Digital Analysts Are Hard to Keep

By Jim Sterne on Dec 02, 2020 in Articles by Jim Sterne

Digital Analysts Are Hard to Keep - Private Analytics Cohort Conversation 1.4

In my previous post, I covered The Great Analytics Migration describing how people were accustomed enough to working at home that they are starting to seek work elsewhere. This time, I'm looking at it from the other angle; How do you retain great analysts?

But first:


Power of a Cohort

In his interview on The Marketing Book Podcast by Douglass Burdett, Seth Godin talked about his latest book, The Practice: Shipping Creative.  (I highly recommend all four!). Seth said,

"Most of us have spent too much time on Zoom calls during this difficult year we've all been through. And most of us have felt disconnected. And I would encourage you to create a connection. Find one or two or three people and discuss the book, find one or two or three people and find an accountability buddy. Find someplace that feels safer than where you are right now, and less lonely than where you are right now, and explore the work. Do the work. Show up with the work for each other and just each other? And practice because it's the practice that will lead you forward."

That's the point of Analytics Cohorts: a safe space for showing up for each other.

Seth also wrote of his own workshops that they are different from online courses, "(They) are about the cohort. The other students. The people you meet, the people you learn from and the people you teach. Workshops involve work, not the compliance inherent in testing and certification."

That's what Analytics Cohorts is all about - you.  Each Cohort is a small group that meets for 90 minutes, twice a month, for six months. Check out some other comments from people who have been in an Analytics Cohort here:


Employee Retention

I speculated in my last post (The Great Analytics Migration) that COVID has encouraged more people to consider moving to greener pastures these days. If you're a manager, that means you have a retention problem.

Once you get over hoping your least effective people will leave (sorry; they won't - you have to show them the door), then you start worrying about keeping your best. Here are some clues...

Make Space for Learning

Analysts are filled with curiosity. If not, they would be doing something mindless for a living. If you keep them doing the same work, day in and day out, they will bore, tire, and leave. If you give them a chance to learn something new all the time, they will remain entranced.

If one of your team wants to learn Python, encourage them. Pay for their best courses. If they want to imporve their SQL game, learn MozPro, SEMrush, and Google Search Console, ask them to create projects where that knowledge can be put to work. Keep them over the edge of the comfort zone because that's where the magic happens.

Where the magic happens
from the incomparable Jessica Hagy

That also means making the time for learning.

            But we're strapped for resources as it is!

            We have too many things to do and not enough people!

                        and the classic:

            What if we train them and they leave?

If you do not give them the time, they will leave, and you will have fewer people. Consider it a cost of retention. And the classic response to " What if we train them and they leave?" is 

            What if you don't train them and they stay?

I'm coming across more companies that have set up rules about no meetings before 11:00am so people can get work done, or no meetings of Fridays so people can get work done. Give them the time to do their work and to delve into something that interests them. Rest assured it will make them better employees.

Rusty Rahmer spent almost twenty-two years at Vanguard. I can see staying with a company for entire career back in the 40's, 50's and 60's. But nowadays? I asked him if he wasn't stuck in a rut. "I had a new job every two years or so. They kept moving me around to areas that interested me, so I stayed. Being the Head of High Net Worth Client Experience - Web and Technology was great but then I got the chance to be Head of Enterprise Digital Intelligence and Strategy Team and that was great. But then I got the chance to be Head of Enterprise Digital Transformation, Marketing Automation and Analytics Center of Excellence and that was great!"

Rusty Rahmer Rusty Rahmer

Keep them learning and keep them on the team.

Learn Where They Want to Grow

Some people what to grow up to be The Boss and have teams of people report to them. Some see themselves becoming the go-to person on some rarified area of knowledge; perhaps the most-referenced blogger on left-handed sewing machines or the most often cited YouTuber on data integration, or the world's most revered, go-to expert on Google Tag Manager.

