A 2024 Snapshot of Data and Insights Skills with Generation1.ca

By Arundati Dandapani, Founder and CEO, Generation1.ca and Professor at Humber College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning, Canada, Vice Chair, Algonquin College MRA Program Advisory Board, and IAPP Certification Advisory Board Member

Here, I discuss insights and findings from the 2024 Generation1.ca Global Industry Skills Study, shedding light on the necessity of numeracy, analytical skills, and persuasive communications. Education providers can further improve their offerings for job-seeking professionals by focusing on strengthening foundational skills like research design, data management, problem scoping, diverse analytics, communications, and some organizational skills.

Annually I survey industry employers to understand top skills and educational or professional credentials desired from candidates in data, analytics, and insights worldwide. The survey is a short, five-minute quantitative questionnaire, containing very few open-ended questions, restricted to “other, please specify” options.

Top Skills at Work – Passion, Numeracy, Critical Thinking, Marketing and Sales

The 2024 Generation1.ca Global Industry Skills Study revealed essential skills that global employers ranked consistently as essential across clients, the public and private sectors, suppliers, academia, charities, etc.

#1. Passion for their work and engagement: Employers across all sizes, structures, of varied levels of seniority, (even if more across smaller teams) highly value individuals who demonstrate a strong enthusiasm and commitment to their roles.

#2. Quantitative research methods and data analysis: Proficiency in data-driven decision-making and analysis remains a critical skill for professionals in the field, which continues. Numeracy skills of quantitative research methods and quantitative data analysis were ranked highest after passion this year. 

#3. Qualitative research methods and data analysis: Employers recognize the importance of balancing quantitative insights with a deep understanding of qualitative research methods and analysis which follow closely after numeracy skills to paint a bigger picture / context / story.

#4. Sales and business development skills: Professionals with strong communication abilities who can speak up for their business and product lines are sought after, particularly to drive business growth.

Interestingly, digital skills and organizational fit were considered the least mandatory skills in this wave. This suggests that adaptability and digital literacy have become standard expectations in the workplace rather than specialized “must-have” skills. Furthermore, organizational fit’s fast evolution in the post-pandemic and post-Generative AI era has led to a decrease in its perceived importance.

The weighted average scores across n=427 (the survey’s complete respondents) reveal that most employers surveyed ranked “organizational fit” last, a noticeable decline from last year where it was in the top 3 skills. This shift might be attributed to a higher proportion of Canadian respondents in last year’s survey, where small-medium sized teams dominate the local business landscape, a factor clearly influencing the perceived importance of this skill in Canada.

Top Skills for HireAre you a Data Leader? 

It is unsurprising that data management, data preparation, data handling, analytics (including machine learning, AI, and big data), and business development skills were among the top skills for hire. These skill sets sufficiently met the needs of employers, as no additional options (“other”) were offered in response.

The emphasis on data management and literacy, whether good data and AI governance skills, analytics / inferential statistics and sales and business development, indicates high demand for professionals who can not only manage data effectively but also serve as leaders and advocates for good data practices within their organizations. This points to the importance of hiring individuals who possess both strong technical expertise and the ability to drive positive change in decision-making processes.

Moreover, the demand for research technology skills, problem scoping, and inferential statistical analytics suggests that employers are seeking professionals with a diverse range of analytical competencies. This may indicate pre-existing foundational skills within staffed teams and a need for employers to seek individuals who can bring leadership and strategic thinking to the table. Good data leadership is a dream quality!

MRII’s own research of career insights professionals also stresses the high importance of Generative AI, AI analytics, and machine learning skills. At a recent Math Ed Forum organized by the Fields Institute of Mathematics in late April, discussions centred around improving the quality of AI education, extolling human superpowers of “engaging, caring, and providing value,” but also understanding what leads a skill to become a competency or when it gains enough traction or cultural influence to become a “literacy” like data and AI.

Commit to Ongoing Learning, Formal Education and Professional CertificationsRecommendations for Job Seekers

Masters degrees in Marketing Research, Analytics, Insights (12%) tied with Post-Secondary Graduate Certificates (12%), followed by PhDs (11%) — all outranking professional certifications, as employers expect a standard level of education delivered by higher education institutions across USA, Canada and globally. Professional certifications are not clear prerequisites for hiring. Perhaps because they are perceived as a professional development opportunity after employment, given how nearly half of all employers surveyed (49%) indicated providing in-house training opportunities followed by 46% who used external training providers.

The former MRIA’s Certified Marketing Research Professional (CMRP) certification (9%) and the Research Society’s Qualitative Research Professionals (QRP) certification were selected as most desired certifications followed closely by Chartered Marketer (CM), Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP), Certified Analytics and Insights Professionals (CAIP) and others. Arguably, there is no way of knowing if surveyed employers chose certifications based on their perception of designations versus actual brand awareness. Jobseekers must prioritize formal education even when considering industry-specific certifications to enhance their qualifications or marketability.

Modernize the Academic and Training CurriculumRecommendations for Institutions 

To the global and North American academic and industry communities I lead, the recommendations of this skills study spell good news: 88% of employers report hiring students or graduates from university or college/polytechnic co-op programs with specializations in research, data, insights, or analytics.

These findings underscore the importance of practical, hands-on experience in preparing students for successful careers in data. When asked about recommended enhancements to research curricula, employers called for a stronger focus on foundational skills. Research design (10%), data management (8%), analytics (7%), and communications (5%) emerged as top areas for improvement, suggesting that academic institutions and education providers should review their programs to address these critical job-competencies.

Enhance Data Management Best PracticesRecommendations for the Industry

Industry professionals should build and solidify foundations, but simultaneously hone data and AI governance leadership skills to effectively commercialize their knowledge and get hired! A whopping 93% of industry employers surveyed say they are considering hiring in the next year. So, strike when the iron of your skills is hot! For other times, there is lifelong learning and ongoing professional development. Consider joining various exciting organizations and employers at Generation1.ca’s Fall 2024 Virtual Insights Career Fair and Case Competition happening on September 27, 2024, Friday between 10 am – 5 pm EST to take advantage of more professional development opportunities including hiring and networking.


You can follow more news by subscribing to newsletters from Generation1.ca. Learn about the 2023 Wave of the Generation1.ca Global Industry Skills Study here and here.

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