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Wednesday, 18 March 2020 12:48

Data literacy gap costing Australia $13.8 billion in lost productivity: claim Featured

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There’s a data literacy gap in Australia and businesses’ failure to put employees at heart of data strategy is costing the country $13.8 billion in lost productivity, according to a new report.

According to the joint global report - The Human Impact of Data Literacy - from management consulting and professional services firm Accenture and analytics vendor Qlik, Australian businesses are failing to capitalise on the value of data due to the data skills gap - and 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,” the report says.

“In Australia, companies lose an average of five working days (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 A$13.8bn in lost productivity.”


Accenture and Qlik say the research identified two ways on how the data literacy gap is preventing organisations in Australia from thriving in the data-driven economy.

“First, despite nearly all Australian employees (88%) recognising data as an asset, few are using it to inform decision-making,” the companies note.

“Only 25% of surveyed employees believe they’re fully prepared to use data effectively, and one-in-five (20%) report being confident in their data literacy skills — i.e., their ability to read, understand, question and work with data. Additionally, only 39%of employees trust their decisions more when they’re based on data, with almost half (47%) frequently deferring to ‘gut feel’ when making decisions.”

“Second, a lack of data skills is shrinking productivity,” the companies say.

“An eye-opening three quarters (72%) of employees report feeling overwhelmed or unhappy when working with data which is impacting their overall performance. In fact, 29% of surveyed employees stated that they will find an alternative method to complete the task without using data.

“Across Australia, 56% 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."

According to the report, to succeed in the data revolution, business leaders must help employees become more confident and comfortable in using data insights to make decisions.

The report says that employees who identify as data-literate are at least 50% more likely to say they feel empowered to make better decisions and are trusted to make better decisions - and 41% 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 said that “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.”

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

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - retired and is a "volunteer" writer for iTWire. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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