Data scientist has been referred to as "the sexiest job of the 21st century." And when you look at the impact of data science on the retail industry, it’s easy to see why.

Much of the most exciting work going on in this business is based on analytics and digital. Take the retail industry, for example. That work represents almost all of the avenues for growth in retail today, from mechanizing, forecasting, and replenishment to supply chain, store operations, and omnichannel pricing.

In this environment, the best data scientists are no longer mere numbers crunchers. They have to be truly “trilingual”—well versed in analytic modeling, technology, and business. They are not only trying to help the company with what’s there today, but also with what is on the horizon.

Job complexity is only one reason thaat finding the right people for these jobs is a daunting task. For one, data scientist for most organizations is a new, still changing role with an often poorly defined career path. The pipeline to talent is hard to access, especially when competing against “sexier” startups, and when only a handful of universities have dedicated programs.

So how can organization attract the best data science talent? A.T. Kearney’s “Leadership Excellence in Analytic Practices” study points to a few ways that hiring managers and IT leaders can move forward.

Build a unique digital and analytics brand

One of the study’s most interesting findings is that the leading digital and analytics firms are far less likely than the laggards to hire experienced professionals. Instead, they are opting to build from within or to grab talent straight out of college, giving these junior hires grow and create more value over a longer period.

Embrace rotational programs and cross-disciplinary teams

Rotational programs give talent the chance to gain an understanding of every function within the organization, allowing for cross-pollination of analytics skills across an organization. Cross-functional teams allow analytics knowledge to be embedded across an organization while giving analytics talent key company knowledge.

Build industry-university partnerships

Universities offer a pipeline to talent, while companies can give students unique growth opportunities. Creating these partnerships could be as simple as putting in an internship program, or even helping colleges shape their curricula so they are more relevant for the business world of both today and tomorrow.

(About the authors: Christian Hagen is a Chicago-based partner in global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney’s Digital Transformation Practice. He specializes in helping clients use information technology to increase efficiencies, improve customer relationships, and gain competitive advantage. Khalid Khan is a partner with A.T. Kearney where he leads the Analytics Practice in the Americas. He has extensive experience advising global companies on issues related to strategic operations. He is an expert in procurement transformation, strategic sourcing, design-to-cost, category management, complexity management, and merger integration.)

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