Addressing the Analytics Skills Gap

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On the final day of last week's MIT Symposium, the sole focus was on the skills gaps organizations are facing in trying to advance their analytics efforts – and what corporations and universities are doing about it. A great many companies are looking to hire talent for their analytics teams – but that talent is in short supply. Try searching for analytics jobs on any of the popular job boards. When I searched for “data analyst” on Indeed.com, I found over 80,000 job postings.

We are seeing the skills crunch within HR organizations. Most of the mature HR analytics teams I talk with are looking to hire staff with a diversity of skills and experiences. These include technical backgrounds in statistics, social sciences, database, IT, and systems. They also include skills in consulting, communications, and business acumen. This diversity of skills makes the team strong at all aspects of the reporting and analytics process.(See Figure 1.)

One of the biggest skills gaps on these teams today is the ability to tell the story – someone who can take data or a statistical model and explain it to business leaders in terms of what it means, why they should care, and what they should do about it. This skill set is often lacking in an analytics team, particularly among the technical staff. I was encouraged to hear Michael Rappa, the director of the Institute for Advanced Analytics at NC State University, address this issue on Friday’s panel. During the discussion, he talked about how the program is now incorporating a story-telling component, saying that he believes in the need for students to develop the art of story telling. So the pipeline of students graduating from analytics programs may soon have well-rounded skills in both the technical and non-technical aspects of their roles.

In the meantime, what are HR leaders doing to bridge the skills gap within their organizations? We’re headed toward a day when just about every job will have some connection to data. Linda Burtch, a recruiter who specializes in placing analytics job seekers within businesses, also spoke at the conference. She warns that employees who don’t have a solid quant background are quickly getting left behind in the job market and may one day in the not-so-distant future face a permanent pink slip. It’s time to think about how we start developing these skills across our organizations.

Figure 1. Diversity of Skills on Analytics Teams

Madhura Chakrabarti

Madhura Chakrabarti leads the People Analytics and Employee Engagement research practices at Bersin by Deloitte. Previous to joining Bersin by Deloitte, Madhura worked for Dell Inc. in Austin, Texas. At Dell, Madhura led the annual global engagement survey for 110,000 employees; culture assessments for mergers and acquisitions; and several people analytics studies. Subsequently, she also served as the Organizational Development (OD) Strategist for Global Operations and Client Solutions, the largest business unit where she led and supported multiple talent management initiatives for the business. Prior to Dell, Madhura worked for Ford Motor Company and Aon Hewitt where her work focused on design and statistical validation of pre-employment assessments used for hiring. Madhura regularly presents at international conferences like SIOP. Her work has been published in Journal of Business and Psychology, and Handbook of Positive Psychology and Work. Madhura has a bachelor's degree in Psychology from University of Delhi, India and an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Wayne State University, Michigan.

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