72% leading companies struggle to find analytics talent

10 December 2015 Consultancy.uk 4 min. read

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.”