The implications of the skill crunch for HR analysts

The conversation we seem to be having at the moment most of all with CHROs is about acquiring and developing the talent that they need to do people analytics. For many I don’t think they’ve considered this in detail to date. It’s going to be a sizeable challenge.

In Q1 2014 I gave a conference presentation to a senior HR audience here in Switzerland where I addressed this issue. I showed job after job where HR departments were looking for folks with advanced degrees in quantitive subjects and where instead of asking for experience with Excel they were asking for SAS, R or Python.

These weren’t just the high-tech firms like Google, Facebook or to some degree Amazon who have been looking for these people for some time. These were jobs at retailers, at oil companies, in FMCG. From what we’ve tracked this year whatever sector you’re in either you or one of your competitors is starting to do advanced people analytics is a serious manner.

We hear about the stories of what people are starting to do. The Google case-studies have been widely reported. However, let me put it to you in another way. I don’t think we’re hearing about the really interesting stuff. The really interesting things are the projects where firms are creating real, sustainable competitive advantage and they’re certainly not going to want to broadcast that to their competitors. What’s more, it’s relatively easy to quantify the value the projects are realising.

The key story is this:

  • the interest in HR / people analytics is growing tremendously
  • the demand from firms for these people is rising at a rapid rate
  • the skill requirements are shifting quickly
  • the stock of folks with people analytics skills is small as few firms have historically done this
  • lots of other functions and businesses are looking for exactly the same skills.

How to persuade analysts to come and work in HR? That’s a good question. Certainly the compensation levels need to be adjusted to reflect the real competition. Can you define a compelling career path?

Earlier in the year I had lunch with an old friend, a statistician in charge of the marketing analytics team for a big bank. I described the sort of people we were looking for & asked if he knew anyone. “Sure, I know lots. We employ lots of these people as quants on the trading floor.”

He was only half joking. Take this bank (recruiting via a third party). They are hiring the 3rd person in a team doing people analytics, so we’re not talking about the team head. Advertised salary – Circa $150,000 – $250,000 + exceptional bonus and full benefits. As the ad states:

“The chosen Candidates will be rewarded and compensated at the same level as front office Quant strategists and will grow exponentially in headcount and importance through 2015.”

As HR leaders take some time off and think about their challenges for 2015 I would put having a strategy to how to deal with this skill vacuum high up on the list. Are you ready to do what is needed to compete for these people with your competitors? Given they’re seeking to deliver competitive advantage can you afford not to?