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Jobs of the Future Will Require Data Analysis

But finding employees skilled in big data will be a challenge for HR

A man sitting at a control room with several monitors.

By 2021, organizations will increase the number of jobs requiring data analysis skills, say 59 percent of respondents to a new survey from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

As a result, recruiting will be much harder for companies seeking professionals skilled in data analysis.

Hitting even closer to home: More than half—54 percent—of organizations now require data analysis skills in the HR department.

Nearly 400 HR professionals from a randomly selected sample of SHRM's membership were surveyed for the Jobs of the Future: Data Analysis Skills report, sponsored by the American Statistical Association.

Today, according to the report, 53 percent of HR departments use big data to help make strategic decisions; 71 percent use it for the sourcing, recruitment or selection of candidates; 63 percent use it to identify the causes of turnover and for employee retention strategies or trends; and 61 percent use it to manage talent and performance. The study points out that 51 percent of organizations say they don't use big data because of a lack of knowledge or expertise and 30 percent said there wasn't enough data collected or available.

Two percent of organizations say they expect to create positions requiring data analysis skills in 2016.  "Publicly owned for-profit organizations were more likely than privately owned for-profit organizations to have data analysis positions," the study reveals.

While the demand for these skills is great, it's not easy to find qualified candidates: 78 percent of those polled say that within the last 12 months they've had a hard time recruiting candidates with data analysis skills for jobs such as data analyst, data scientist, statistician, market research analyst, financial analyst and research manager.

Preparation Begins Now

HR professionals can prepare for the onslaught of demand from hiring managers for workers with these skills by promoting more professional development, training employees and workforce planning.

"It is valuable for organizations to engage in workforce planning to define future business needs, identify gaps between the existing and future workforce, and to develop strategies to meet these needs—especially for in-demand skills," said Evren Esen, director of workforce analytics at SHRM.

SHRM polled nearly 400 of its members who work for companies with 25 or more employees in August and September 2016.

Researchers also discovered, not surprisingly, that 71 percent of organizations had data analyst positions in finance and accounting.


Most of the roles are full-time and are in mid-level management (79 percent). About 73 percent are at the individual contributor level. Some 60 percent of companies require their senior managers and executives to have data analysis skills, too.

About 83 percent of those polled said that some moderate data analysis skills are required for these types of positions and, for those jobs, organizations usually require at least a bachelor's degree. At least one-third of these organizations prefer a degree in analytics, statistics or computer science.

Other findings:

  • About 72 percent of organizations hired people in data analysis positions in the last 12 months. Of those, 78 percent reported difficulty recruiting for these positions.
  • Organizations with 500 or more employees were more likely than organizations with 25 to 499 employees to have hired data analysis positions in the last 12 months.
  • Publicly owned for-profit organizations were more likely than all other sectors to have hired for positions requiring data analysis skills in the last 12 months.

"Growing complexity in the use of data analytics could lead to organizations seeking out talent with these highly specialized skills," Esen noted. "If this happens, HR may be faced with recruitment and retention difficulties. To deal with these potential skill shortages, HR needs to prepare for its current and future workforce needs, including justifying investments in employee training and development."

The study's authors suggest HR consider the following workforce planning advice:

  • Set strategic direction.
  • Analyze the workforce by conducting a supply analysis, demand analysis and a gap analysis.
  • Develop action plans that include recruiting and training plans to deal with gaps.
  • Implement action plans.
  • Monitor, evaluate and revise plans.
  • Involve key stakeholders in the process, including a high-level executive who will support the plan.
  • Make sure plans align with the organization's strategic business plan.
  • Coordinate with succession planning and career development initiatives.
  • Make workforce planning an ongoing activity.


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