Each year, companies around the world are losing five working days per employee to inadequate data skills, according to a newly released report by Accenture and Qlik. The report, titled “The Human Impact of Data Literacy” and conducted on behalf of the Data Literacy Project, found that a whopping 74 percent of employees are overwhelmed by data and are unhappy about working with it. 63 percent do not trust their data-based decisions. 36 percent will avoid using it altogether, resorting to lengthy workarounds instead. 14 percent will avoid not just data but the entire task that requires data!
And 31 percent of employees take at least one day of sick leave a year because of stress related to information, data, and technology issues. The resulting loss of productivity adds up to billions of dollars around the globe as people struggle, procrastinate, try to find alternatives, or simply give up and call in sick.
One possible reason for the problem is a massive gap between the tools available to employees, and the skills they possess for using those tools. The report also found that 67 percent of the global workforce has access to business intelligence tools and 75 percent has access to data analytics software, but at the same time, only 21 percent are actually confident that they are data literate.
The problem, said Jordan Morrow, global head of data literacy at Qlik, is that companies are not training their people to use the tools and the data. “There has been a focus on giving employees self-service access to data, rather than building individuals’ self-sufficiency to work with it,” he said. “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.”
The Accenture report includes several suggestions for closing the gap between tools and skills. Firstly, companies need to understand what kind of data, and how much, is actually required by different roles, and curate it to the user’s needs rather than simply flooding all employees with data across the board. Secondly, business leaders need to understand the real state of data literacy among their workforce, not just assume that their employees know what is going on. And thirdly, companies must invest in educating their employees
Sanjeev Vohra, group technology officer and global lead for Accenture’s data business group, said that 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,” he said.