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Failure to use data is costing UK business over £10 billion a year, says report

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A report by Qlik and Accenture says that the reluctance to train employees in data analysis is costing the UK and other national economies billions every year.

The report, called the Human Impact of Data Literacy, is based on a survey of 9000 employees across nine countries.

The findings reveal sizeable gaps in the capacities of workforces to fully take advantage of the potential of data to drive better decision-making.

The data gap

Around half to three-quarters of those surveyed said that they use data in their roles (including reading, interpreting, communicating and making data-driven decisions). And the same proportion have access to business intelligence or data analytics software. However, while 87% of those interviewed said data was an asset to their company, only 25% said they felt prepared to use data effectively. Even fewer – 21% – were confident about their data literacy skills.

The report argues that ‘democratising data’ – integrating data-led decision-making at all levels of an organisation – is good for business. However, 48% employees still report that they prefer making decisions based on ‘gut feeling’ rather than data. The proportion was higher at senior manager level, with three-quarters saying they prefer to base decision-making on their gut.

The training gap

The education system is failing to train people to use data. Of those surveyed, only 10% in the UK, 14% in France and 16% in Germany spent a considerable amount of time in education learning to work with data, compared to 52% in India.

Businesses are also not preparing employees to use data, resulting in stress. Three-quarters of those interviewed said they feel overwhelmed and unhappy when they worked with data.

As Jordan Morrow, Global Head of Data Literacy at Qlik and Chair of the Data Literacy Project Advisory Board said:

“…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.”

Financial losses

Stress and anxiety results in the loss of working hours, with 31% of those surveyed saying they had taken at least one day of sick leave:

“Our research actually found that, when accounting for data-induced procrastination and sick leave due to stress resulting from information, data and technology issues, companies lose an average of more than five working days (43 hours) per employee each year.”

The authors estimate that this amounts to a loss of $109.4 billion in the US, £10 billion in the UK and €21 billion in Germany.

And as Consultancy UK argues, the combined impact of ageing and Brexit could see three million jobs unfilled in the UK by 2030.

Becoming data literate

The solution, says the report, lies in training employees becoming more data literate:

“…business leaders should consider how data upskilling could help improve their employees’ use of data. Such training should not focus solely on the hard, technical skills needed for data processes, but also encompass soft skills that help people realise the full value of data—such as collaboration, curiosity, critical thinking and storytelling.”

The report analyses various strategies for encouraging data literacy, from setting clear expectations for data use and providing workforces with the right data tools to ongoing staff training and evaluation.

In order to promote data literacy, the Institute for Apprenticeships has approved nine data-related standards – with two more in development – across a range of levels. Job roles include data scientist, data analyst, geospatial mapping and science specialist and bioinformatics scientist.

So how have they performed?

The data analyst standard looks promising, having 1755 learners across 66 providers. However, geospatial mapping and science specialist – an essential skill for mapping the earth’s resources, currently only has three learners.

Data is becoming a critical part of tomorrow, with the latent possibility of creating an economy and business driven by fact, not prejudice.

Apprenticeships are the key to unlocking that potential.

The Human Impact of Human Literacy report was commissioned by the Data Literacy Project.

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