New Research from Accenture and Qlik Shows the Data Skills Gap is Costing Organizations Billions in Lost Productivity

Firms globally are still struggling to build teams that can capitalize on the true value of data

PHILADELPHIA and NEW YORK; – new report from Accenture (NYSE: ACN) and Qlik, titled “The Human Impact of Data Literacy” and conducted on behalf of The Data Literacy Project, found that while most organizations understand the incredible opportunity of data, a gap has emerged between organizations’ aspirations to be data-driven and their employees’ ability to create business value with data.

Data is a gold mine that can fuel a culture of innovation and growth. However, when employees struggle to make sense of data, productivity and business value can be affected. Accenture and Qlik’s survey of 9,000 employees around the world found that each year companies lose an average of more than five working days (43 hours) per employee. These lost days due to procrastination and sick leave stem from stress around information, data and technology issues, and equate to billions in lost productivity around the globe: $109.4bn in the US; $15.16bn in Japan; $13.17bn in the UK; $10.9bn in France; $9.4bn in Australia; $4.6bn in India; $3.7bn in Singapore; $3.2bn in Sweden; and $23.7bn in Germany*.

The research identified how the data literacy gap is impacting organizations’ ability to thrive in the data-driven economy. First, despite nearly all employees (87 percent) recognizing data as an asset, few are using it to inform decision-making. Only 25 percent of surveyed employees believe they’re fully prepared to use data effectively, and just 21 percent report being confident in their data literacy skills — i.e., their ability to read, understand, question and work with data. Additionally, only 37 percent of employees trust their decisions more when based on data, and almost half (48 percent) frequently defer to a “gut feeling” rather than data-driven insights when making decisions.

Second, a lack of data skills is shrinking productivity. An eye-opening three quarters (74 percent) of employees report feeling overwhelmed or unhappy when working with data, impacting their overall performance. Some overwhelmed employees will go to further lengths to avoid using data, with 36 percent of surveyed employees stating that they will find an alternative method to complete the task without using data. Six in 10 respondents (61 percent) report that data-overload has contributed to workplace stress, culminating in nearly one-third (31 percent) of the global workforce 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-marking. 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.”

Empowering the workforce to thrive in a data-driven economy
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 percent more likely to say they feel empowered to make better decisions and are trusted to make better decisions. Furthermore, more than one-third (37 percent) of employees 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 recognizing 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 organizations 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.

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

About the research

The Human Impact of Data Literacy” report is based on research conducted by Opinium amongst 9,000 global full-time employees in organizations of 50+ employees in the UK, USA, Germany, France, Singapore, Sweden, Japan, Australia and India in September 2019.

To calculate the average time lost for organizations through data-related procrastination and sickness leave per year, the research team calculated the total of the average hours of time wasted from procrastination per week (measured against the average working weeks per country at 44.84 weeks) and the average days lost through data-related sickness leave each year. The time lost per employee was calculated at 43 hours per year.

*All figures are in USD

About Accenture

Accenture is a leading global professional services company, providing a broad range of services and solutions in strategy, consulting, digital, technology and operations. Combining unmatched experience and specialized skills across more than 40 industries and all business functions — underpinned by the world’s largest delivery network — Accenture works at the intersection of business and technology to help clients improve their performance and create sustainable value for their stakeholders. With 505,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries, Accenture drives innovation to improve the way the world works and lives. Visit us at

About Qlik

Qlik’s vision is a data-literate world, one where everyone can use data to improve decision-making and solve their most challenging problems. Only Qlik offers end-to-end, real-time data integration and analytics solutions that help organizations access and transform all their data into value. Qlik helps companies lead with data to see more deeply into customer behavior, reinvent business processes, discover new revenue streams, and balance risk and reward. Qlik does business in more than 100 countries and serves over 50,000 customers around the world.

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