management has been led by a clear and vivid picture of the end goal. However, today, change happens so quickly that the picture constantly warps. This can amplify anxiety from “I don’t know if I can use this tool” to “will this tool replace me, and how do I keep up and stay relevant?”. A growth mindset can shift the scales by enabling people to be more open to change. A growth mindset is about being curious, eager to learn, and ready to fail. It’s about seeing failure as an opportunity and seeking to improve through collaboration. A growth mindset is continuously developmental, and recognises that the more you learn, the better you get.

Psychological safety is key to developing a growth mindset. When people feel psychologically safe, they have more open conversations and can voice their concerns freely. These transparent, frank conversations help to develop a collective growth mindset and allows them to be more curious and intentional about exploring data tools. This ultimately creates a snowball effect – the more teams experiment with data, the more they will see the benefits – both for them as individuals and for the whole organisation. The results of experiments can then be presented as evidence to guide a course of action, such as investing in cyber skills. This further strengthens the growth mindset and boosts peoples’ courage to adopt advanced data-driven tech.

Lead by example with data champions

One of the most effective ways to drive change and embed a growth mindset is to identify and amplify the voices of change champions across an organisation. These are the people who display confidence and competence with new tools, and who can bring others along with them.

These champions, placed strategically across the organisation, help to drive a growth mindset by demonstrating the art of the possible. They can catalyse change by making sure employees are aware of what tools exist, how to use them, and how they will benefit them in their work.

For example, we worked with a global consumer and manufacturing organisation on a digital transformation programme which sought to optimise the operational landscape and embed new ways of working. We mobilised and upskilled a network of change ambassadors across the organisation to help accelerate digital adoption, leveraging new digital tools to collaborate and engage the business.

Empowering your people to do more with data means curating a growth mindset across the whole organisation. When the whole workforce embodies this culture of curious learning, with a laser-focus on improving how they work today, the results will speak for themselves.

About the authors

Tanja Juul Christiansen
Tanja Juul Christiansen PA people and change expert

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