Forrester: CX Jobs the Hardest to Fill With Digital Pros

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Digital business teams are growing, but dwindling talent pools slow the pace of hires. Functions hardest hit are customer experience, IT, and business analytics.

Digital talent is, and will remain, hard to come by.
Digital talent is, and will remain, hard to come by.

Though companies devote more digitally savvy employees to IT than to any other function, they still cannot fill all the openings they have in that department. As a result, functions that are becoming increasingly dependent upon tech-savvy staffers continue to suffer. As for what areas are most understaffed, 21% of corporate executives told Forrester Research that it's business analytics, while 19% identified customer experience.

IT commands 22% of the tech talent at companies, according to a Q4 2013 survey of Forrester's eBusiness panel. The panel is comprised of executives who have responsibility for the P&Ls of their company's online businesses. Marketing claims 17% of this highly coveted staff, and operations 11%. But analytics and CX merit only 7% and 8% respectively, and those levels are not likely to rise anytime soon at companies not named Google or Walmart, according to Forrester analyst Martin Gill, coauthor of the new report, “Staffing and Hiring for eBusiness.”

“If you're in New York of London, there is a massive talent pool able to do these jobs, but companies are competing for them with Google, Facebook, and Amazon,” Gill says. “If you're in a remote location, the talent pool is smaller and the big employer in the region soaks up all the talent. Walmart, for instance, went to where the talent was and opened its digital lab in Silicon Valley.”

Companies looking to build out their data analytics and customer experience functions face more fundamental challenges. “CX is a growth discipline. It's becoming embedded in every aspect of the organization, so there are few people skilled in it,” Gill says. “Analytics, well, it's just a hard subject. You need to have the data scientists who understand it.”

Outsourcing, therefore, continues to be the answer sto the digital staffing shortage at most companies.. Three-quarters of the members of the eBusiness panel say they outsourced IT functions and 30% acknowledge going outside of the company for digital brainpower to run CX initiatives.

“Outsourcing is absolutely critical,” Gill maintains. “Just look at all the changes in mobile over the last three years. Look at all the new customer touchpoints. You can't possibly hope to have specialists in all of these areas.”

While in the past outsourcing has been used largely as a cost-saver by companies, Gill says that's not the way to approach the subject when it comes to eBusiness hires. “You have to identify the things that differentiate you among your consumers. Where do you drive value for them? Those are the areas where you look to recruit employees,” Gill notes. “When outsourcing, you should look to bring external knowledge to your company in burgeoning areas that you can't recruit yourself. Look for the partners who can drive strategy, who can drive innovation.”

Gill and his coauthor on the report, Jill Roizen, have three practical suggestions for eBusiness executives looking to expand their talent bases:

Build from within: Rather than setting off on fruitless searches for perfect candidates who don't exist, identify passionate internal candidates, educate them, and provide internships. “Nestlé has a program in which it takes people out of business units and place them in a digital acceleration team for three months before sending them back to their units to act as digital evangelists,” Gill says.

Leverage partner relationships: Pacific Gas & Electric shares its smart meter data with startups that create apps to help consumers manage power consumption.

Form cross-functional task forces: Join marketing, technology, risk management, and other departments in projects to break down the barriers between touchpoints and teams by focusing on how to serve and retain customers.

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