72% leading companies struggle to find analytics talent

10 December 2015 Consultancy.uk

Finding the right analytics talent, the so-called ‘trilinguals’, is increasingly a problem, research by A.T. Kearney shows. As many as 72% of leading analytics companies are currently struggling to find that talent, a number the consulting firm expects to increase as the need for digital and analytics talent will grow by 33% until 2020. Companies need to know their needs and re-evaluate their current talent model to avoid losing out on talent.

A.T. Kearney recently released its ‘2015 Leadership Excellence in Analytic Practices’ (LEAP) study, which looks at the opportunities and challenges that companies face as they seek to build the next generation of digital and analytics talent. The consulting firm surveyed 430 senior executives across 10 countries and 30 industries, and divided their companies into four categories: ‘leaders’ (8%), ‘explorers’ (27%), ‘followers’ (41%) and laggards (24%).

In order to compete in today’s data-driven world, companies need to recruit, develop, and retain the best digital and analytics talent. This talent, according to the research, is a new breed of worker proficient in technology, core critical thinking, and analytics. These elite analytics employees do more than just analyse data; they are business smart and provide their companies with truly usable insights. Khalid Khan, A.T. Kearney partner and co-author of the study, explains: “One way to look at analytics talent is that the top analytics employees are truly ‘trilingual’—these are people who understand the languages of analytic modelling, technology, and business. Trilinguals are analytical and creative, insightful and inquisitive, and they are willing to look outside of the box for new solutions.”

The research shows that leaders are looking for this kind of talent as they cite both business and data skills as important. Specifically ‘domain knowledge’ (100%), ‘data management’ (94%) and ‘visualisation and reporting’ (94%) are rated as critically important, while from a laggards’ perspective, the same skills are far less important. “For leading companies, building digital and analytics capabilities is a strategic priority. These companies know how to apply these capabilities to their businesses, and they take the time and effort needed to recruit and retain the top talent,” says Christian Hagen, A.T. Kearney partner and study co-author.

Almost half (43%) of respondents say at least 10% of their digital analytics positions are unfilled, of which 4% has more than 30% unfilled. Just under a third (29%) has less than 5% vacancies. Of the leaders, as many as 72% indicate to having difficulties attracting and retaining analytics talent. A.T. Kearney foresees the shortfall in wanted talent to worsen in the coming five years, as it estimated that the need for such talent will grow by 33%. The industry with the biggest need for digital and analytics talent is the Communications, Media and Technology sector, at 43%, followed by Financial Services (36%), Automotive (35%) and Industrials (35%).

Recruitment strategies
Different kinds of companies have different strategies when it comes to finding and recruiting the sought-after talent. Although both leaders and laggards find the largest share of their talent by hiring experienced external hires (37% and 48% respectively), leaders are more likely than laggards to hire straight out of college or university. According to the research, this option is chosen as it allows the companies to teach these junior hires specific skills necessary for the company’s business and industry and be just as or more valuable over the long term.

“There is no one-size-fits-all strategy. Every organisation will have its own needs to pursue both near and long term, and understanding those needs will help determine what skills are needed. A good strategy will determine early where there are already good pockets of expertise, where more talent is needed, and where talent could be better used,” the researchers conclude. “The most successful models will disrupt the current talent model and cut across traditional organisational boundaries. It will be critical to work through the ‘rules of engagement’ and organisational governance.”

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Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

17 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

Soft skills matter in the workplace just as much as technical expertise, writes Samantha Caine, Managing Director of Business Linked Teams.

For too long technical expertise has been seen as the marker of a strong candidate for development into a sales or leadership position. Sales and leadership candidates are tasked with demonstrating a diverse and wide-ranging set of technical skills, yet their aptitude in these technical skills or ‘hard skills’ cannot signify great leadership potential. This is why a healthy balance of soft skills and technical ability is required. 

So what exactly is the difference between technical skills and soft skills? In engineering, it’s crucial to demonstrate knowledge of physics as well as a strong grasp on mathematical equations. Yet, in any industry, it’s important for leaders to be able to interact with other people effectively with soft skills like communication, empathy and adaptability. 

Business Linked Team’s 2018 study into internal leadership development revealed that 69% of large organisations are prioritising the identification and development of future leaders from within the workforce. As more and more organisations begin to invest in sales or leadership development within their existing workforces, more focus needs to be placed on ensuring the right soft skills are in place. 

With those soft skills in place throughout the workforce, the business will benefit from a wider pool of potential leaders developing under their noses, and it should be the same where sales candidates are concerned. 

It’s not just about easier access to ideal candidates for these positions without the rigmarole of recruiting from outside of the organisation. The leadership development study also found that 89% of HR decision makers say succession planning has become a top priority. Those currently serving in leadership positions can’t lead forever and the same goes for those generating sales for the business.

Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

From people leaving for new opportunities or retirement, to people simply stepping aside to focus on other areas of the business, successful leaders and salespeople require experienced and capable successors that will be ready and able to confidently step into their shoes and pick up the mantle without the business experiencing any lapse in performance.

Soft skills make stronger candidates

When it comes to the soft skills required, a strong leader must be able to manage through clear communication and effective time management, coaching and goal setting. They must be able to demonstrate empathy and empower their teams to be successful, productive and fully engaged. And beyond simply giving direction, they must also be able to take direction from those above them and cascade the business strategy down through their teams. 

A strong sales candidate must possess the ability to communicate value to the customer, negotiate well and protect margin or the ability to increase the scope of a particular sales opportunity. 

With the relevant soft skills in place, the business will benefit from increased productivity, greater agility against changing market conditions and greater transparency. In turn, this will provide visibility on issues and inefficiencies while removing opportunity for miscommunication. All of this can transform the culture of a department, improving employee satisfaction and reducing staff turnover. 

Ultimately, developing leadership or sales candidates will require the business to strike the right balance between technical skills and soft skills, and this requires an effective and sustained learning journey.

A balanced learning journey

Facilitating and supporting the development of leadership and sales is best achieved by establishing training groups. By cultivating training groups, businesses are creating talent pools that will inspire and support each other on the learning journey. However, personal goals and learning objectives must be defined for each individual based on their own existing skillsets and the skills that each individual needs to develop. 

With the emergence of e-learning, businesses recognise the value of online-based learning activities, yet many make the mistake of opting for one-size-fits-all solutions which are solely focused on self-study. A development solution will only deliver true return on investment if it combines e-learning activities with group learning activities that provide opportunity for shared experiences and support.

A blended learning solution that combines self-study and face-to-face group learning activities will aid strong development of the talent pool through shared experiences. Through these shared experiences, those undergoing the training will organically develop a support network that supports the development of the group as much as it supports the development of each individual. 

The blended learning approach is supported by one of the seven principles of human learning that socially supported interactions aid the individual development of expertise, metacognitive skills, and formation of the learner’s sense of self. The strongest opportunities for development can be unlocked by blending workshops with online activities such as virtual sessions, peer coaching, self-study, online games and business simulations. But it’s crucial to provide a blend of one-to-one and group sessions too.

Beyond delivering a better learning outcome for the employee, the blended learning approach allows organisations to adapt their training quickly and easily to shifting business demands in an ever-changing landscape.