Attracting talent is biggest challenge of data leaders

10 August 2023 4 min. read

While business leaders remain broadly positive about their prospects, they are becoming increasingly concerned that they might be missing out on opportunities, due to an inability to recruit quickly. Nearly two thirds of data leaders believe attracting digitally savvy talent is their biggest challenge in the months ahead. 

Business leaders’ outlooks on the broader economy and their own firm’s prospects have regularly converged in recent times. Multiple studies throughout the protracted Brexit process, and uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic, showed that while bosses often feared the worst when it came to the economic health of the UK, they did not seem to believe the same headwinds applied to them. Earlier in 2023, a survey showed that 67% of UK business leaders were upbeat, at least when asked about their own firm’s prospects.

As the UK’s economy looks to recover from a rough few years, however, it is increasingly finding that a shortage of talent is holding it back. The UK has already experienced record-breaking vacancies, which currently stand at 1.1 million – and this has left many businesses still struggling to fill gaps in their teams. But in the long-term, this could get worse before it gets better – with some estimates warning that UK employers face a talent shortfall in the millions by 2030, if they do not find ways to change the situation.

Attracting talent is biggest challenge of data leaders

These concerns appear to be rising to the top of the corporate agenda. While a new survey from professional services firm Dufrain found 92% of data leaders at top firms were optimistic about the value generated from their data and analytics projects, 60% of data leaders were finding it hard to recruiting individuals with the necessary skills. At the same time, 79% of data leaders feared competition from other organisations would further hinder their efforts to attract and retain talent in the years ahead.

Dufrain surveyed 200 data and analytics leaders across the UK and US. Respondents ranged across retail, financial services, banking, insurance, manufacturing, healthcare and FMCG, and had annual revenues of at least $200 million. According to the researchers, the findings send a clear signal that attracting and retaining top talent poses a significant challenge to growth and development in multiple industries over the next 12 months.

Joseph George, CEO at Dufrain, commented, “Our industry depends on the successful recruitment and retention of world-beating talent, and yet so many leaders are struggling to attract the right people to deliver upon growth targets and innovation initiatives. We are on the precipice of a major talent shortage and something must be done.”

Attracting talent is biggest challenge of data leaders

In spite of these fears, a majority of respondents expected to be able to grow their data departments. In the coming five years, 84.5% of leaders said they expected at least a modest headcount increase between 1% and 25%, while 10% expected team sizes to balloon by between 26% and 50%.

But in the short-term, the tightening talent market, and a shortage of relevant skills mean that most are much less confident about their recruitment potential. A 51% majority expected they would grow headcount in their data team between 1% and 25% in the coming two years, while 47% of respondents anticipated no change. If the war on talent really restricts recruitment to this end, it will leave many firms unable to serve client demand at the right capacity, and could see UK and US firms miss out on generating $1.313 trillion of revenue by 2030, in the financial and business services sector alone.

George added, “Recruiting new talent in a highly competitive field can be a challenge for firms. Attracting the right level of expertise is about more than salary. Company culture, employee benefits, and a unified sense of purpose also matter. In the interim, before making that crucial hire, firms should reach out to external advice from recruitment agencies that specialise in this or specialist data consultancies that can really share their learnings and experience to drive the best outcome. An outsider’s perspective combined with decades of sector-specific knowledge can help steer the way while the recruitment process takes its course.”