How To Solve the Data Literacy Skills Gap?

This article was written by Kevin Hanegan and originally appeared on the Qlik Blog here:


There is no doubt that the importance of data in the workplace has accelerated exponentially over recent years. This acceleration is taking place across every industry. Research from Qlik and Accenture found two-thirds (63%) of all employees now report using data to make a decision at least once per week. How is this benefiting organizations? A 2019 survey by McKinsey & Company showed that companies where employees consistently use data in decision-making are one-and-a-half times more likely to report revenue growth of more than 10% in the past three years.


However, the challenge is that we currently have a workforce skills gap. The same research from Qlik and Accenture found that just 21% of employees surveyed felt confident in their data literacy skills. According to Gartner, 50% of organizations lack sufficient data literacy skills to achieve business value.

How many times have you made a decision, even a subconscious one, and later realized that you misunderstood the data – or you jumped to an incorrect conclusion or you made a decision that had unintended consequences that you did not think about? We all do this routinely. How many times did you say to yourself in hindsight that you did not understand the full context at the time, or you potentially saw what you wanted to see, so you did not dive deeper? In these all too common situations, the problem is not the data; it is how we interpret and use the data, as well as how we challenge what we see and what may be missing from the data.

What is the solution? It is all about continuous learning and upskilling your data literacy skills. However, increasing your data literacy skills is not just about learning a data analytics tool. It is about achieving a better overall understanding of data, so that you can understand and work with it more efficiently and accurately. You can then combine this understanding with competencies in various soft skills that allow you to actively listen to diverse perspectives, challenge assumptions, and be aware of and mitigate any bias that exists when working with data.

Take listening, for example. We spend more time listening than we do any other form of communication. However, in schools, the focus has historically been on other forms of communication, like reading and writing. We spend very little time on speaking and even less on learning, listening and training. The same goes with understanding data. We may spend time learning software that will analyze data, but we do not spend enough time learning about data itself. These core skills are absolutely essential for employees and organizations today.

This is why I am so pleased to announce the new Qlik Professor Ambassador Program. This program celebrates university educators globally who are driving change within their curricula to provide needed data literacy skills to their students. These educators are helping inspire the next generation of data workers and leaders by providing their students with learning opportunities to become more data literate.

Congratulations to our inaugural class:

  • Richard Wilkinson, Senior Lecturer in Computing, University of Worcester (UK)
  • Jerry Roek, Adjunct Faculty in Statistics and Business Analytics, Oakland University, Texas A&M - San Antonio (US)
  • Javier Leon, Adjunct Professor in Business Intelligence and Analytics, Saint Joseph's University and Villanova University (US)
  • Angelika Klidas, Lecturer in Data and Analytics, University of Applied Sciences Amsterdam (NL)
  • Blerim Emruli, Senior Lecturer in Informatics, Lund University (SE)
  • Sukanta Ghosh, Assistant Professor in Computer Applications, Lovely Professional University (IN)
  • Josué Lima Romano, Research Professor in Economic and Social Sciences, Universidad de Congreso (AR)