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Winning the War for Talent in the Age of AI & Data

A Guide for Insight-Driven Organisations

In this blog post, we will explore how organisations can successfully attract and retain top talent in the age of AI and data. We will provide insights and practical guidance for building an Insight-Driven Organisation that can effectively leverage these technologies to win the war for talent.

At a time where tech and data talent appear to be flooding the job market , you might have been fooled into thinking that the War for Talent is over. It is not. To assume that the labour market is now overly abundant with digital talent would not only be a huge mistake, but you would also be missing the opportunity of a decade. Having the right people available only amplifies the importance of winning the talent war. From one year to the next the demand for technical skills has always increased, and this year is no different.

As the FT points out “there is a wealth of talent out there ready to be snapped up to work ”. The talent is available, but can you attract it?

Our IDO survey indicates that 41% of organisations have a shortage of data science skills while 55% need more people with AI skills and are unable to source them. Organisations now understand the value of being insight-driven -- augmenting C-suite decisions with data or providing visibility of performance with analytics -- but having the technical and business skills within the organisation to do this has remained an elusive fantasy for many.

Our IDO playbook has an in-depth investigation into the War for Talent, where we have developed a framework for how to attract, train and retain talent from our experience in creating data transformation for organisations that last and understanding the science behind why it works. There should be no mystery to organisations around what the answers are to win the War for Talent. How you answer these questions is where effort must be focused.

Who are we fighting for?

Being able to understand the right business questions to ask of the data through to interrogation and modelling to gain the insight to answer them, and then presenting the insight in a compelling way are important skills for an Insight-Driven Organisation. These skills may all be present in a very highly skilled individual or be complementary skills within a team; it is this blend of skills within a capability which is critical for success. This unique breed of employees are the Purple People.

Attracting the right quality of talent to your organisation is tough. In the current climate, talent can afford to be picky, and it is not just about the salary. Technical and purple skills remain in high demand. Executive sponsorship, conducive organisational design, innovation culture and access to funding - all feature high on the agenda. Therefore, building a talent ecosystem to support your short and long-term analytics vision is key.

To attract and retain the best talent and continue to keep their skills leading edge, organisations need to invest in building capabilities long before employment. Organisations are teaming with leading universities and professional associations within their ecosystems to build the next set of AI talent:

  • Designing curriculums and teaching courses
  • Hosting conferences and working on joint training
  • Recruiting into our practices and referring to clients
  • Investing in start-up side businesses to encourage employee innovation

Training & development pathways

Developing and growing talent is important to increasing the breadth and depth of AI capabilities. Defining specialist learning and developing pathways for your talent, in addition to initiatives for knowledge sharing, both within your capabilities, as well as looking at opportunities externally to knowledge share keeps skills and ideas fresh and relevant.

‘Data literacy’ is also important for business users, as subject matter experts who can ‘speak data’ to data scientists while ‘speaking business’ to executives are invaluable. Training pathways can open opportunities for both technical and business teams to develop skills progressively and continuously.

Organisations need to rethink skill management strategy at times of tech innovation and how to address perishable skills (with a short life span). Focus on developing proactive training plans, instead of reactive chaotic activities plugging gaps.

Industries are encouraged to collaborate with educational organisations to develop programs for upskilling existing employees. This will allow internal career growth and contribute to talent expansion and retention within an organisation.

How can you maintain and manage your talent pipeline?

Getting the right motivational factors in play is fundamental to successful long-term retention. Luckily these motivational factors are no longer a mystery.

As set out in the most prominent models of human motivation, especially within the organisational and employment domain, self-determination theory outlines employees must feel that all three of these needs are met:

  • Autonomy - the ability to make free choices with responsibility
  • Competence – the need to master tasks and build towards having purpose
  • Relatedness – the need to feel connected with others

Executive leaders worried about top talent leaving need to understand the factors that cause attrition, which are far more than solely limited to compensation. Aspects such as manager quality, location and work-life balance, and future career opportunities are all potential employee experience drivers for attrition.

In addition to talent, knowledge must also be maintained and managed as AI teams grow and work with an increasing breadth of data and deployed analytical models. Using centralised tools to manage knowledge helps retain and share knowledge amongst your analytics teams and more broadly across the organisation. It is vital that organisations can distribute and scale these tools enterprise wide

Enabling employees, stakeholders, and ecosystem partners to collaborate better and work more efficiently through powerful, user-driven enterprise tools is a core component in building insight capabilities. This often involves re-imagining enterprise user interfaces and engagement models to drive adoption, productivity, and stakeholder sentiment.

Closing thoughts

Developing and maintaining a winning strategy to attract, train, and retain the best talent available is central to becoming an Insight Driven Organisation. Failing to keep up in the talent war may risk you being left unable to keep up with advances in AI & Data. Find out more on the actionable steps your organisation can take in our 2022 IDO playbook refresh.