Analytics Talent Retention

It has been a while since we have looked at retention in the digital analytics community, but some of the searches that we are working on at the moment made me think about the issue.

A couple of years ago we reported that the average tenure in digital analytics jobs was approx 18-months.  I did not scan the entire industry again (sorry), but I did mark down the tenure of each LinkedIn profile and resume that we reviewed for two of our current searches.

The “bad news” search:

If you are looking for a digital media analyst in the NYC area you are going to have a very hard time finding anyone that has not changed companies recently.

Web Analyst Tenure

We found that 27% of the profiles at the analyst level with digital media (largely digital display) experience have changed companies within the past 6 months.  Another 31% have changed in the past 7-12 months.  18% have changed in the past 13-18 months.  Only (24%) have built up 18+ months of experience and only 3% have been with their company for longer than 3-years.  Amazing.

The digital agencies appear to be the worst at retaining talent.  Analysts seem to jump back and forth to rival agencies with little thought about building tenure.

I raised this issue with a handful of the analysts that I interviewed and their responses were interesting.  There were 3 repeating themes:

  • They didn?t feel that their employers really cared about retaining them (1 referred to herself as a commodity), so why should they care about staying?
  • Several made comments that suggested, “all of the digital media agencies are basically the same.”
  • Another common remark was that there was no real growth potential within their firm.  They are able to climb the salary and title ladders much quicker and easier by changing companies than by building tenure.

Think about that the next time you are considering changing digital media agencies.  If analytics is important to you, I would suggest checking the average tenure of the analytics team.

On the good news” side:

We have been working on some interesting Director and Senior Director-level digital analytics roles recently.  We conducted national searches for a couple of these, targeting current managers and directors of analytics that have strong digital analytics experience:  agency side + client side.  This cross-section of the market seems to have improved in terms of tenure.

Director and Senior Director-level Tenure

In this population the majority of people stay with their company for longer than 18-months.  More people have been with their company 3+ years than have left in the past 6-months.  I don’t think we would have seen this a couple of years ago.

Why this is happening? I really do not know, but here are a few theories:

  • Director and Senior Director roles are harder to find, so people stay in their jobs longer because their phone doesn’t ring as often as analysts’.
  • Manager and director roles have longer learning curves and it takes longer to get into the role, learn the business, build the team and get things going before you start thinking of your next move.
  • Manager and director of analytics roles are more complex and (dare I say) more interesting than they used to be, with the integration of many different data sources (digital and offline) and the use of statistical analysis.  This might make for a longer runway before the job gets boring.
  • Companies are more in-tune to analytics than they were 2-years ago, so the managers and directors of analytics are enjoying more sophisticated audiences for their analysis and more of an opportunity to move the needle on the business.  This may keep frustration down.

IQ Workforce is certainly not in the business of talking people into staying in their jobs, but I do believe that there is a cost to be paid down the line for job-hopping within analytics.  Similarly, I think there is an opportunity for people to distinguish themselves by building reasonable tenure with each employer while the industry is experiencing rapid growth.

The key is to find the RIGHT job each time you move.  The right job is usually not a stepping-stone that you accept for a title and a raise.  It is one that will enable you to build your skills and experience and grow for 3-5 years within the company.  If that doesn’t happen then you can certainly leave sooner, but that should be the goal.


8 thoughts on “Analytics Talent Retention

  1. Couldn’t agree more w this one, “The right job is usually not a stepping-stone that you accept for a title and a raise” Good post.

  2. Good insights, Corry.

    One challenge that can arrise from poor retention is a “reset” of assumptions – optimization and insights are not always possible in a short time, and the retention issue you raise highlights how analytics can be ignored. We always advocate people above tools, but how much resonance does that have if people are being moved all the time? I’ve had a small business practice, and i have been lucky to follow along with clients in good and bad. That permits me to see some insights in data that can be applicable.

  3. Interesting analysis and comments. While there are some general truths being raised, this approach misses a significant difference between client-side and consulting/agency-side analytics.

    By definition, when an capable agency wins new business they often *must* hire from the available talent pool as they aren’t capitalized to have a bunch of underutilized people sitting around. New accounts mean some internal people might get re-assigned but typically means bringing new talent on-board. Similarly, when an agency loses a client this usually means that some people will get laid off if they can’t be re-assigned to existing clients. Of course, agencies are loathe to do this because of the analytics shortage.

    Culturally speaking this is no big secret and typical in other agency disciplines of creative, planning and media where talented teams are brought together to work on a client. Client-side staff have a different mindset especially if they have never worked on the agency side or haven’t had much exposure to this.

    These career hops should not be frowned upon but looked at in their proper context. It requires the hiring manager to be a more discerning is all. A more interesting analysis might be to split the groups between client-side and consulting/agency side so that you are comparing apples and oranges.

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