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Assessing the Human Impact of Data Literacy

Jordan Morrow, Global Head of Data Literacy, Qlik


Data is a gold mine that can help the intelligent enterprise drive growth, yet its real potential remains largely untapped.

Data is a gold mine that can help the intelligent enterprise drive growth, yet its real potential remains largely untapped.

While organizations continue to collect, store and analyze data, its real potential remains largely untapped. In large part, this is because many companies struggle to fully utilize the capabilities of their entire workforces, many of whom are not equipped with the skills to drive true value from the data that surrounds them.

To understand The Human Impact of Data Literacy around the world, Qlik and Accenture commissioned research which surveyed over 9,000 workers – at any level and in any job role – globally. This found that just 21 percent of workers are confident in their data literacy skills – the ability to read, understand, question and work with data. This in turn is costing organizations billions in lost productivity around the world.

Data-driven employees underpin a productive workforce

One of the greatest challenges for organizations in the digital age is not capturing data, but turning data into actionable insights to empower employees to make more informed decisions, improve productivity, and drive competitive advantage. That’s why, to succeed in the data revolution business leaders must enable their employees to become more confident and comfortable in using data insights to make decisions. However, the research found that only 25 percent of employees felt that they were fully prepared when entering their current role to use data effectively.

The problem is that if employees do not have the right support and tools, and with technology developing far quicker than the typical employee’s ability to harness data insights, some workers are starting to feel overwhelmed. Indeed, six in 10 respondents (61 percent) report that feeling overwhelmed by data has contributed to workplace stress.

This can have significant consequences for their overall performance, in turn impacting their employers’ results. In fact, the research identified three ways the data literacy gap is harming organizations’ ability to thrive in the data-driven economy:

1. Data appreciation isn’t translating into employee adoption

Despite nearly all employees (87 percent) recognizing data in the workplace as an asset, few are using it to inform decision-making. Only 37 percent of employees trust their decisions more when based on data.

 2. A lack of data skills exacerbates workplace productivity issue

Three quarters of employees report feeling overwhelmed or unhappy when working with data. More than one-third of overwhelmed employees report spending at least one hour a week procrastinating over data-related tasks. Twenty seven percent delay completing those tasks and 14 percent will avoid the task entirely. The negative impact on global organizations productivity due to this is staggering.

 3. Changing technology practices are adding to modern workplace pressure

The growing role of technology in the enterprise has completely transformed many working practices: the way we communicate, build customer relationships, measure success, and make decisions. Fourteen percent of employees report feeling overwhelmed when working with data at least once each day – rising to nearly half of employees once a week.

So, how can businesses succeed in the data revolution? Firstly, they must help their employees become more confident and comfortable in using data insights to make decisions. This is crucial as the research found that those employees who identify as data-literate are nearly twice as likely than their data-illiterate peers to say they feel empowered to make better decisions and trusted to make better decisions.

Your most powerful data tool? Your people

The most powerful asset for businesses in creating value from data is undoubtedly their people. Companies must understand that as the use of data continues to transform, so must the ability of their workforces to make the most of these new opportunities. That’s why organizations must provide employees with the tools, processes and methodologies that enable them to use data as required and meet business goals.

After all, education and empowerment will be the true determining success factors in a data-literate world.