Data literacy in HR: Why is Australia falling behind?

'In an increasingly uncertain world, data gives companies the power to better guide decisions'

Data literacy in HR: Why is Australia falling behind?

Data literacy is shaping up to be a major issue in the Australian workforce in the immediate future. Research carried out by Qlik, a leader in data analytics, revealed that just over one in five employees in Australia and New Zealand believe their employer is preparing them for a more data-oriented and automated workplace (23%).

Further to that, 37% of ANZ employees surveyed reporting they had changed jobs in the last 12 months because their employer wasn’t offering enough upskilling and training opportunities.

The report: Data Literacy: The Upskilling Evolution produced by Qlik in partnership with The Future Labs combines insights from expert interviews with surveys from over 1,200 global C-level executives and 6,000 employees, reveals that there is a stark need to better upskill workforces to support the workplace transition that is already underway.

“In an increasingly uncertain world, data gives companies the power to better guide decisions, but it is only as powerful as the ability to use it,” Dr. Paul Barth,

global head of data literacy, Qlik, said. “As the world becomes more and more data centric, data literacy training is essential across all fields, not just for data science specialists.

“Our research shows that only one in 10 employees in finance, marketing and HR teams are offered data literacy training, despite the fact that approximately 70% of these staff need these skills on an everyday basis. Enterprise leaders need to understand where data can solve problems and drive value in the business and invest in the skills to realize it.”

The most in-demand skill

The study found that business leaders and employees alike predict that data literacy - defined as the ability to read, work with, analyse, and communicate with data - will be the most in-demand skill by 2030 with 88% of executives believe it will become as vital in the future as the ability to use a computer is today.

This reflects the greater appreciation of data in the enterprise. Global employees surveyed report their use of data and its importance in decision-making has doubled over the past year. While 87% of executives now expect all team members to be able to explain how data has informed their decisions.

Determining what courses to study to improve your work employability is not a straightforward task.

“Data Literacy training should cover three areas,” Dr Barth added. “First, people should learn the decision-making process, from asking clear, data-oriented questions, to understanding data and KPI’s, and validating insights by challenging the data.

“Second, it should cover basic statistical concepts – understanding data aggregations and distributions to see trends, identifying noisy or biased data to avoid misleading results, and data visualizations that reveal insights.

“Finally, people should learn ‘soft’ skills essential for turning insights into action. Understanding cognitive biases—traits we all have—ensures they look past their assumptions and expectations to see the data clearly.  Data storytelling hones their ability to communicate effectively to a non-technical audience. And collaboration skills enable teams to share their insights and stay aligned to deliver continuous improvements.”

Underpinning more intelligent and automated working practices

The demand for data skills reflects the significant shift in the workplace, due to the rise of AI. The enterprise leaders who took part in the study believe employee working practices will change to become more collaborative, with intelligent tools helping them make better decisions (86%) and become more productive (86%).

To realize its potential, almost half (47%) of C-level respondents predict their organization will hire a chief automation officer within the next 3 years, rising to 100% within the next decade. But the investment cannot end at senior hires; those on the front line need support during this transition. And 61% of employees surveyed believe that data literacy will help them stay relevant in their role with the growing use of AI.

“While employers are increasing their investment and data literacy training - 49% in the next year - it still lags far behind the expectations of employees,” Dr Barth said. “Approximately 45% of employees are anxious that their employer isn’t taking responsibility for nurturing their skills, and they are spending both time, seven hours/month, and money, $2,800, upskilling themselves.

“Employees are voting with their feet – 45% said they would change jobs if they could get better preparation and training, and 35% have done so in the past 12 months. Employers will have to pay more to replace these lost skills - in the US executives expect to pay a 20% premium for workers with data literacy skills.”

Australia falling behind

Australia has a long way to go to catch up to meet the expected future demand.

“In our survey Australians cited some of the highest need - up to 83% - for data literacy in some departments, while their employers offered some of the lowest levels of data literacy training, as low as 8%, to them. Twelve per cent of Australian employees felt fully confident in their data literacy skills, which was slightly above the global average of 11%, however, this confidence was lower than the UK at 13% while significantly behind the US at 22%.”

Data literacy is going to be an essential requirement for the employee of the very near future. Employers need to get onboard or employees might jump overboard to a nearby competitor.


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