Open any news website these days and you’re almost certain to see coverage of the continuing global talent shortage or “talent war of 2022.” Quoting the head of a national staffing firm in the U.S., “I’ve been doing this for 25 years, and it’s the tightest labor market I’ve ever seen.” 

Considering that data and analytics is predicted to expand at a CAGR of 13.5% through 2030, we asked data leaders how they are finding opportunities for recruiting new talent while investing in their current team’s skills to keep them engaged. They shared seven strategies on how to win the talent war.

  1. Create and communicate a strong culture  

“This question is always top of mind for me,” says Nate Mayfield, Vice President, Applications Services Excellence, Strategy & Operations at Oracle. “Although there are many things involved in recruiting and retaining top talent, there are a few themes that I try to hit consistently. 

“First, it’s incumbent on every data leader to define a team culture that describes how we see ourselves, and how we want to be seen. In today’s world, employees – especially those with data & analytics skills – have the opportunity to work for just about anyone. Culture has as much to do with attracting and retaining employees as compensation does. If I and my team are able to describe our culture with authenticity, we are one step ahead of the competition.”

“In a market where the competition for talent is ever increasing, I am putting a lot of effort on transparency during the interview process,” says Ryan Den Rooijen, Chief Ecommerce Officer at Chalhoub Group in Dubai. “Being open about our opportunities and challenges alike not only enables me to find people who want to join for the right reasons, but it builds these relationships on a foundation of trust. With so many organizations lying about their capabilities and commitment to transformation, honesty goes a very long way.”

  1. Develop skills, but with a safety net

“As I grow my team I have focused on giving strong performers the opportunity to stretch into new challenges and clear career options,” says David Pires, Head of Data Visualisation at Expedia Group. “My team knows that mistakes will happen and they won't be penalized for it as long as we can recognize and learn from these mistakes. I give people the flexibility and autonomy to work and be accountable for the outcomes without me checking in about what time they log on or off. I offer them the trust to manage their own work, providing we are delivering results.’

Safety is all about building trust-based collaborative and inclusive relationships”, agrees Anuj Poudyal, Associate Director, Self-Service Analytics, Optus. “We have worked together to establish a connection to our vision, which has empowered us to innovate and try new things. Creating and nurturing the right environment has encouraged the growth and skill development of our people. We always celebrate our successes and apply learnings to continually learn and hone our craft”.

“Allowing a safe space for development activity as a group really helps build trust and a sense of community,” Nate Mayfield from Oracle says. “One successful idea I put into place in the past was to host weekly readout sessions for my Data Science team to practice their presentation skills on projects they were working on. This created a safe environment to get positive reinforcement and some great feedback from their peers. There was no pressure and it all was voluntary. Team members were able to practice how they communicated their insights in a safe environment before sharing with a larger or more senior audience.”

  1. Make everyone a better recruiter

“I’ve been part of the early careers program at my company to help hire the developers of the future,” says Expedia Group’s David Pires, “and brought in other members of my team so they learn more about the way we should attract talent and build skills necessary for hiring.” 

  1. Inspire staff to expand their boundaries

“Creating a culture of growth and opportunity will help you retain and attract talent,” says Josh Tapley, Senior Director, Data Visualization at Comcast. “Everyone is unique, and you need to work closely with your team to understand what excites and motivates them. Ultimately, teaching the team to embrace change and to look for the opportunities that change creates will help them achieve exponential career growth. Partnering on this journey demonstrates commitment and mutual respect, which are key factors in overall job satisfaction.”

As an example of pushing boundaries, Heidi Lanford, Chief Data Officer at Fitch Group, notes that “I was with my team this week in New York, and we discussed our deliverables for 2022 that we were signing up for. Thought leadership was absent on our list, and we decided to put it in our plans. The team thought it was fantastic, because it showed that we care about our experiences, we’re giving them a platform, and helping them build their careers, whether they stay with us long term or not. It also helps us sell our company and inspires them to recruit members for their teams.”

  1. Enlist leadership to set strong direction

Eva Murray, Senior Evangelist at Snowflake, stresses the role of leadership in finding and keeping top performers. “We’re attracting talent by being an employer of choice,” she says. “We achieve this through great leadership from the top and through striving for excellence and a customer-first mentality in everything we do. In my experience, when leaders set out a clear path and empower their people to be an integral part of a successful journey, it permeates through the company culture and makes an organization attractive for talented people.”

  1. Give existing staff executive exposure

“Airtime with senior leaders is important as it enables staff to showcase their work and receive direct and immediate feedback” agrees Anuj Poudyal, Associate Director, Self-Service Analytics, Optus. “Executive exposure and feedback on their work is a strong motivator for our people, as it provides them with a strategic perspective and reinforces the importance of the work they do. It helps build a connection to the organisation and fuels their passion to do amazing things”.

“I agree that we should allow our team members to present in front of executives,” notes Heidi Lanford of Fitch Group. “Another successful tactic has been to back them up verbally in meetings with confident statements like “Tony is the firm’s owner for our enterprise data architecture strategy” or “Sejal is the decision maker for AI/ML technology.”

  1. Make the work matter

Oracle’s Nate Mayfield closes with a call for data leaders to make it matter. “I find that retaining your top talent becomes easier if they know that their work matters – that it has impact,” he says. “No one wants to spend hours on a project, analysis or recommendation only for it to end up in an Appendix slide of a presentation. Data & analytics team members want to know that their work has meaning, that it is influencing better decisions or helping to improve an outcome. It’s my responsibility (and that of my leaders) to ensure our team members understand the impact our work is having.  We can develop a sense of collective pride as a result.  We are making a difference.”