Many companies plan to build employees' analytical skills through mentoring.
In a recent survey by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), 47 percent of organizations indicated that they intend to train current staff on analytical skills. Only 17 percent indicated that they would mostly hire analytics staff. Twenty-six percent say they already have the talent they need.
"Training for analytical abilities is most often focused on learning why, not how," write the authors of The Age of Big Data: A Progress Report for Organizations and HR. Survey respondents rated critical thinking and problem solving as the two most important professional competencies, which suggests that analytical ability is a mindset, not the mastery of a specific software or mathematical skill.
"Organizations seem to feel that specific analytical skills such as statistical computation methods, data mining, and data visualization are important, but they are also easily acquired or trainable," says Cliff Stevenson, senior human capital researcher at i4cp. "The putting-the-puzzle-together sort of data analysis skills are the ones they see as most valuable."
In the survey, mentoring emerged as the most successful method of helping employees develop such skills. Cross-functional team-based training and self-study (particularly for managers and senior leaders) also were favored methods for analytical skills training.
To ensure mentoring partnerships formed for the purpose of developing analytical skills are effective, the report recommends pairing mentees with high-performing employees from departments such as finance and research and development.
Stevenson also suggests using assessments that determine pre- and post-mentorship analytical strength. "One of the benefits of analytical ability is that it lends itself to assessment much easier than some so-called 'soft skills,'" he says.