Over the years we’ve had many chats with analytics and customer insight leaders. Every client is unique but as you can imagine we also heard common ‘war stories’ and frustrations from these people with challenging roles in today’s businesses. Alongside hearing about the expectations on them and their needs for fresh talent, we like to keep in touch with how past hires are working out. Now, we’re the first to admit we aren’t experts in what it’s like to have such a leadership role in a large corporate, but we have heard some tips along the way that I thought I’d pass on.
It seems like there are three common themes to the success stories we hear. Whether from the lucky candidate who is good enough to keep in touch, or the hiring managers, we’ve heard that analysts stay at a company because:
(1) They like the people or it’s a great place to work
(2) They are growing, learning new skills and developing themselves
(3) They see clear career paths, future roles or opportunities for promotion
Achieving all three of those must feel like a tall order for any hiring manager. I imagine within large corporations it must feel like what’s needed is often outside your immediate control, which must be very frustrating. Yet we do hear of companies and leaders who achieve this and seem to have very productive and happy analysts staying in their team. Some of them stay long enough to become the next generation of leaders (it feels great when we see a past candidate whom we helped place become a hiring manager using our services themselves). So, how do those leaders, those businesses achieve it? Well, we aren’t the experts here, but here’s what we’ve heard…
The first expectation seems to be around culture. Often it sounds as basic as making the workplace a nice place to work, where people are treated decently and their opinion is valued. Analysts certainly seem to want to make a difference and see that their skills are used; don’t we all. Informal reviews often reveal that what has worked best for analytics leaders is letting the team shape the culture. Some have done that through more formal ‘people program’s, others just regularly listen to their team as to what would make it a better place to work and then fix what they can ASAP. What we know more is that analysts who are desperate to move on, sometimes before the original business have recouped their investment, often cite that they their boss doesn’t listen to them or they don’t feel valued. In today’s modern working world, analysts, and indeed all other specialisms within a company, like to feel like they are part of the fabric of the business; contributing to company innovation. With the increase of disruptive industries in the 21st century, more and more we are seeing a shift towards clients encouraging idea generation in candidates and employees.
When preparing our potential candidates to apply for roles or attend interviews, we do of course review their skills with them. The list of skills our clients are seeking seems to the get longer each year, as more and more is expected of insight analysts. Maths and stats skills need to be complimented with software and database skills, together with those all-important soft skills in collaboration and communication. But I’m pleased to say that there is a real market out there of bright people keen to master these skills and more, often more qualified academically than I can even understand. So, it’s perhaps surprising to hear from our clients that once they start in roles their analysts are keen to see that they are learning more and keeping up with latest best practice. Sometimes it sounds like the client needing them to master what is needed for that particular company, but managers have also described people with voracious appetites to learn. I’ve heard from more than one analyst that they are enjoying where they’ve stayed because of the new skills they are learning and have decided to stay because the ‘business is investing in them’.
Seeing a future here
I mentioned before that we’ve had the pleasure of having some of our clients, who are now hiring managers, be analysts who we helped place several years ago (sometimes as fresh-faced graduates). When chatting with them, I’ve often been struck at how far they have progressed and the most progressive companies seem to have learnt how to help them see those opportunities in advance. Best practice, of which we’ve heard, includes having well documented skill-levels required for each role, across the many skills to master. Apparently, mapped out ‘career paths’ can also help analysts see the potential paths for them within the organization. For instance, do they want to hone their statistical skills further and be promoted to a modeler, or do they love some of the softer skills and application so a role as business partner or in marketing beckons? There must be plenty of challenges to putting this in place consistently and managing a talent pipeline for your analysts, but we do see that those who manage it are more likely to keep their best analysts.
I hope those recollections of conversations are useful. Every day we are learning from our clients and candidates, just as much as we work to help them. But those who really know what works are those of you with the challenge of managing such teams & retaining your best talent. What works for you?
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