Tag Archives: intelligence

6 Tips on Recruiting Analytical Talent

The well-trailed difficulties in recruiting data scientists or other analytical roles, followed by the equivalent challenge in retaining them long enough to recoup your investment, have been likened to “talent wars.”

There are hotspots around the UK, but it seems all areas to some extent share this experience. London is perhaps the most challenging place to retain your talent. In my own experience, it has been easier to recruit in South Wales and Bristol (the latter being particularly good for having a pool of analytical talent), while much harder in Bournemouth and Edinburgh, for example. Several factors can improve your odds, including how you advertise, whether or not you use an agency and especially how clearly you explain the role.

Here are six tips:

Role description

Providing clarity on the role and what you expect from candidates is harder than it sounds in this sector. So many terms that you might use (like “analysis,” “insight,” “intelligence,” “data,” “modeling,” “reports,” “presentation,” etc) are open to interpretation, and some very poorly skilled candidates use this language to describe what they can do. For this reason, I recommend avoiding technical jargon as much as possible (apart from specifying any exact software in which you require expertise). Seek to describe the role in terms of the outputs you require the person to be capable of delivering. For example, do you want a candidate who can produce analytical reports or someone who can influence marketing leaders and present information that is sufficiently persuasive to change strategy or guide design of a new campaign or product.

Advertising and Agencies

Advertising your role is another conundrum for the would-be hiring manager. Given the high fees charged by some recruitment agencies, for little visible effort, it’s not surprising to see the growth of companies investing in their own recruitment portals and greater use of LinkedIn by recruiting managers. The latter approach has the advantage, for well-connected professionals, of both tapping into their existing networks and approaching those who both understand the language they use and may be best placed to know analysts ready for a move. However, the novelty factor has now worn off, and with so many recruitment consultants also bombarding LinkedIn users it is harder and harder to get your message across.

I would certainly encourage use of your own company advertising (to tap into fans of your brand) and LinkedIn as a first step. However, despite all the charlatans in the industry, I have still seen real benefit from specialist agencies that genuinely know this market. Having recruited analysts for more than a decade now, I’ve found these informed specialist recruitment agencies few and far between and those I trust to be even rarer. However, among this rare breed, I am happy to recommend MBN recruitment. The firm always understood my brief and provided viable appropriate candidates as well as pragmatic advice on salary and approach to wooing the undecided.

Motivating and Retaining

As all insight leaders will be only too well aware, even though finding the right analytical talent in the first place is challenging, it can be even harder to keep them motivated, engaged and ultimately retain them long enough to see their potential realized and value added to the business. Every journey starts with a single step, as the Chinese proverb goes, and it is really important to start well. For anyone who has not yet read it, taking the approach recommended in “The First 90 Days” can be a recipe for any new hire (especially at a more senior level) to hit the ground running and make the right first impression.

On-Boarding Coaching

I’m also conscious that leaders of insight teams are even harder to find, so many organizations are needing to appoint, to the growing number of these roles, candidates with strong generic competencies but little or no experience of customer insight. Coaching at Work magazine recently published an article on on-boarding coaching and its growing popularity. Laughlin Consultancy can see a need for trained executive coaches with a background in customer insight leadership to help support this population to be as effective as possible through their first 90 days and so are providing that service.

Performance Management

Continuing motivation and engagement of analysts could be a blog post topic (if not a book) in its own right, but for now suffice to say that there is a natural tendency for this population to be more cynical. Marshall Goldsmith described most performance management systems as an occupational hazard at best, and there is a need to flex the company policy to better work for these skilled people. I was struck when reading “Punished by Rewards” as to the importance of not relying on bonuses or internal recognition systems to bribe them to work hard or give a high score in the next engagement survey – rather being genuinely interested in the work that they do and reclaiming the essential importance and nobility of that craft. For performance reviews, I would also recommend taking the approach recommended by Nancy Kline.

Competencies and Career Paths

One final recommendation, to achieve motivated and retained capable analysts, is to invest in a clear career path for them. People, especially analytical people, want to understand clearly how their skills match up to the ideals for each role and potential routes for their development if they can improve and “up-skill.” I have seen skilled analysts become very motivated by simply having clearly documented competencies for different technical roles and seniority within them. When you add to this clarity as to potential career routes through that matrix, it can lead to conversations and planning that result in those analysts staying for many years not just months.

I hope those tips are helpful to you. Please do share what has worked for you, too.

Geopolitical Goals for Healthcare Hacking?

Did China orchestrate the massive hack of Anthem, the nation’s No. 2 healthcare insurer, to steal intellectual property it needs to jump start a domestic healthcare system?

That’s one scenario being discussed by the security community and would fit the pattern of not just China, but other nations, stepping up cyber attacks to pursue geo-political goals.

CrowdStrike’s 2014 Global Threat Report details how China remains by far the most active nation conducting cyber espionage campaigns. Hot on China’s heels, in terms of executing concerted hacks for nationalistic gain, are Russia, Iran and North Korea, the nation President Obama blamed for the Sony Pictures hack.

“China is a giant vacuum cleaner for intelligence,” Adam Meyers, CrowdStrike’s vice president of intelligence, tells ThirdCertainty. “They’re targeting dozens and dozens of organizations, going after intellectual property and trade secrets.”

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One particularly active Chinese hacking collective, dubbed Hurricane Panda, specializes in cracking the networks of Internet services, engineering and aerospace firms. Hurricane Panda uses “an arsenal of exploits” and has pioneered ways to slip into a network, then stealthily escalate privileges to roam deeper.

While some of the data stolen by nation state-backed hackers most likely gets sold for profit, these attackers exist primarily to pursue strategic goals — in China’s case to accelerate the development of domestic infrastructure to serve its massive population, which is rapidly becoming more Westernized.

CrowdStrike’s threat report follows news pointing to Chinese hackers, referred to as Deep Panda, as the culprits behind stealing healthcare personal information for 80 million Anthem plan members and employees.

CrowdStrike is not directly involved in the Anthem investigation. That said, Myers tells ThirdCertainty that his firm has monitored Deep Panda targeting other healthcare organizations in the past.

China is dealing with a rising middle class for the first time in its history, he says. Smoking, drinking and poor eating habits are on the rise, with associated medical conditions sure to follow that are all too familiar in the West.

“They are dealing with diabetes, heart conditions and cancers at a large scale for the first time,” Meyers said. Rather than import healthcare services, China prefers to rapidly build a homegrown system and appears to be willing to steal intellectual property to do so.

“They want to be able serve their own domestic market for heart splints, diagnostic equipment and the like,” Meyers says. Hacking healthcare organizations could give China “the ability to leapfrog the design, test and build phases.”

New attack model

While China may run the most focused cyber spying operation, smaller nations, like Iran and North Korea, are discovering how cyber attacks can tilt the balance in geo-political disputes against a much more powerful adversary, namely the U.S.

In response to economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. to stem Iran’s development of nuclear capability, Iran-backed hacking groups heavily targeted the financial sector in 2013, and in 2014 turned their focus to U.S. aerospace, defense and energy targets, CrowdStrike reports.

And North Korea appears to have derived a model that could stir smaller nations to develop cyber attack strategies to gain political leverage on the global stage. The Sony Pictures hack embarrassed a Fortune 100 company and compelled President Obama to chastise North Korea.

Cyber attacks have become a kind of twisted diplomacy. “It’s a viable way to coerce an adversary into doing something,” Meyers says. “I think we’re going to see this practice continue.”