The widening analytics skills gap – how much of a problem is it?

It’s well known that there’s a growing skills gap in the area of analytics. As organisations are waking up to value contained within their data, so demand for statisticians, data scientists and analyst grows. It’s great that so many organisations are realising the power of analytics and the competitive edge that it can give them. But as anyone who works in the field knows, there just aren’t enough skilled analysts to go around. And it’s not enough just to have the analysts themselves. In order to succeed in running effective analytics projects, organisations also need leaders and managers who, whilst they many not be analyts themselves, are analytically literate. 

At Analytical People we have first hand experience in helping organisations recruit analysts of all kinds. Through this experience we’ve gained a pretty good idea of what the major obstacles to addressing the analytical skills gap are, and we also have some ideas regarding how can organisations overcome these problems and gain a competitive edge. The first issue is one of education, both academic education and also professional training within organisations. First of all, in order to meet the skills gap, universities need to ensure that undergraduates are exposed to the real-world application of analytics early and regularly during their degree courses. In our experience, candidates for graduate level positions who tend to be most successfulin business analytics are from courses that include real-world application of analytics in their content at undergraduate level, for example applied statistics, psychology, econometrics and so on. However, it’s not enough for universities to just include analytics content in specialised degrees such as this. As I’ve already mentioned, we also need marketers, sales people, managers and strategists who are analytically literate. That means marketing and business studies degrees as well as other less directly specialised courses need to have analytical content within them. 

Organisations who need analysts have two options. They can recruit in people who already have the required skills or they can ‘grow their own’ and train up their existing staff to enable them to meet the new analytical challenges. That requires investment in training. Over the last few years we have seen a consistent lack of continual business-led analytics training in organisations. The reasons why are understandable. Training is an expensive investment of both time and money. Training budgets are often the first thing to be scrapped in organisations looking for cost savings. However data and analytics are becoming so strategically critical in organisations, such a point of competitive difference, that a change of mind-set is required by executives when it comes to investing in training. Training roadmaps need to be produced, in conjunction with business analytics experts that focus on short, medium and long term goals in order to help develop the skills of existing staff. 

Of course it’s not always possible to develop all the skills that you need in-house. In order to grown organisations need to recuit externally. But it’s tricky to recruit analysts if you yourself don’t have the requisite analytical skills. How do you know what you’re looking for? And how will you know when you have found it? This is where specialised recruitment consultancies and external analytical practitioners can help.

Recruiting analysts is not the same as recruiting other types of staff, due to the highly specialised nature of the skills required. Therefore it’s important that the hiring process should be led by the business’s needs and not conform to the same recruitment rigidity as may be set out for the organisation as a whole. All too often there are bottlenecks in the recruitment process that do not serve the business from an analytical standpoint and furthermore limit its access to global talent.

Organisations should not be afraid to ask for help. Hiring analytical professionals or those with potential to become analytical experts is not an exact science and is often driven by time constraints rather than focusing on mapping analytical skills and experience to the business.  Developing a close partnership with analytical resourcing specialists can help ensure that you are making the most informed, long term decisions and maximise your chances of recuiting the resource that you need to really develop your organisation’s analytical potential.


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