Forget last year’s model – and a pay rise

Clear desk policies have been a popular management tool in recent years. The psychology of having staff clear their workspace at the end of the day is to make visible the complexities of lean thinking.

For white collar workers especially, it can be hard to understand how to make screen-based tasks more effective. De-cluttering your desk may help.

In some marketing and data departments, this policy looks to have been taken to its ultimate conclusion – empty chairs. Headcounts have been slashed as part of survival strategies, removing even those functions which add value to the business and are likely to help it grow.

Early last year it had seemed as if data practitioners would escape the worst of the recession. Analytics and insight were in high demand, especially web analytics, and professionals with skills in those areas looked likely to resist the cuts. That turned out not to be the case, not because of any change in emphasis, but because companies simply ran out of cash.

This year might seem harder to call in employment terms across the data industry. Economists are already talking about the possibility of a jobless recovery, with few new hires being made to support whatever level of increased spending does occur. Even skilled workers like analysts might struggle to re-enter employment if they were among those unfortunate to have been cut.

All the same, I still forecast data, analysis and insight to be key areas in which companies will look to boost their headcount. There are two reasons for this. One is that last year did see ongoing investment into data assets, such as the creation of single customer views (or their marketing version). Driving value out of these demands the use of people with a knowledge of data mining and modelling.

The other potential driver of recruitment is the changed consumer. With less confidence, cash and credit, individuals have changed their buying behaviours. Figuring out how that will impact on the business and how to take advantage of any opportunities that exist also requires skilled data practitoners. Last year’s model simply does not work any more.

So there will be a modest level of hiring across data-driven departments. For those with genuine, hard skills – rather than the ability to talk up a good solution – that is good news. The bad news is that higher salaries will not be part of the picture.

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