Digital Transformation

Data Skills Gap is Costing Organizations Billions in Lost Productivity, Report Finds

Firms globally are still struggling to build teams that can capitalize on the true value of 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, finds a study by Accenture and Qlik, founding members of the The Data Literacy Project.

Conducted on behalf of project, the report titled  “The Human Impact of Data Literacy” concluded 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.

Accenture and Qlik’s survey of 9,000 employees around the world found that each year companies lose an average of more than 5 working days (43 hours) per employee due to procrastination and sick leave that stem from stress around information, data, and technology issues. This equates to billions in lost productivity around the globe:


Lost Productivity (Billion USD)



















The research identified how the data literacy gap is impacting organizations’ ability to thrive in the data-driven economy:

  • Despite nearly all employees (87%) recognizing data as an asset, few are using it to inform decision-making.

  • Only 25% surveyed believe they are fully prepared to use data effectively, and just 21% report being confident in their data literacy skills—i.e., their ability to read, understand, question, and work with data.

  • Almost half (48%) frequently defer to a “gut feeling” rather than data-driven insights when making decisions, with only 37% trusting their decisions more when based on data.

The study found that a lack of data skills is shrinking productivity:

  • Close to three quarters of all surveyed 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% stating that they will find an alternative method to complete the task without using data.

  • Six in 10 respondents report that data-overload has contributed to workplace stress, culminating in nearly one-third (31%) 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 reinvent 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.”

Empowering the Workforce in Data Skills

Employees who identify as data-literate are 50% more likely to say they feel empowered to make better decisions and are trusted to make better decisions. Furthermore, more than one-third of employees surveyed believe that data literacy training would make them more productive.

“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,” said Jordan Morrow, global head of Data Literacy at Qlik and chair of the Data Literacy Project Advisory Board. “…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.”

The Human Impact of Data Literacy Report shares 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. The Data Literacy Project is a global community dedicated to igniting richer discussion and development of tools needed to shape a confident and successful data-literate society.

Note: 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.