New research highlights the importance of staff harbouring strong digital skills – although data shows a concerning gap between the skills employees think they possess and ones which are actually of value to businesses.

A new study by Alteryx, an analytics automation company, warns that staff are becoming over-confident, being largely unaware of the data skills they don’t yet know.

Close to four in five UK workers (79 per cent) classified their digital skills as “above average”.

However, the study showed that many of these workers were primarily skilled in basic data preparation including gathering, sharing and handling.

Only three in 10 staff members (29 per cent) were shown to be proficient at using data to deliver business value – with this group displaying more advanced analytic workflow skills including descriptive (22 per cent) and prescriptive analytics (16 per cent).

The report warns that, despite the clear link between data-driven insights and business agility, this lack of knowledge and skills inflation is stalling business transformation efforts across the UK.

Despite this evident mismatch, over 70 per cent of workers overall believe the pandemic has increased “the importance of having strong data skills to make informed business decisions”.

In addition, these employees clearly see the value of increasing investment into training as the majority of workers felt more training in data work would result in “better” (78 per cent) and “faster” (66 per cent) decisions.

At present, however, just one third (33 per cent) of data workers reported they were confident in their ability to identify trustworthy data, to clean data (36 per cent), and to share it securely (38 per cent).

As such, Alteryx identifies key strategies which could help to harness a workforce more versed in digital skills, including:

  • Delivering the correct kind of training and support – Currently, less than a fifth (17 per cent) report receiving the ‘correct kind’ of data training at work
  • Integrating critical skills incentives
  • Keeping data analytics simple through using the correct skills for the job
  • Upskilling teams to drive data literacy

Alan Jacobson, Chief Data and Analytics Officer at Alteryx, states:

Digital transformation has moved beyond boardroom discussions. It’s now mission critical for UK businesses to be able to assess, analyse, and adapt to constantly shifting requirements through data.

Employees with strong data skills are a core requirement for developing business resiliency and the ability to pivot at speed. Despite the inherent value of data-led decision making, there is a critical disconnect between what skills are reported and the reality.

The majority of data workers are frequently unaware of what they don’t know – and are missing the key skills to deliver on what is needed to drive this transformation forward.

 Richard Timperlake, VP, EMEA, at Alteryx adds that “upskilling in data and analytics doesn’t necessarily involve learning advanced maths or computer programming”.


*Alteryx commissioned market research company YouGov to survey 3,000+ data workers in organisations with more than 500 employees across the UK, France and Germany on the topic of data literacy. The survey ran in May and June 2021 and gathered replies by 1.038 data workers in the UK.