Now hiring for the “Sexiest Job” in human services

Rethink hiring and develop existing talent to harvest the right human services analytics skills to power insight-driven human services delivery.

Overview

Analytics talent is in such demand that a Harvard Business Review headline referred to data scientist as “the sexiest job of the 21st century.”1 Employers across sectors are anxiously hiring. Yet is hiring quickly the only way for agencies to continue to build the human services analytics workforce?

When it comes to growing this talent pool, the best return on investment in cost, staff time and results comes when agencies prepare first and hire last. Well before hiring, they must understand agency culture, assess and grow the talent they have, and explore creative, even unconventional, sources of human services analytics expertise.

1Thomas H. Davenport and D.J. Patil, “Data Scientist: The Sexiest Job of the 21st Century,” October 2012, http://hbr.org/2012/10/data-scientist-the-sexiest-job-of-the-21st-century/ar/1, accessed April 24, 2014.

Background

Analytics goes hand in hand with delivering public service for the future. It drives the move from standardized to personalized services and powers insight-driven human service delivery. Neither is possible without the right human services analytics talent.

According to the 2014 Accenture Analytics Pulse Survey, 3 out of 4 state and local human services leaders cite “lack of manpower” as a barrier to using analytics more effectively, rating it second among twelve potential barriers. It is no surprise, then, that the majority (54 percent) of these leaders report that they have started hiring people with analytics backgrounds. Even so, hiring is often a challenge due to lack of funding, which respondents also cite as a top barrier.

Analysis

Done right, analytics ultimately pays for itself. However, hiring is costly, involving upfront expenditures of time and money. It is also especially difficult to find and keep the right analytics skills today.

One reason is because of the large gap between supply and demand. Human services agencies must vie for the best people, competing with both the public and private sectors to attract prospects. Not only must human services agencies hire for the analytics skills they need now and in the future, they must account for the analytics skills lost to retirements within the larger context of agency-wide knowledge drain.

Recommendations

Agencies can balance the development of existing human services analytics talent with efforts to seek new talent by taking stock of three fundamentals:

  1. Culture: One size does not fit all.
    Before bringing in new analytics resources, agencies must understand their organizational culture. It is important to assess leadership styles, interpersonal skills, tolerance for change and the interactions between business and IT.

  2. Skills: What you don’t know can hurt you.
    It is also important to assess current analytic skills—strengths and gaps—and identify how to close them through training. This assessment is key because agencies often lack a holistic view of their analytics workforce.

  3. Partnerships: Look outside the gates.
    Non-traditional resources can offer agencies the talent they need at the prices they want. Universities are hotbeds of analytics skills. Human services agencies can work with local universities to develop programs to tap into these skills.