One of the interesting conversations we had at our recent client offsite, ConneXions, was about challenges and strategies for finding the right BI and Analytics staff. Success, it would appear, takes strategic thinking, proactive behaviour, and creativity.
The Talent Management Challenge
Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit that I have had just as much frustration in finding the right people as the group did. So I won’t profess to having a silver bullet answer to this challenge. What I do have is a set of questions that you should consider as you create your BI and Analytics talent strategy. We have been asking many of these ourselves:
- What skills do we need?
- Can we find these people in the marketplace?
- Should we ‘grow’ these people ourselves?
- Where should these people reside?
- Should we outsource these roles?
- Should we offshore these roles?
- Is this different from my other IT roles?
Engaging People Through The Lifecycle
It doesn’t matter if you use an external recruiter, or have a large HR department. As a business leader, you must take ownership of your people through their entire employment lifecycle. Here is an overview of what I mean.
The right person needs a blend of Business Understanding, Communication, and Technical skills (across BI technology stack). These people are typically not just waiting on Monster for you to email them. Being proactive is important. We need to look for people who are not necessarily looking for a job, but might be convinced to come over if the opportunity is a great fit for them. I remember a mentor of mine in the Dot.com days describing how he would hang out in the IT section of the book store and strike up a conversation with people who were browsing the most relevant books. He found some of his best people that way.
Attracting the right person is only half the battle, as good folks are motivated and in high demand – keeping them engaged is a continuous challenge. The most effective people that I have found, have typically been motivated by interesting and challenging work and by having the opportunity to tackle the most compelling and complex challenges. This means understanding your people, and planning for their careers and your mutual success.
Many of our offsite participants agreed that it is often too much to ask for each person to have all the technical and behavioural traits that we want. We should look to the team to provide the portfolio of skills needed to get the job done. That means building a team with complementary skills, and a collaborative culture. This is a challenge too, but most agreed that it is worth the effort. Teaming and building a portfolio of skills was a theme we came back to regularly.
Sometimes we may be overlooking people who have the potential to grow, but are held back by some perceived shortcoming. I was chatting recently with a friend and former colleague about a dilemma he is facing in filling a new vacancy on his team. He has someone who currently works for him in mind, but is concerned that this person may have some specific challenges in ‘raising his game’ to the next level for the new job. Alternatively, he was worried about the uncertainty of finding someone new in the marketplace. My advice was that if this person, that currently works for him, is open to coaching and willing to overcome these challenges, then he presents far less risk than finding someone new in the marketplace who may or may not work out, and will invariably have their own challenges to overcome. The ‘better the devil you know’ argument. Besides, how much can you really learn about someone in a 60 minute interview? This strategy has an added benefit of having a motivating effect on the other members of the team who see that management is willing to reward “our own” instead of air dropping new people in all the time. People see the opportunity for a career path instead of just a job.
The Bottom Line
In the end, we found that there were no short cuts, or easy fixes. The most effective strategies appear to take a holistic approach that values the individual as well as the team, and puts the onus on us as leaders to lead. This is no different from any highly competitive profession, IT or otherwise. It was an interesting and spirited discussion, and I didn’t even tell you about the Data Scientist discussion … you know, those people who are the new ‘rock stars’ of the Big Data world… but that’s the topic of another blog. Stay tuned.
What’s Your Experience?
What approaches have been successful in finding great candidates?
How have you been able to keep them engaged?