Strategies for Attracting, Hiring, and Retaining Diverse Data Talent

Data talent and a diverse data team are key ingredients for innovation. These strategies can help you attract and develop this critical talent.


Strategies for attracting, hiring, and retaining diverse data talent   Correlation One-2


Even during a rocky economy, forward-thinking organizations that want to innovate and grow will continue to face two large and interrelated challenges: finding data talent and building a more diverse workforce. 

With unemployment nearing record lows, more than 11 million jobs unfilled, and the Great Reshuffle driving employee churn as people seek better opportunities, competition for talent — especially data talent — is fierce. 

That’s leading more companies to seek talent with nontraditional backgrounds  — including people without college degrees —  to fill those open data roles. There’s another upside to expanding the talent pipeline. Hiring from a more diverse candidate pool can lead to more innovation, higher return on equity, and “overall better financial performance.”

However, companies that don’t already have a diverse workforce may struggle to attract new hires even when they cast a wider net. That’s because many candidates are factoring potential employers’ diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) track records into their job hunting decisions — one reason research firm Gartner ranks fairness and equity as “defining issues” for employers in 2022. 

This means that organizations that want to build diverse data teams may struggle, not only because of the talent shortage but also because up-and-coming talent wants to see evidence of a DEI commitment in an employer brand before signing on. 

The solution is to rethink the way the organization engages with candidates and employees throughout their journeys, from how you attract prospective talent in the hiring process through to how you support an individual employee’s tenure with the company. 

Attracting Diverse Data Talent to Your Organization

It’s helpful to be clear about the kind of data skills your organization needs, so you can focus your outreach on those specific areas. Do you need data analysts, data scientists, data engineers, business intelligence analysts, or other types of data talent? 

Once you’re clear on your organization’s requirements, you’re ready to start expanding your talent pipeline to include more diverse talent. For example, if you primarily work with university placement offices, you can also reach out to data training bootcamps, community college data certification programs, veterans’ employment training programs, and the sponsors of data science and coding competitions to connect with people eager to work in data-related careers.

Take a fresh look at your employer branding on social media, too. For example, if you post content exclusively on LinkedIn and Twitter, it’s time to expand to platforms like TikTok where younger people spend time and, yes, seek out career information.

In your messaging, highlight the goals you’re trying to reach (like building a more diverse team) and the benefits you offer (such as data skills training). Giving your employees learning opportunities creates a competitive advantage, because less than half of workers get data training from their employers

Updating Hiring Practices for a Better Candidate Experience

Now more than ever, the evaluation that takes place during the hiring process is a two-way street. If you haven’t recently audited your hiring process for ways to make it more candidate-friendly and to showcase what your organization can offer, now is the time. 

A good place to start is with data literacy assessment that fairly identifies candidates’ skill levels. Using this kind of test early in the screening process can eliminate unconscious bias in candidate selection, so you get a better return on your efforts to bring in more diverse talent. 

Next, look at your compensation and benefits. Are you offering pay in line with the current market rates? Do you offer training options that today’s candidates expect, and that can boost diversity?  

Forrester found that close to 80% of employees say they’re more likely to stay with an employer that provides the data skills training they need. Be prepared to answer questions about the training that your company offers, and about your mentorship programs. For example, your candidates may want to talk to prospective mentors or current mentees to learn more about what they can expect. 

Is your organization transparent about compensation as part of its effort to create a more equitable workplace? “Companies that embrace pay transparency will likely have an easier time finding and retaining workers” through 2022 and beyond.

Finally, have you streamlined and accelerated your hiring process? According to one recent survey, more than 60% of people who are looking for new jobs are “unimpressed with time-consuming recruitment processes.” With so much competition for talent, companies that take weeks or months to move candidates through vetting and interviews will lose out to organizations that move faster.

Retaining the Talent You Win

Signing a new hire is a major milestone, especially in the current market, but it’s not the end of the talent-management process. To retain the people whom you hire, your organization needs to create a great employee experience. 

Getting feedback from employees can help identify “gaps” in their experience that you can close to increase their workplace satisfaction. Some questions to ask in data-driven companies include:

  • Do your data team members have the technical resources they need to do their best work? 
  • Do they feel that their contributions are valued and recognized? 
  • Do they have a clear path for career advancement?

Plus, it’s increasingly important to consider whether mid-level managers and executives have the knowledge to make best use of rapidly expanding, complex pools of data. Might enterprise training help fill gaps, build confidence, and grow business acumen while also enhancing your ability to leverage data strategically? 

Building a culture that rewards innovation, creative thinking, and risk-taking can increase retention while building on the problem-solving strengths of diverse teams. To drive that innovation and creativity, it’s also important to create a culture of continuous learning. 

The Takeaway: Attracting, Hiring, and Retaining Diverse Data Talent

Ongoing data literacy development programs can help with retention and diversity by giving your employees upskilling and reskilling opportunities that allow you to promote from within and move non-data talent into data roles. 

Continuous training can also help your organization stay current on data analytics trends and develop a data-centered culture that appeals to new candidates and makes it easier to keep building diverse data teams. That brings your talent efforts full circle and gives your organization a competitive edge in the ongoing battle for top candidates. 

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