The importance of fostering a data-driven culture as part of any digital transformation effort cannot be underestimated. It’s a topic we frequently write about here on the APEX of Innovation, including posts about the essentials for driving a data-driven culture, how to build a culture of innovation, and what leaders say about data culture.

A recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) article looked at the role CEOs in particular play in creating and fostering data-driven cultures, offering some specific tips on how CEOs can lead the charge. According to the HBR piece, “Culture depends in large part on the orientation of senior leaders, and especially the CEO.” At the same time, a 2019 Deloitte survey of U.S. executives found that 63 percent did not believe their companies were analytics driven.

The Role of the CEO

So, what exactly can the CEO do to ensure that the organization truly values data analytics? According to HBR, “There is little doubt that a CEO’s own reliance on data–or lack thereof–in decision making and improving the business sends a powerful message to the rest of the organization.” To help, CEOs are encouraged to align data analytics initiatives with projects they “hold dear,” including customer-focused initiatives and employee empowerment. CEOs can also benefit by having an “operational partner” to help lead data analytics initiatives and be a change agent for the company. This role can often be part of a Chief Data Officer’s job.

How to Change Employee Culture

With CEOs clear on the important role they play in a data-driven culture, HBR suggests focusing on “culture change programs” that are aimed at moving the organization forward. These can include:

  • Educational Programs: According to HBR, “Programs such as design thinking exercises, group problem-solving, and hands-on hackathons tend to be more effective than talking heads.” Companies are encouraged to carry out educational programs at every level of the organization.
  • Leading by Example: Highlighting managers and employees who are leading the way in using data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) in their jobs is another way to show value across the company—and drive adoption. According to the HBR article, leaders should also frequently ask if employees have data to support their points or proposals.
  • Promotions and Rewards: Finally, rewarding employees with faster promotions and salary increases can get other employees to notice the value data analytics can not only bring to one’s job, but also to their advancement in the company.

To learn more, including the role of technology and real-world examples, read the complete HBR piece.