Data skills gap costs Indian firms productivity worth ₹33,216 crore every year, a new report by Accenture and Swedish data analytics firm Qlik found.

The report released on Wednesday said that India is the world’s most data-literate country, but it’s also the most data-stressed one as workers struggle to make sense of information, data and technology, hitting productivity and business value.

The report, The Human Impact of Data Literacy, was conducted on 9,000 employees in U.K., U.S., Germany, France, Singapore, Sweden, Japan, Australia, and India.

The report found that companies in India lose an average of more than eight working days (69.5 hours) per employee annually. The study found that 74% of employees say that data-overload has contributed to workplace stress, making six in 10 employees (64%) of the local workforce taking at least one day of sick leave due to stress related to information, data and technology issues.

India has the highest time lost globally followed by Singapore at 56.5 hours. While the global average stands at five working days or 43 hours.

“These lost days due to procrastination and sick leave stem from stress around information, data and technology issues, and equate to an estimated $4.6 billion lost productivity,” the report said.

“No one questions the value of data—but many companies need to re-invent their approach to data governance, analysis, and decision-making. This means ensuring that their workforce has the tools and training necessary to deliver on the new opportunities that data presents,” said Sanjeev Vohra, group technology officer and global lead for Accenture’s Data Business Group.

“Data-driven companies that focus on continuous learning will be more productive and gain a competitive edge.”

The research identified two ways in which the data literacy gap is causing disconnect and impacting Indian organisations’ ability to thrive in the data-driven economy. First is that very few people are using data to form decisions.

“More than half (53%) of employees trust their decisions more when based on data, but 80% still frequently defer to “gut feeling” rather than data-driven insights when making decisions,” the report said.

The second way is that lack of data skills is shrinking productivity. The study found that “an eye-opening” 85% of employees in India report feeling overwhelmed or unhappy when working with data, the highest percentage globally.

“A surprising 47% of surveyed employees even state that they will find an alternative method to complete the task without using data at all,” the report said.

The report suggests that to succeed in the data revolution, business leaders must help employees become more confident and comfortable in using data insights to make decisions. “Employees in India who identify as data-literate are at least 25% more likely to say they feel empowered to make better decisions and are trusted to make better decisions,” the report said.

More than half of the employees surveyed believe that data literacy training would make them more productive and this is the highest percentage globally, the report found.

“Despite recognising the integral value of data to the success of their business, most firms are still struggling to build teams that can actually bring that value to life. There has been a focus on giving employees self-service access to data, rather than building individuals’ self-sufficiency to work with it,” Jordan Morrow, global head of data literacy, Qlik, said.

“Yet, expecting employees to work with data without providing the right training or appropriate tools is a bit like going fishing without the rods, bait or nets—you may have led them to water but you aren’t helping them to catch a fish.”

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