Almost every company today wants to be technology and data-driven. The race for automation, the need for micro-analysis of data, and the desire to be futuristic has pushed companies into taking initiatives that their employees don’t necessarily understand or agree with.
In a research commissioned by Exasol, the analytics database, 63% of UK data decision-makers experienced resistance from employees in adopting data-driven methods. The respondents believed anxieties over redundancy were the most common reason for employee resistance.
As companies race to be data-driven, they need employee buy-ins and a culture that aligns people with technology, and data, to foster and legitimize change. Without employee buy-ins, initiatives deemed progressive become the cause of conflicts, affecting company efficiency and output. Cultures devolve, and turnover rates balloon, causing reputational and financial losses.
So how can companies drive change working with people and data? Liz Henderson, our guest for the 6th episode shares strategic insights on how companies can handle cultural challenges.
Let’s dig in!
Introducing Liz Henderson, the Data Queen
Liz Henderson is an accomplished senior data leader and mentor with experience operating globally, both in consulting and in industry roles.
She brings a depth and breadth of experience in advising organisations on data initiatives including; digital transformation, data migration, mesh, fabric, corporate compliance, and maturing data culture.
Liz supports organisations in developing a data strategy to generate value and recognise data as an asset to enable the delivery of the strategic goals outlined in their business strategy.
Beyond her extensive corporate experience, Liz has a data blog with 9 years of monthly content where she talks about creating data strategies, developing data cultures, data leadership roles, data quality frameworks, master data management, and much more.
Below are some of the questions the WinPure audience asked Liz during the live webinar.
Why are employees resistant to data-driven change?
It’s human behavior to respond with fear and go into a fight or flight mode when faced with change. People are generally slow or resistant to any kind of change; be it a change of bus routes, a new routine, or a new job. Data-driven initiatives are generally perceived as negative changes where employees do not understand what’s happening and feel like a change is being done “to” them, and that’s why they are not comfortable.
According to Liz, being sympathetic to people and having emotional intelligence is the first step in getting employee buy-ins.
What do you mean by data is a people sport?
In one of her blog posts, Liz speaks of data as a people sport. She explains:
“Data is the heart of a business. Where it flows, it infiltrates every part of the business and if you want to change something, even if it’s just that small, siloed area of the business, it will impact people, because that data flows entirely across the organization.
For me, saying data is a people sport means it’s the people that have to interact with the change, the architecture and the technologies. It doesn’t matter whether we have a new process or a new system, people are involved and they drive the change companies want to bring in. What we’re looking for is human change because we want people to evolve and move to new ways of working and making progress. ”
How Can small businesses drive change & align data ownership?
Small businesses and startups do not have the luxury of hiring expensive data talents or using advanced technologies. In such a setup, driving change and aligning data ownership may be a challenge.
According to Liz, business users need to be the owners because the business owns the data. They are the creators, experts, and users. For example, customer service representatives create the data as customers ring up. They understand the data and because they know how to collect data, they also know what data is needed to demonstrate the department is doing the right job.
In such a setup, IT users become facilitators of the technology to enable business users to do things with data as per their department requirements. There also needs to be a data steward in the business who is responsible for the data of that specific department. The steward’s responsibility would be to ensure corrections, check results and assess what needs to be done to make better decisions. The accountability should sit with the data owner of that specific department, such as the Customer Service Director of the customer service department whose job is to ensure the team is doing the right thing and the data is fit-for-purpose.
Why Companies Must Invest in People & Data Literacy Programs Before Investing in Technologies and Systems
There are huge amounts of investment going in data and technologies. Despite having the best intentions, most of these investments are not successful. They are failing to deliver what they want to achieve because they are not getting the people and the cultural elements on point.
So while there is a lot of talk about technology and most CEOs want to invest in more technology, they fail to see what needs to be done on a cultural level to enable the success of that technology solution.
According to Liz, ‘companies must always do a data literacy program, however, before that, the company needs to have a data strategy framework that should answer what you’re trying to do and how you want to achieve that. If there is no strategy at the start as to where you want to get to, then the money’s not going to go to any great use.’
Liz also urges companies to truly understand what data-driven actually means to them as a business and what are they hoping to achieve at the end of the day. They also need to understand how they want to measure and prove success. It’s necessary to go step-by-step and create metrics for every type of change or initiative they want to implement.
How a Federated approach Can Help with Maintaining data quality standards & connect teams
In another question, Liz was asked about the most effective way to maintain data quality standards in siloed departments. If departments are operating in siloes, how does a company maintain ownership, accountability, connectivity, and data quality?
“I am an advocate of data mesh and although that’s technology, not culture, it can be used to put everything together. For example, a company may have a data lake where all the data is put together, but there’s no accountability, and nobody takes responsibility. In such instances, a federated model can be used to connect each other to a center and in the center, there’s a data office where standards are created and implemented to ensure everyone’s following protocols. ‘
Liz talks in detail about the federated approach in her blog titled, ‘ROLES IN YOUR DATA TEAM AND WITHIN YOUR WIDER ORGANISATION TO ACHIEVE DATA SUCCESS.’
It’s important to note that silos are still a debated area. Some companies are dead against it, while others want their data to be independent of each other, therefore, a federated solution provides a mid-ground where teams can tweak and make changes to data according to the guardrails.
To Summarize, Companies Need to Have a Strategy & Communication Plans to drive change
Throughout the webinar, Liz insists on companies having a data strategy that “must” incorporate communication plans designed to help employees embrace change.
Liz suggests companies have sessions like a Data Digby where employees can ask questions without feeling afraid or silly. Regular luncheons, training sessions, and communication exchanges are necessary activities to drive a cultural shift.
Liz simply states and we agree: without a data strategy, you cannot drive change, nor connect people with initiatives. The strategy must include everything – from top sponsorship, C-level buy-ins, metrics to measure, architecture plan, and approach to communication strategies.
We hope you enjoy the webinar. Don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel for future webinars!