The Forrester Consulting report, Building Data Literacy: The Key To Better Decisions, Greater Productivity, And Data-Driven Organisations, found that despite increasing demand for data skills, insufficient training and investments are leaving business leaders with a false sense of security.
Enterprises in Asia-Pacific and Japan (APJ) understand the broad and deep value of improved data skills and literacy. Yet, APJ decision-makers and rank-and-file workers surveyed disagree sharply about the adequacy and reach of existing data skills training.
Nearly 80% of the region’s decision-makers (Singapore decision-makers: 78%) say that their department successfully provides its workers with needed data skills. However, less than 40% of regional employees (Singapore employees: 37%) believe the same.
Among respondents in 10 countries surveyed, including Australia and Japan, Singapore organisations were ranked as having the highest data skills expectations.
Singaporean decision-makers and employees recognise that data literacy is increasingly crucial for personal and organisational success. 91% of decision-makers in Singapore surveyed expect basic data literacy from employees in every department — including product, IT, HR and operations, compared to the global figure of 82%.
Basic computer and data skills were the top two skills decision-makers in Singapore highlighted employees should have fully acquired today.
The rising importance of data literacy
Expectations for data literacy for employees are only increasing. By 2025, close to 70% of employees in APJ (Singapore employees: 66%) are expected to use data heavily in their job, up from 38% (Singapore employees: 36%) in 2018.
While business leaders and employees agree that data skills are increasingly essential to understand and act on the vast amounts of data their organisations produce, that awareness doesn’t translate to investments in data skilling.
While it is encouraging to see businesses in the APJ region recognising the critical role data plays in staying competitive, JY Pook, senior vice president and general manager for APJ, Tableau at Salesforce, opined that the value of data can only be realised when all people – not just traditional data-focused roles – are able to draw insights and turn them into action, fast.
“Businesses today must translate this recognition to a commitment by investing in their people through training and development. Only then can they capitalise on the enormous opportunity in our high growth region and drive success,” he continued.
Skills and the Great Resignation
Data literacy has a positive correlation with employee retention. 83% of employees in Singapore surveyed say they’re more likely to stay at a company that sufficiently trains them with the data skills they need.
However, many workers feel underskilled. Only 35% of surveyed employees in Singapore believe their organisation has equipped them with the data skills they need, 36% of those surveyed in APJ shared the same view.
This could be attributed to the fact that only 28% of organisations in Singapore make data training available to all employees – the lowest of all markets surveyed globally – with the onus to train people usually falling to department heads or team leads. In comparison, 37% of APJ organisations opened data training to all employees.
Compounding the issue, the survey revealed that 41% of Singapore’s decision-makers offer training only for employees in traditional data roles (e.g., analytics, data science) - the highest of all markets surveyed in APJ and globally.
The gap suggests an opportunity
The disconnect between decision-makers’ beliefs and the reality employees face may result in steep costs for businesses but also presents an unprecedented opportunity to build a data-driven organisation.
Damien Joseph, associate professor of information technology at Nanyang Technological University’s Nanyang Business School says there is a long-held understanding that data-driven decision-making results in higher levels of productivity and profitability.
“The results of this study continue to show the benefits of data literacy and data training in the form of better decision-making, greater customer experience, and improved employee retention. For an organisation to still resist a data-driven culture is sabotaging itself.” He continued.
Training can start small
Forrester found that upskilling initiatives, formal and informal, can produce clear benefits for employees and businesses alike including improved performance, customer and employee satisfaction and employee retention.
Across the board, employers highly value data-skilled employees — viewing them as making better and faster decisions while being more productive and innovative. Employees in Singapore agree: 86% believe they make better decisions, and 81% make faster decisions when they use data. Across APJ, employees have indicated increased employability (49%) and pay raises (48%) as key motivations for improving their data literacy levels.