Tableau published new commissioned Forrester Consulting research exploring the role data skills play in driving business outcomes. The survey, titled ‘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.
Improved data literacy and skills are valuable to businesses in Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ). Nonetheless, the adequacy and reach of existing data skills training are points of contention for APJ decision-makers and rank-and-file personnel polled. Almost 80% of decision-makers in the region (78% in Singapore) feel their department is successful in providing critical data skills to its employees. However, just about 40% of regional employees (and only 37% of Singapore employees) agree.
In the global survey, Forrester surveyed more than 2,000 executives, decision-makers and rank-and-file workers in 10 countries, including Australia, Japan and Singapore. Respondents work at global companies with 500+ employees.
Singapore organisations have the highest data skills expectations out of all countries surveyed globally
According to decision-makers and employees, data literacy is becoming increasingly important for personal and organisational success in Singapore. In Singapore, 91% of decision-makers expect basic data literacy from employees in every department, including product, IT, HR, and operations, compared to 82% globally. Decision-makers in Singapore underlined basic computer and data skills as the top two talents that employees should have completely acquired today.
Employees' data literacy expectations continue to rise. Nearly 70% of APJ employees (66% of Singapore employees) are predicted to use data heavily in their jobs by 2025, up from 38% (Singapore employees: 36%) in 2018. While company executives and employees agree that data skills are becoming increasingly important for understanding and acting on the massive volumes of data generated by their companies, this awareness does not transfer into data skill investments.
“It is encouraging to see businesses in the APJ region recognising the critical role data plays in staying competitive. But 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 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,” said JY Pook, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Asia Pacific and Japan, Tableau at Salesforce.
Employees empowered with data skills are more likely to stay but, according to results, organisations are not investing enough in training
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 may be due to the fact that only 28% of Singaporean businesses provide data training to all employees, the lowest of any market examined internationally, with department heads or team leads typically bearing the brunt of the training responsibility. In comparison, 37% of APJ companies gave all employees data training.
Compounding the issue, the survey found that 41% of decision-makers in Singapore only provide training for employees in traditional data jobs (e.g., analytics, data science) - the highest percentage of any market surveyed in APJ and globally.
While the regional and local data literacy skills gap is clear, so is the 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.
“We’ve seen a 96-fold return on our data investments. Data culture is more of a journey than a destination. Celebrate your wins along the way but always look to improve. Data’s value is the existential: the existence of your business,” said Clive Benford, Data Officer Director, Jaguar Land Rover. “If you don’t become a data-driven business, I don’t think you’ll be here in 20 years. The long-term value is existence.”
Damien Joseph, Associate Professor of Information Technology at Nanyang Technological University’s Nanyang Business School concurs, saying: “We have long known 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.”
Even small training investments can boost business performance, employee retention and innovation
Forrester discovered that formal and informal upskilling activities can benefit both people and enterprises, such as enhanced performance, customer and employee satisfaction, and staff 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.