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No degree? No Problem: US Employers Shifting Hiring Mentality for Data Skills

Job seekers owning demonstrable experience with data might soon overtake those with data science degrees when it comes to the candidates global enterprises are seeking, according to a major survey of global business decision makers commissioned by data and analytics firm Qlik, on behalf of the Data Literacy Project.

Almost two-thirds (59%) of global enterprises surveyed ranked prior job experience or a case study interview – where a candidate is presented with and must solve an example business problem to demonstrate their data skills – as the top indicator of a candidate’s data literacy. By contrast, only 18% viewed a bachelor or master’s degree in science, let alone data science, or even a doctorate degree as its primary consideration when hiring.

This means the opportunity to take advantage of improved career prospects and salaries associated with data literacy is not limited to those with degrees in data science or STEM subjects. This follows a wider trend identified by Glassdoor that an increasing number of technology companies are ditching the degree in favor of these skills helping candidates get their foot in the door.

Actively Seeking Data Decision Makers

Most businesses (63%) are actively looking for candidates in all parts of their organization that can demonstrate their ability to use, work with and analyze data – presenting a good opportunity for those who can demonstrate these valuable skills. Indeed, those with a foundational understanding of data and analytics will account for one-third of the job market, with a projected increase of 110,000 positions by 2020 – a 14% increase since 2015 according to IBM.

This is perhaps unsurprising given the massive growth opportunity for data literate organizations – those with higher levels of individual data skills, data dispersion across the enterprise, and data decision making. Qlik’s Data Literacy Index revealed large enterprises that are more data literate experience a 3 to 5% higher enterprise value (the total market value of the business), which represented an additional $320-$534 million for the surveyed organizations.

But DSA (Data Science and Analytics) professions – which includes all data-informed roles from data scientists and data analysts, to business analysts and data-enabled marketing managers –are the hardest to fill in the entire market, typically remaining open for 45 days.

With a crisis affecting the entire data skills spectrum, and notably just 24% of global employees confident in their data literacy abilities, these highly sought-after skills can help people become more valuable to employers and translate into higher personal income.

While not all business leaders surveyed were aware of how their firm remunerates data literate employees, Qlik’s survey revealed that 75% of those up to speed on their company’s policy reported paying higher salaries to employees with the ability to read, work with, analyze and argue with data.

Companies Lagging on Investing in Their Own Workforce

Despite recognizing the value of on-the-job experience and data certifications, 50% of companies said they don’t provide data literacy training to their own employees, with only 34% of decision makers stating they have programs in place. This is despite 78% of global employees saying they would be willing to invest more time and energy into improving their data skill sets.

Those individuals motivated to pursue their own up-skilling have the opportunity to supercharge their career and unlock new opportunities – particularly as data grows in importance across all enterprises.

Eighteen percent (18%) of business decision makers said that a data-skills certification – something that can be earned well after college or formal education – was the best indicator of a candidate’s data literacy and demonstrated the ability to use the techniques most required today.

This means anyone that invests in improving their data skills – no matter what existing qualifications – can access more career opportunities associated with data literacy.

“What we look for are people who are curious and inquisitive, have a passion for doing the right thing, and are open to using data to find insights that support better business outcomes,” said Lee Raybould, Chief Data Officer at Nationwide Building Society. “The volume and variety of data is constantly growing, and the insights it can unlock to allow firms to be more successful is incredible. But you need people who are prepared to engage with data, and to gain an understanding of how to use and interpret it to support decision making no matter what their job role. That’s why, in my view, democratizing data in an easily consumable way and encouraging people in all parts of your firm to upskill and feel comfortable with data will be key to future success.”

“Making decisions on the right data at the right time is critical to providing the right care programs and ensuring all our patients receive the same standard and quality of treatment,” said Rishi Muchhala, Manager of Enterprise Intelligence at Nemours Children’s Health System. “We need our doctors, nurses and hospital managers to all be able to use data to make decisions – and we certainly couldn’t expect them all to have data science degrees on top of their medical qualifications. We’d have no team! Instead, we look for people with previous experience with data or the desire to understand how using data could help them. With our Citizen Developer and Analyst program, including our Data Swagger education sessions, we can support them in developing those skills and applying those skills to their work.”

“The study’s findings are unmistakable – the career benefits associated with data literacy are a universal opportunity,” said Jordan Morrow, Head of Data Literacy at Qlik and Chair of the Data Literacy Project. “Organizations are increasingly understanding the value is not in having data, but transforming their data into value to make better decisions – and we’re seeing this increased appreciation translating into greater opportunities for data-literate individuals. We hope these findings will encourage those at every stage of their career to embark upon learning or improving their own data skills so they can start reaping its rewards.”

About the research

Business decision maker survey
The survey was conducted by PSB Research in the period of June 27 through July 18, 2018. Business decision makers were selected from global publicly traded companies, with at least 500 employees and which represented a wide range of industries including banking and financial services, manufacturing, retail, transportation, healthcare, energy, construction, utilities, and communications. The total number of interviews conducted was 604: 200 in US and Europe, 204 in Asia.

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