Federal Data Strategy working group advises agencies on assessing employees’ data skills

The new playbook is design to support action 4 of the strategy's 2020 Action Plan.
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The Federal Data Strategy working group wants agencies to assess their employees’ data skills using a playbook published Monday.

Aptly named the “Assessing Data Skills Playbook,” the guide supports the 2020 Action Plan‘s action 4, which encourages agencies to assess staff data literacy and skills by July 31. The deadline was extended a month due to coronavirus-related delays.

A data skills capacity assessment consists of four major steps: identifying data skills critical to the agency, assessing current staff capacity for those skills, performing a gap analysis to prioritize needs, and finding ways to meet them.

While the playbook outlines how to identify data skills at the agency level, it advises a more granular approach may be taken having an analytics office conduct statistical analysis.


“Having identified the processes and the associated data skills that the agency performs to turn
raw data into actionable knowledge, the agency needs to determine which of those skills staff and managers currently possess,” reads the playbook. “Without a clear understanding of how the current workforce’s data skills match up with needed data skills, the agency cannot determine how to invest in filling gaps.”

Only after a gap analysis is completed can a plan for training management and staff be developed, or else recruiting talent to meet needs.

Chief human capital officers and chief learning officers play a “big role” in step 4, “establishing the strategic approach to recruit and develop talent,” according to the playbook. That might involve the agency’s data governance body directing the analytics office to provide support, identifying learning providers and programs, sharing best practices on the Chief Data Officers Council, and convening subject matter experts and employees.

While not one of the four steps, the guide also recommends agencies share processes, metrics and results with each other and the Office of Management and Budget.

“Beyond the metrics presented in this playbook, agencies should develop performance metrics, assign responsibility, audit practices, collect implementation and outcome data, and document and learn from results,” reads the playbook. “Much of this information will be useful for any future data infrastructure or data skills assessments and sharing with other agencies.”


Overall, the Federal Data Strategy’s 2020 Action Plan “establishes a solid foundation that will support implementation of the strategy over the next decade,” says the document, released last December. “Specifically, the plan identifies initial actions for agencies that are essential for establishing processes, building capacity, and aligning existing efforts to better leverage data as a strategic asset.”

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