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  • Writer's pictureNigel Adams

Back to The Workforce of The Future

Updated: Jan 17

Why hire externally, when, with a few weeks training, you can hire hire internally.

I was chatting to a friend last week and she happened to mention that she wasn’t being stretched in her current role and was looking for a new challenge. The individual in question happens to be a very good reporting analyst – structured, curious, commercially savvy, detailed, rigorous, fast and efficient. She has very good technical skills, an ability to work with and manipulate large data sets and communicates well with business stakeholders, sharing practical, commercial insights.

My instinct was that she would be in high demand – these are precisely the sorts of skills that are so highly sought after in today’s analytics intensive world. Data Scientists are commanding a significant premium in the marketplace.

But when I said that, her face fell, and she looked crestfallen. The term Data Scientist hit a nerve. The jobs on offer are labelled Data Scientists. Despite being able to demonstrate practical expertise and experience in at least 80% of the competencies associated with Data Science she can’t get an interview because she doesn’t have the qualification.

My sense is that she could bridge the gap within 2-4 weeks. Even better, put her through a 2-4-week boot camp and then enrol her onto a longer-term, part-time program to provide the qualification. But it appears, the preferred course is to bring in external hires at a significant premium with unproven practical application of the skill set. Not to mention the fact that, in many cases, the data environment is complex and it takes at least 12 months to get up to speed and become genuinely productive.


And it’s not just Data Scientists. The plethora of new job titles that have emerged as organisations go about their digital transformations is extraordinary. Agile coaches, scrum masters, product owners, robotics and AI specialists, human centred design specialists to name just a few. The knee jerk reaction is to scan your existing organisational structure, find that you don’t have any of these role titles and then go out to market to find them.

A more considered approach would be to understand the nature and competencies of the new roles and map them to similar roles that already exist in your organisation. My sense is that, in most cases, the gaps are not significant and are typically technical in nature. This is a plus, since its far easier to teach technical skills. Anyone who has been a Lean Coach can easily transition to becoming an Agile Coach. If you’ve written macros before then a career in Robotics will be a natural progression. Subject matter experts are ideally suited to becoming product owners. If you’ve done Six Sigma or worked in Reporting, transitioning to a Data Scientist role will not be that difficult. In most cases a few weeks technical training and then some on-the-job experience is all that it will take.

Hiring a few external specialists to establish the base capability makes sense. As well as imparting their technical knowledge they also seed fresh and innovative thinking honed from their prior experience. But it only takes a few, not an army.  Their role is to teach the incumbents to fish, not to hire their mates to do the fishing, with one eye already on the next external opportunity.

Not only is this a lower cost alternative with far faster time to benefit, it is a lot less risky – the existing team know the idiosyncrasies of the organisation and how it works. There is also a point of principle, why not invest in and give back to those who’ve given so much already to your organisation? Help them grow with you into the workforce of the future. It will be far better for morale and engagement. And as numerous recent (and many not so recent) reports have stated – happy staff equals happy customers equals happy shareholders.

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