How can we lead data-driven businesses amid a talent shortage?

  • January 16, 2024
  • By WashU Olin Business School
  • 4 minute read

Since 2020, the labor market has gone through myriad fluctuations, including a shortage of leaders with IT skill sets.

Many companies have been left in vulnerable positions, especially those that may have technical professionals on staff today but need a dependable pipeline to bring new talent into the fold in the next year or two. Without relationships with high-quality, specialized talent sources like Washington University, human resources teams may find themselves scrambling to find people to fill tech-focused roles.

Recently released Gartner research bears out the urgent need for companies to begin planning now for future tech leadership openings. Though growth in the IT sector has slowed in 2023, it is still operating in the positive column. By 2026, Gartner foresees a tight talent market, particularly in niche tech careers like cybersecurity and data science. This means that chief information officers and hiring managers at data-driven businesses need to set up their hiring processes now.

Even if they’re being cautious about hiring—and plenty of tech companies are—business leaders can be confident that the wave will come full circle and they’ll need more people again. That moment is approaching, as evidenced by the burgeoning interest in generative artificial intelligence. No organization can afford to be without a plan when the moment comes.

Strategies for staying ahead of a coming tech talent shortage 

How can data-driven businesses retain traction when it comes time to add to their tech teams and leaders? First, they must consider making their organizations attractive to incoming data analysts, chief technology officers and engineers. It’s hardly a secret that firms worldwide have adopted more flexible remote work policies. The strongest tech candidates know this. They’ll be looking for employers that offer them freedom regarding their work locations or, at the very least, their work schedules. 

The second key to prepping for the hiring needs of next year and beyond is to rely on data and trends. The trends are showing that tech is going to pick up. Businesses need to have talent “on the bench,” so to speak. That way, when the time comes that talent is needed, they’ll have candidates to put into the game. In real-world terms, this means recruiting interns and keeping contact with campus career centers. It’s not unusual for firm employees to churn about every 18 months. When nobody’s ready to step into an outgoing employee’s shoes, the company is left with a gap in its funnel. While staying in touch with future applicants takes time and energy, those efforts will pay off.

A third recommendation is for leaders to check their workforce temperature. How are their data people feeling? Are they culturally committed and loyal? Or are they considering leaving? As mentioned above, there’s still a strong need for data scientists and data analysts. Talented professionals already in those types of jobs know that they’re in demand. Therefore, their supervisors should keep a pulse on their engagement levels or risk watching them leave. 

Finally, data-driven businesses may want to look outside the United States for talent sourcing. Skilled STEM workers in Shanghai, Mumbai and more welcome the opportunity to share their talents in America. Though it’s understandably easier for large firms to help with the H-1B visa immigration process, all technical firms should consider ways to simplify immigration for international employees. A visa may only last three years, but that’s a lifetime these days.

Olin’s MBA: A talent pipeline asset for data-driven businesses 

All the leadership programs we offer at Washington University give students practical and technical skills. For example, the Executive MBA curriculum focuses on training top-level professionals using real-world scenarios alongside real businesses. As a result, the MBA skills learned are valuable, entrepreneurial, global, values-oriented and data-focused. MBA graduates, whether studying in China or India, can adapt to change in business environments thanks to the knowledge and expertise they’ve cultivated.

Over 18 months, the MBA skills learned in Olin’s programs give students not only a practical foundation in leadership but also the latest technologies and how to apply them. Students are encouraged to continuously develop after matriculation. Fostering a deep love of learning ensures they have the drive to stay on top of technological evolutions, cultures and priorities. For Olin’s Executive MBA, learning and development are priorities to mold graduates into future leaders of the tech sector.

How does Olin remain on the leading edge? The university constantly adjusts all programming to fit market needs, offering an Online MBA for convenience and advanced degrees that match hard and soft skills. We strive to develop tomorrow’s leaders by watching what’s occurring right now to predict the abilities that will be most marketable in the coming years. Leaders with ties to an MBA community like Olin’s will find ways to naturally continue their MBA learning and development, whether by taking a one-off course or connecting to alumni with relevant expertise.

Case in point: Our data analytics degree started a decade ago and morphed into several subcategories: healthcare analytics, fintech analytics, supply analytics and more. The goal was to take a basic data analytics degree and give it real corporate context. It’s been a success, and so have all the other degrees arising from actual needs. 

Olin students have access to resources like the Center for Analytics and Business Insights, a research center serving as a lab for leaders and area firms that rely on data as part of their strategies. There, students face the pressing challenges met by modern-day organizations, including the ability to adapt to change in business. It’s up-to-the-minute data science in action.

The tech talent shortage doesn’t have to be a reality for all organizations. Those interested in ensuring they have the right people with the right skill sets can look to Olin. Firms nationwide are invited to contact Olin’s team—we can help existing leaders explore their potential to provide internships and career opportunities to graduating students and alumni.

About the Author

Washington University in Saint Louis

WashU Olin Business School

Firmly established at the Gateway to the West, Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis stands as the gateway to something far grander in scale. The education we deliver prepares our students to thoughtfully make difficult decisions—the kind that can change the world.

Contact Us

For assistance in finding faculty experts, please contact Washington University Public Affairs.

Monday–Friday, 8:30 to 5 p.m.

Sara Savat, Senior News Director, Business and Social Sciences


Kurt Greenbaum,
Communications Director

Twitter: WUSTLnews