Data Skills Gap Costing USD Billions in Lost Productivity

Data Skills Gap Costing USD Billions in Lost Productivity

January 24, 2020

New Research from Accenture and Qlik shows firms globally have a data skills gap and are struggling to build teams that can maximise the true value of data.

Accenture and Qlik releases its new report ‘The Human Impact of Data Literacy’ conducted on behalf of The Data Literacy Project, found that while most organizations understand the incredible opportunity of data, a gap has emerged between organizations’ aspirations to be data-driven and their employees’ ability to create business value with data.

The survey canvassed 9,000 employees around the world; it found each year, companies lose an average of more than five working days (43 hours) per employee. These lost days due to procrastination and sick leave stem from stress around information, data and technology issues, and equate to billions in lost productivity around the globe: USD 109.4bn in the US; USD 15.16bn in Japan; USD 13.17bn in the UK; USD 10.9bn in France; USD 9.4bn in Australia; USD4.6bn in India; USD 3.7bn in Singapore; USD 3.2bn in Sweden; and USD 23.7bn in Germany.

The research identified how the data literacy gap is impacting organizations’ ability to thrive in the data-driven economy. First, despite nearly all employees (87 percent) recognizing data as an asset, few are using it to inform decision-making. Only 25 percent of surveyed employees believe they’re fully prepared to use data effectively, and just 21 percent report being confident in their data literacy skills — i.e., their ability to read, understand, question and work with data.

Additionally, only 37 percent of employees trust their decisions more when based on data, and almost half (48 percent) frequently defer to a “gut feeling” rather than data-driven insights when making decisions.

Second, a lack of data skills is shrinking productivity. An eye-opening three quarters (74 percent) of employees report feeling overwhelmed or unhappy when working with data, impacting their overall performance. Some overwhelmed employees will go to further lengths to avoid using data, with 36 percent of surveyed employees stating that they will find an alternative method to complete the task without using data. Six in 10 respondents (61 percent) report that data-overload has contributed to workplace stress, culminating in nearly one-third (31 percent) of the global workforce taking at least one day of sick leave due to stress related to information, data and technology issues.

According to Accenture Group Technology Officer Sanjeev Vohra, no one questions the value of data – but many companies need to re-invent their approach to data government, analysis and decision-making.

“This means ensuring that their workforce has the tools and training necessary to deliver on the new opportunities that data presents. Data-driven companies that focus on continuous learning will be more productive and gain a competitive edge,” says Vohra.

Empowering the workforce 

According to Qlik Global Head of Data Literacy Jordan Morrow, to succeed in the data revolution, business leaders must help employees become more confident and comfortable in using data insights to make decisions.

Employees who identify as data-literate are at least 50 percent more likely to say they feel empowered to make better decisions and are trusted to make better decisions. Furthermore, more than one-third (37 percent) of employees believe that data literacy training would make them more productive.

“Despite recognizing the integral value of data to the success of their business, most firms are still struggling to build teams that can actually bring that value to life. There has been a focus on giving employees self-service access to data, rather than building individuals’ self-sufficiency to work with it. Yet, expecting employees to work with data without providing the right training or appropriate tools is a bit like going fishing without the rods, bait or nets – you may have led them to water but you aren’t helping them to catch a fish,” says Morrow.

In “The Human Impact of Data Literacy” report, Qlik and Accenture share five steps organizations should consider when planning their data literacy strategy to build a data-driven workforce, including setting clear data expectations and creating a culture of co-evolution.

To support data literacy skills, Qlik and Accenture are founding members of the Data Literacy Project, the global community dedicated to igniting richer discussion and developing the tools needed to shape a confident and successful data-literate society.

Creating Data-Driven Culture

To help close the gap, Qlik has launched an industry-first data literacy consulting service to help address the people, process and technology challenges to creating an enterprise-wide data-driven culture.

Qlik says the initial Data Literacy Consulting and Signature Services are available via subscription, and like other subscription services can be customized over time to evolve with customers’ unique needs. It is an education, consulting and change management subscription service designed to drive and create an organization-wide culture of data literacy.

The new service offering includes a 6-step adoption framework supported by services to help organizations adopt data literacy, designed and delivered by a team of data literacy experts whom Qlik claims are globally recognized in the field of data analytics and science.

According to Qlik Chief Product Officer James Fisher, its education, consulting and support services will help organizations drive higher data literacy rates while optimizing value trapped in their data.

“Around the globe, organizations consistently tell us they believe data literacy is essential to their ability to scale data-driven decision making and increase value from data. What they are struggling with is how to best blend the people, process and technology elements necessary for a culture to become truly data-informed. Our new offerings, through a proven structure and expert resources, enable a higher level of customer success when bringing data-driven decisions to every aspect of their business,” says Fisher.

The interest in data literacy services as an enterprise-wide value driver has been steadily growing in the past two years. Qlik’s Data Literacy Index data suggests that large enterprises with higher corporate data literacy experience USD 320-534 million in higher enterprise value (the total market value of the business). This has driven investments in technology to empower employees, which has created unintended consequences that limit data and analytics adoption.

Employee resistance adds a new dimension to the adoption plateau organizations face when deploying data and analytics solutions, increasing the difficulty in extracting ongoing value from data. Fisher claims this has driven demand for over 250 Qlik-led data literacy workshops over the past two years.

Fisher says Data Literacy as a Service is a holistic always-on customer success approach designed to close the data skills gap and drive a data-informed culture by optimizing three components: the value of analytic technology and processes, human capital through a comprehensive, ongoing and product-agnostic data literacy adoption program, and mission-critical analytics with a 24/7 enterprise support foundation.

(Ed. Accenture says The Human Impact of Data Literacy Report is based on research conducted by Opinium amongst 9,000 global full-time employees in organizations of 50+ employees in the UK, USA, Germany, France, Singapore, Sweden, Japan, Australia and India in September 2019. To calculate the average time lost for organizations through data-related procrastination and sickness leave per year, the research team calculated the total of the average hours of time wasted from procrastination per week (measured against the average working weeks per country at 44.84 weeks) and the average days lost through data-related sickness leave each year. The time lost per employee was calculated at 43 hours per year.)

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