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Are UK businesses burying their heads in the sand over the data and analytics talent shortage?

The need for professionals with advanced data and analytic skills has more than tripled in the last 5 years. As data continues to evolve, the need to leverage it is reaching a critical point for businesses.

The modern customer expects personalised services and experiences. Automation improves productivity and efficiency. Cyber security requirements are constantly advancing, and in-depth analysis and insight is crucial to achieving a competitive advantage. The acceleration of digital possibilities presents a significant challenge for businesses wishing to convert complex, disparate data into something meaningful, useful and usable. Simply put, there isn’t enough data and analytics talent to go around.

In a recent survey, Alteryx (a data and analytics software company) provided a snapshot into how UK companies are progressing in their data and analytics journey. Surveying 500 UK businesses, it explores the current thinking into the value, challenges and culture of data and analytics to demonstrate how a smart approach to data guides the way to successful digital transformation.

Over three quarters of respondents (78%) agreed that data is a critical corporate asset for driving their business forward. The same proportion also agreed that investment in data and analytics is useless without the right personnel who understand how to harness it and, more than a third (34%) cited the talent shortage as the most notable challenge to becoming data driven.

However, almost half (44%) stated that they still had not got beyond planning their data and analytics journey and needed to focus more on employee skills and talent acquisition. Furthermore, fewer than a quarter (21%) stated that they specifically focus on employee skills, acquisition and culture to drive successful digital transformation. It appears that whilst UK businesses understand the importance and value of a comprehensive data and analytics strategy, the majority are, not yet, maximising efforts to make it a reality. Only one third (29%) report that they’re constantly delivering results and on the path to a high performing data culture.

Businesses simply cannot proceed to tackle the technical challenges that exist in a data-driven industry without the right workforce and a shift in culture is required to transform raw data into actionable insights.

If you’re relying on rigid, out-dated methods to recruit skilled data and analytics talent you’ll fall short when faced with the demands of today’s hiring requirements. According to a global survey from recruiter Robert Half, more than 80% of HR decision makers admitted they had hired the wrong person for a position and, when you consider time, training, loss of productivity and replacing, a bad hire can cost businesses upwards of £130,000.

Requirements for data and analytics roles are becoming more and more multidisciplinary, involving high-level technical ability alongside soft skills such as communication, creativity and teamwork. This intricate set of skills are not easy to find, and companies are not only struggling to find the right people, but to do it effectively.

Another rising challenge for hiring managers is assessing a candidate’s suitability for both today’s technical requirements as well as the future needs of the business. As evolution of digital technologies accelerates, the skills we have today aren’t necessarily the right skills for the future.

Mitigating the talent shortage will require a shift of focus from businesses, from basic recruitment techniques to considering a much larger, long term picture and strategy. Hiring managers must go beyond simply looking for easy to find, active candidates and must turn their attention to new, innovative processes that will provide access to wider candidate pools and talent pipelines.


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