Firms are losing billions yearly due to data skills gap

Photo by Annie Spratt

A gap has emerged between organisations’ aspirations to be data-driven and their employees’ ability to create business value with data, even if most organisations understand the incredible opportunity of data, a new report from Accenture and Qlik shows.

Titled  “The Human Impact of Data Literacy” and conducted on behalf of The Data Literacy Project, the report found that when employees struggle to make sense of data, productivity and business value can be affected. 

Accenture and Qlik’s survey of 9,000 employees around the world found that 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 — $109.4 billion in the United States; $15.16 billion in Japan; $13.17 billion in the United Kingdom; $10.9 billion in France; $9.4 billion in Australia; $4.6 billion in India;  $3.7 billion in Singapore; $3.2 billion in Sweden; and $23.7 billion in Germany.

The research identified how the data literacy gap is impacting organisations’ ability to thrive in the data-driven economy. First, despite nearly all employees (87% recognising data as an asset, few are using it to inform decision-making.

Only 25% of surveyed employees believe they’re fully prepared to use data effectively, and just 21% report being confident in their data literacy skills — their ability to read, understand, question and work with data.

Second, a lack of data skills is shrinking productivity. About three quarters (74%) 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% of surveyed employees stating that they will find an alternative method to complete the task without using data.

“Many companies need to re-invent their approach to data government, analysis and decision-marking,” said Sanjeev Vohra, group technology officer and global lead for Accenture’s Data Business Group.

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