Report shows how struggling with data is costing working time for businesses.

Data delay.

A new report from Accenture and Qlik, titled “The Human Impact of Data Literacy” and conducted on behalf of The Data Literacy Project, suggests Australian companies are losing an average of five working days every year because employees are struggling with data.

The survey says that while most organisations understand the incredible opportunity of data, a gap has emerged between their aspirations to be data-driven and the ability of their employees to create business value with data. Data is a gold mine that can fuel a culture of innovation and growth. However, Accenture and Qlik’s survey of 9,000 employees around the world, including 1,000 from Australia, found that when employees struggle to make sense of data, productivity and business value can be affected. In Australia the loss totals 38 hours and 34 minutes per employee, each year. These lost days due to procrastination and sick leave stem from stress around information, data and technology issues, and equate to AUD 13.8bn in lost productivity.

The research identified two ways how the data literacy gap is preventing organisations in Australia from thriving in the data-driven economy.

First, despite nearly all Australian employees (88 per cent) recognising data as an asset, few are using it to inform decision making. Only 25 per cent of surveyed employees believe they’re fully prepared to use data effectively, and one-in-five (20 per cent) report being confident in their data literacy skills – i.e., their ability to read, understand, question and work with data. Additionally, only 39 per cent of employees trust their decisions more when they’re based on data, with almost half (47 per cent) frequently deferring to “gut feel” when making decisions.

Second, a lack of data skills is shrinking productivity. An eye-opening three quarters (72 per cent) of employees report feeling overwhelmed or unhappy when working with data which is impacting their overall performance. In fact, 29 per cent of surveyed employees stated that they will find an alternative method to complete the task without using data. Across Australia, 56 per cent of workers report that data-overload has contributed to workplace stress, culminating in nearly one-third (31 per cent) of them taking at least one day of sick leave due to stress related to information, data and technology issues.

“No one questions the value of data – but many companies need to re-invent their approach to data governance, 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,” said Sanjeev Vohra, group technology officer and global lead for Accenture’s Data Business Group. “Data-driven companies that focus on continuous learning will be more productive and gain a competitive edge.”

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 per cent more likely to say they feel empowered to make better decisions and are trusted to make better decisions. What’s more, 41 per cent of employees in Australia believe that data literacy training would make them more productive.

Jordan Morrow, Global Head of Data Literacy at Qlik and Chair of the Data Literacy Project Advisory Board added: “Despite recognising 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.”

In “The Human Impact of Data Literacy” report, Qlik and Accenture share five steps organisations 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.

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