Want to hire the best big data talent? 5 steps to success

A significant talent shortage is looming globally as companies seek to leverage big data for competitive advantage but struggle to find people with the right skills and competencies in this relatively uncharted territory.

Gartner estimates that by 2015, 4.4 million information technology jobs globally will be created to support big data, but only one-third of the information technology jobs will be filled, and data experts will be a “scarce, valuable commodity”.

Finding the right skills and competencies in a relatively unchartered area such as big data is challenging, said Mark Steyn, CEO of Hudson Asia Pacific, which recently released a research report on the issue.

“People who can blend deep technical expertise, business and analytical skills, an understanding of the market and the customer represent nirvana in terms of big data talent. Unfortunately these individuals are in short supply,” he said.

“Those that invest in exploiting the data, and take the time to carefully find, hire and retain the right skills mix will achieve competitive advantage”

“This presages a skills crisis of vast proportions and is forcing organisations to look outside the usual supply network for talent.”

The report, Tackling the Big Data Talent Challenge, found that more than three-quarters of Australian respondents think their organisation currently lacks the skills and competencies to successfully undertake a big data initiative effectively.

“Each organisation is at a different stage of leveraging big data and it is essential to find the right talent to unlock value from the data tsunami and turn it into actionable insights which deliver business value,” said Steyn.

“Big data is as an equal opportunity disruption because all enterprises have access to vast streams of data.

“Those that invest in exploiting the data, and take the time to carefully find, hire and retain the right skills mix will achieve a competitive advantage.”

“This presages a skills crisis of vast proportions and is forcing organisations to look outside the usual supply network for talent”

The report outlined five steps for getting the big data people equation right:

1. Map requirements: Define the parameters and purpose of the big data role, its key responsibilities, and what lies outside of the scope of the role. Role profiling is essential, particularly for emerging roles, in order to establish parameters of expectation and delivery.

2. Define competencies: Determine what effective performance looks like by defining the competencies and work preferences required by the role. While skills and experience may establish a benchmark, outlining competencies and work preferences will help distinguish who can “do the job” and a great performer who adds value to the organisation.

3. Evaluate candidates: Review candidates for roles involving big data using tools from trusted sources which allow effective resume screening, background interviews, reference checks and citing transcripts. Conduct competency based interviews, use reputable assessment centres able to harness simulation tools such as role plays and real-life scenarios to elicit and assess responses from candidates. Apply psychometric assessment approaches such as cognitive testing, motivational driver and emotional intelligence assessments.

4. Inform selection: Insights gleaned during the evaluation phase can be used to inform the candidate selection process. Not every search will identify a perfect candidate who ticks all the boxes, but the granular understanding gained during the evaluation phase can be harnessed to manage, motivate and develop talent.

5. Think beyond the hire: Having established a role profile and identified the core competencies and work preferences required for a role involving big data, these parameters should also be used to manage induction, on-boarding and training; career and performance planning; performance management; employee development; and reward and recognition initiatives.