Tag Archives: marshall goldsmith

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.

How to Be Happier and More Motivated

The sub-title of a great little book, “Happier,” by Tal Ben-Shahar, is “Can you learn to be happy?” Ben-Shahar explores that question through a series of short chapters, summarizing the most popular course at Harvard University today.

This book might seem a strange topic for my posts (as a writer on customer insight), but my coaching work with customer insight leaders has taught me the power of positive psychology. The book is also short (168 pages), fun and very accessible, so a suitable complement to some of the weightier tomes that I’ve reviewed.

For those not familiar with the positive psychology movement, it was properly launched by Martin Seligman in his opening address when becoming president of the American Psychological Association. He proposed that, instead of just focusing on mental illness or helping clients address weaknesses, psychology could focus on ways of fostering joy, flow, strengths, etc. in individuals. In other words, to help clients focus on their strengths and how to be happier rather than seeking to address weaknesses or unhelpful thinking patterns. Professor Seligman has dedicated his subsequent career to this goal. This topic has also, of course, become popular with politicians on both sides of the “pond,” and I’m sure you’ve heard of the work on measuring well-being in society.

Anyway, this book by Dr. Ben-Shahar, who teaches a course at Harvard University on happiness, is more of an accessible self-help book. It’s packed with personal anecdotes, simply communicated psychology and practical exercises for you to put into practice. Divided into three parts, these cover: What is Happiness?; Happiness Applied; and Meditations on Happiness. These are further broken down into 15 chapters, so many are less than 10 pages and an ideal short-read. Within each chapter, you’ll find at least one “time-in,” a moment for you to stop and reflect on how you’d answer a personal question. At the end of every chapter is an exercise for you to try. A number of these are suggestions of new rituals to put into place over weeks or months, not just quick fixes.

Personal favorites for me, from the exercises, have been:

1) A gratitude journal: noting down, before you go to sleep, at least five things that made you happy that day and for which you are grateful.
2) Reflecting on your four quadrants of Rat Racer, Hedonist, Nihilist and Happy — to learn from experiences about what really makes you happy.
3) Mapping your life: measuring how you spend your time and how this matches those things that give you most meaning and pleasure.
4) Goal setting: to set long- and short-term goals to move toward what you really want to do with your life.

I’m conscious that without reading the book, a lot of this could sound like just American positivity, with fake smiles and overenthusiastic language. However, there really is so much more to it than that. Ben-Shahar does a great job in helping the reader understand the combination of meaning and pleasure that can help you be happier and the joy to be found in the journey rather than assuming happiness is a fixed state at which you arrive. As well, his personal anecdotes and the amount of time given to personal reflection and practical exercises continue to keep the theory grounded in the practical, day-to-day reality of your life.

I was initially very skeptical of this movement and a book with such a title. Overly positive people who appear to be in denial about their circumstances and full range of emotions don’t do it for a natural skeptic like me. However, as I’ve had my eyes opened to the academically grounded theory here, I have found it very useful in my own life and with clients. My time mentoring future leaders over years had already taught me that you make more progress helping people play to their strengths rather than improve their weaknesses.

In the second part of the book, Ben-Shahar addresses how to apply the theories of part one to education, the workplace and personal relationships. The workplace chapter focuses a number of pages on how individuals can find their “calling” — what Marshall Goldsmith would call their “flow” — that conjunction of meaning, pleasure and strength that make for the most fulfilling work. It is also pragmatic about crafting your existing role and work rather than assuming everyone takes this discovery as a Damascene conversion experience and rushes off to a new career. The personal relationships chapter is also a good reminder about expressing love, knowing the other person and expressing gratitude.

The final part of this short book contains a series of seven shorter chapters or meditations on different aspects of happiness, from self-interest to beyond the “happiness revolution.” The conclusion to this work ends on a practical note, focusing us back on the here and now, thus what we are going to put into practice today. Overall, the book does well at avoiding false expectations but also helping readers try different ways of thinking and new practices in their life that could make them intentionally happier.

During much of my coaching work with customer insight leaders, we come back to the source of motivation for that individual and the meaning and pleasure that keep them motivated to lead effectively and consistently over the long term. So, I would encourage any leaders to not be put off by what sounds like a fluffy title and try engaging with this short book. It may just reignite your passion and motivation to make a real difference through work that makes you happy.