Firms spend too little on data literacy despite proven benefits

There is insufficient training and investments in data literacy, despite increasing demand for data skills, which leave business leaders with a false sense of security, according to Tableau.

Commissioned by Tableau, Forrester Consulting surveyed more than 2,000 executives, decision-makers and individual contributors in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States. Respondents work at global companies with more than 500 employees.

In Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ), nearly 80% of decision-makers (Singapore, 78%) say that their department successfully provides its workers with needed data skills. However, less than 40% of regional employees (Singapore, 37%) believe the same.

Singapore organisations have the highest data skills expectations out of all countries surveyed globally with 91% of decision-makers surveyed expect basic data literacy from employees in every department — including product, IT, HR and operations, compared to the global figure of 82%. 

Basic computer and data skills were the top two skills that  decision-makers in Singapore highlighted employees should have fully acquired today.

Meanwhile, expectations for data literacy for employees are only increasing. By 2025, close to 70% of employees in APJ (Singapore, 66%) are expected to use data heavily in their job, up from 38% (Singapore, 36%) in 2018. 

However, while business leaders and employees agree that data skills are increasingly essential to understand and act on the vast amounts of data their organisations produce, that awareness doesn’t translate to investments in data skilling.

Data literacy has a positive correlation with employee retention, as 83% of employees in Singapore  surveyed say they’re more likely to stay at a company that sufficiently trains them with the data skills they need.

However, many workers feel underskilled. Only 35% of surveyed employees in Singapore believe their organisation has equipped them with the data skills they need, 36% of those surveyed in APJ shared the same view. 

Only 28% of organisations in Singapore make data training available to all employees — the lowest of all markets surveyed globally —  with the onus to train people usually falling to department heads or team leads. In comparison, 37% of APJ organisations opened up data training to all employees.

Compounding the issue, the survey revealed that  41% of Singapore’s decision-makers offer training only for employees in traditional data roles such as analytics and data science — the highest of all markets surveyed in APJ and globally. 

Forrester found that upskilling initiatives, formal and informal, can produce clear benefits for employees and businesses alike including improved performance, customer and employee satisfaction and employee retention.