Your staff doesn't have the same dreams that you do so your job is to find out what they want to become and help them get there. Sit down and spell out a career path with them. Some of that path will be with the company and at some point, they will need to pick up the thread elsewhere. If they need to go to a larger (or smaller) company to live their dream, write them a glowing letter of recommendation so they can secure that position.

OK, now... Hold on just a minute, Jim. This is a post about keeping people! What are you doing??

I'm playing the long game.

The long game was first brought to my attention by David Rhee when he was Global Director, Marketing Analytics and Digital Consumer Data at adidas. David's approach was to move people around within his department so they would live in a world of continuous learning.

He would regularly rotate the email analyst over to social media analytics, the social media analyst over to search, the search analyst over to testing, etc. Not only would they learn new things and avoid stagnation, this cross-training gave the company more coverage in case people were stretched or momentarily unavailable. It also created a more cohesive team that had more empathy for their teammates and was better informed about how all the pieces fit together.

Employee of the Month

Celebrating their hard work is nice. But celebrating their contribution to the whole makes them feel influential and valuable. It also raises their status in the eyes of the people who rely on their output. That's how decision makers become more data literate, more data informed, and more successful.

Brand the Team

That brings me back to another lesson from Wandering Dave: Branding.

Step One: Watermark certified reports, charts, and graphs

Dave formally branded the team with an official, internal-only logo. That logo was watermarked onto everything they published, indicating it was the Real Deal. Their data was accessible for anybody to grab and drop into a spreadsheet. They encouraged adidas employees to play with the data! But everybody knew that if some chart didn't have the official logo, it wasn't certified; use that unverified info at your peril.

Step Two: Give 'em Stickers and Jackets

The team weren't team member in name only, they wore it proudly. Then had their own team colors. They were the in-crowd. In meetings, people would spot the branded laptop and ask the 'data person' for confirmation or if they had any other insights. Really want them to stand out? Give them lab coats! (Check out Brian Massey's one  minute, enclothed cognition video).

Brian Massey

Step Three: Internally post fun team activities

Dave Rhee would bring the team together in the cafeteria for lunch and get them to play games and just have fun. Soon, everybody walking by would wonder - Who are those people in the analytics jackets and how come they're having so much fun?

You're in marketing. You know the value of branding. Use it!

Don't Manage Them, Manage FOR Them

            Your job is to protect your team from senior management

            Your job is to make sure the bureaucracy doesn't stymie efficiency or creativity

            Your job is to fight for the resources they need to do their best work

            Your job is to navigate the politics, so they don't get caught in the middle

            Your job is to set proper levels of expectation, so they're not surprised or disappointed

            Your job is to set the task and then get out of the way

                        and please remember that

            Your job is also to protect senior management from the team

            Your job is also to help your senior management reach their goals

Don't be so lost in the day to day that you fail to see what is coming.
            Cory Underwood

Management should not be about people working for you, it should be about you working for people.
            Luke Miller

Ask for Their Pitch

I learned this one from the Santa Barbara Public Library. (Full disclosure, I'm on the Board of the Santa Barbara Public Library Foundation) The Library Director would ask staff to pitch new ideas. She set aside a budget every month to fund new programs, technologies, ideas, etc. Everybody who wanted to pitch would make their case, and the rest would vote on it.

Pitch Deck

The result was new ideas for how to make things better came in every month from the frontline. And the voting means that people are sharing their enthusiasm 4 new projects.

The big idea here is to solicit input from the rank and file . They are doing the work; they know what is and is not working; and when you get them into the habit of paying attention to making improvements, it becomes a continuous improvement process. 

And...  they have a bigger stake in the success of the organization.


What is Analytics Cohorts?

Analytics Cohorts is a small, private conversation between consenting digital analysts. It's a safe space for talking about people, process, and sometimes technology. Careers, corporate relationships, fears, aspirations... it's a free-range exchange.

Apply today.



Walk Away photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash
Where the magic happens by Jessica Hagy
Jemma from Movieweb
Employee of the month from Dinn Brothers
Pitch Deck Do's from Improve Presentation, Inc
Others by Jim Sterne


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