Better Retention Through Better Recruiting

At last week’s WAA Symposium in Austin, John Stansbury put together a panel on talent acquisition and talent management. As usual, Gary Angel did a great job as the moderator.

A lot of the conversation centered on retention. I have been thinking about all sorts of things that I should have said during that conversation. That’s why we have blogs… So here goes.

Our research last year showed that the average tenure for a digital analytics professional was 18-months. That is total tenure with their company – not just in their job. I strongly suspect that this year was even worse.

This is a disastrously expensive problem for everyone involved (with the notable exception of the IQ Workforce team). The cost of recruiting, on boarding, training and then absorbing the often lengthy time-to-contribution of a new analytics professional, is huge.

The cost to the employee is large, as well. Few #measure professionals ever get the benefit of the full range of experience in their roles. They never master their job and get to understand the nuances and finer points.

My Papa Joe used to say, “When you are a hammer everything looks like a nail.”

So as a recruiter, I think this looks like a recruiting problem. Here’s why:

1. Nobody seems to take the time to get stakeholders to agree on requirements these days. They skip that step. When the analyst starts his new job, all of his stakeholders have different expectations. It makes success difficult to define and achieve. Then the phone rings from a recruiter…

2. Over selling: In their effort to fill a very hard-to-fill position, a lot of companies will elaborate a bit too much on the growth potential of a role. They will tell candidates that 6-12 months down the line their role will evolve and they will get to do the work that they really want to do. Things happen and the role does not evolve. Then the phone rings from a recruiter.

3. Recruiting for “small skills”: Companies will often hire the person that knows their tools the best. Then they are shocked and disappointed when the person does not know how to make their data actionable… Frustration ensues on both sides and then the recruiter calls.

4. Recruiting for motivation and fit factors: the pressure to get analytics talent with the right skills and experience is so great that companies will often overlook evaluating motivation and fit factors of their candidates. You are better off with a solid B that WANTS to do the job than an A that doesn’t.

5. Many companies do not make intelligent use of consultants and contractors. They can be a great way to fill in your skill gaps (your small skills) while you build your team. Junior-level contractors can also be a great way to test out and develop new talent.

In short, I think that if companies were smarter about talent acquisition they would dramatically improve retention AND overall return on talent investments.