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Big Data and the Talent Hunt

Big Data and the Talent HuntI’m just starting to read a book The Talent Equation by Matt Ferguson, Lorin Hitt, and Prasanna Tambe.

While I have only read the first chapter, it sounds very interesting, but so far, I’m not sure the book will talk about big data although the subtitle hints at it.

But for my edification, I’m going to write down the essential points in chapter 1 as a way of absorbing the materials. Chapter 1 is really asking: is there really a skills gap and what are the sources?

I get the sense that the authors think that there may be some level of skills gap. STEM jobs are the single area most often cited with the skills gap; manufacturing skills gap is basically a STEM gap because the requirements for manufacturing are an understanding of engineering concepts and complex programming.

So what is causing the skills gap?

One, the number of STEM jobs are exploding but we are not graduating enough students to fill those jobs.

Two, technology is also changing so rapidly that a lot of today’s new jobs were not even in existence 5 years ago, so yes, there will be few folks with those skills – the jobs are too new for anyone to have the requisite experience.

Third, companies have not been setting aside training budgets so current or new employees are not being trained for the new jobs. There has been a lack of training investment during and since the Great Recession (but I would also argue that there has been a lack of investment for at least a decade, if not longer, all in the name of increasing profits to satisfy shareholders.)

Finally, some managers admit that they have been too picky in their specifications when conducting a talent search. Instead they want the new hires to be ready from inception. A lot of times companies are looking for folks with the same exact skills or job title, thus eliminating the opportunity for talented people to move up.

Those were the reasons for the skills gap that I gleaned from the chapter.

A really interesting comment was made by the  authors on page 26: “The BCG manufacturing skills gap discussed earlier… found that when wages went up, companies had little trouble attracting skilled labor to fill the vacancies. ‘Trying to hire high-skilled labor at rock bottom rates is not a skills gap,’ the study concludes.” Duh.

Pages 16 and 17 are particularly interesting for those looking for a job. Those pages talk about how technical skills alone are not enough. One needs to have critical thinking, problem solving and communication skills in addition to technical skills. Basically, companies are looking for right and left side brain combo skills. The authors say “highly educated workers who studied a mix of disciplines in college – from computer science and finance to liberal arts and humanities – are the most likely to have the skills mix necessary to compete and innovate in a knowledge economy.”

So to end this post, the first chapter is chock full of data and is an interesting start to the book. I’ll see if the book later discusses up how to apply big data (or analytics) to the talent search. Stay tuned.



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