Forrester: Lack of Data Literacy Undermines
March 16, 2022
has explored the role data skills play in
driving business outcomes. The study, titled
'Building Data Literacy: The Key To Better
Decisions, Greater Productivity, And
Data-Driven Organizations', found that
despite increasing demand for data skills,
insufficient training and investments are
leaving business leaders with a false sense
For the global study, Forrester surveyed
more than 2,000 executives, decision-makers
and individual contributors in 10 countries,
all working at global companies with 500+
Data skills are increasingly vital, yet
Survey respondents agree, data and analytics
are mission-critical to thriving in
decisions, seeing opportunities and
navigating change. As businesses embrace a
digital first environment, data literacy
becomes increasingly crucial.
"Data offers a key competitive advantage.
Business success depends on training and
enabling everyone across an organization to
use data to make better decisions. To unlock
the power of data, businesses must invest in
their most essential resource — their people
— by providing opportunities for data
training and development beyond traditional
data-focused roles," said Mark Nelson,
President & CEO, Tableau.
Today, 82 percent of decision-makers
surveyed expect basic data literacy from
employees in every department — including
product, IT, HR and operations. And
expectations are only increasing. By 2025,
close to 70 percent of employees are
expected to use data heavily in their job,
up from 40 percent 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 organizations produce, that
awareness doesn't translate to investments
in data skilling.
In fact, nearly three-quarters of
decision-makers believe employees should
improve their own data skills through
ad-hoc, on-the-job knowledge, usually from
coworkers or trial-and-error. Only 39
percent of organizations make data training
available to all employees, with the onus to
train people usually falling to department
heads or team levels.
While the global 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.
As companies rapidly transition to
digital-first models, the need for informed
insights will only intensify. Data
literacy—people's ability to understand and
work with data to the appropriate degree—can
be a stepping stone or stumbling block to
building a data-driven organization.
"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."
small training investments boost business
performance, employee retention and
Forrester found that upskilling initiatives,
formal and informal, 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 agree: 83 percent believe they
make better decisions and 82 percent make
faster decisions when they use data.
Nearly 80 percent of employees surveyed say
they're more likely to stay at a company
that sufficiently trains them with the data
skills they need.
About the study
For this study, Forrester surveyed more than
2,000 executives, decision-makers and
individual contributors in ten countries
including Australia, Brazil, Canada, France,
Germany, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, the
United Kingdom and the United States.
Respondents work at global companies with