Data skills gap costing Singapore companies S$5.1bn annually

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A study of 1,000 workers in Singapore found that Singapore businesses are losing a staggering S$5.1bn in productivity every single year because the workforce of today is not data literate (i.e. employees don’t know how to read and work with data, despite it being crucial to their jobs). This is leading to a productivity crisis that we cannot ignore and means that firms are not able to capitalise on the true value of their data.

The new report from Accenture and Qlik, titled “The Human Impact of Data Literacy” and conducted on behalf of The Data Literacy Project, found that a gap has emerged between Singaporean organisations’ 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 1,000 employees in Singapore found that each year, local companies lose an average of more than seven working days (56.5 hours) per employee. This is the second-highest time globally (after India with 69.5 hours) and significantly higher than the average of five working days (43 hours). These lost days due to procrastination and sick leave stem from stress around information, data and technology issues, and equate to S$5.1bn in lost productivity.

Data literacy gap is negatively impacting Singapore organisations

The research identified two ways in which the data literacy gap is impacting Singapore organisations’ ability to thrive in the data-driven economy.

First, despite nearly all employees (90%) recognising data as an asset, few are using it to inform decision-making. Only a quarter (26%) of surveyed employees believe they’re fully prepared to use data effectively, and just 16% report being confident in their data literacy skills — i.e., their ability to read, understand, question and work with data. Additionally, only a third (35%) of employees trust their decisions more when based on data, and more than half (53%) 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 84% of employees report feeling overwhelmed or unhappy when working with data, almost the highest percentage globally (after India with 85%). 40% of surveyed employees even state that they will find an alternative method to complete the task without using data at all. Seven in 10 respondents (73%) report that data-overload has contributed to workplace stress, culminating in nearly half (47%) of the local workforce taking at least one day of sick leave.

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. Singaporean employees who identify as data-literate are nearly 50% more likely to feel empowered and trusted to make better decisions. Furthermore, almost half (48%) of employees believe that data literacy training would make them more productive.

In “The Human Impact of Data Literacy” report, Qlik and Accenture share five steps which organisations 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 amongst 9,000 global full-time employees in organisations of 50+ employees in the UK, USA, Germany, France, Singapore, Sweden, Japan, Australia and India. 1,000 employees in Singapore were surveyed.

To calculate the average time lost for organisations through data-related procrastination and sickness leave per year, we calculated the total of the average hours of time wasted from procrastination per week (measured against the average working week in Singapore at 46.4 weeks) and the average days lost through data-related sickness leave each year. The time lost per employee was calculated at 56 hours 37 minutes per year.

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