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Hiring Practices: Choose The ‘Utility Player’ To Be Your Key Employee

With the market research industry constantly evolving and clients’ needs constantly changing as a result, having a team of flexible go-getters who can roll with the punches will be the key to surviving through the tumult.


By Rob Clark:

The current state of the market research business is both exhilarating and terrifying. Increasing pressure from clients to provide more insight and integrate more data from various disparate sources into reports faster and cheaper creates seemingly insurmountable challenges.

At the same time, the opportunity for MR and consulting firms is massive. We can provide paradigm-shifting services, tools and guidance to clients delivered faster and more cost effectively via technology integration, process refinement and the implementation of best practices from within and outside of the industry. Exciting times for sure.

So, what’s one of, if not the top priorities at this point in the evolution of our profession? Hiring. Not just hiring to fill a role or vacancy, but hiring the best person to evolve with your company, your clients and prospects and the profession. I’ll call them the “utility player.”

Until recently, you could circulate a job requisition via various mediums that profiled the company, role, key traits of an ideal candidate, educational requirements, etc. You’d get a slew of resumes and mostly nonsensical emails from interested parties ranging from good potential candidates to recruiters, competitors and vendors of everything from furniture to HR consulting services. One could argue that as much as 90% or more of the “leads” for prospective candidates for open positions were garbage.

Then the fun begins. Sifting through the legitimate candidates and setting up times for initial discussions (mostly via phone or Skype), followed by in person interviews, reference checking, job offers, negotiations, and eventually (hopefully) hiring of the right candidate).

Then, you’ve got to hope that the onboarding of the new employee goes smoothly and that they are a good fit culturally. There are lots of steps and it takes lots of time to fill a specific role within an organization in an industry undergoing tectonic shifts in the way business is done.

With the demands currently shaping the MR and consulting fields, including the interest (requirement) in integration of data from multiple sources (see: Top Four Characteristics of a Successful Data Science Professional), perhaps the better approach might be to create a culture that attracts “utility players”. These are individuals who can come into a company and – while respecting the history and existing culture – push the organization to think differently and question the status quo in a way that helps evolve the company while at the same time do the day-to-day work that is necessary to meet client and business needs today and in the future.

Utility player hires possess characteristics of entrepreneurs, project managers, data scientists, financial officers, consultants, etc.

So what do we do to attract utility players, and where/how do we find them?

As hiring managers, we might want to first take a look around our respective organizations to see if we already have colleagues who qualify as utility players. Do they possess the characteristics outlined earlier? If you’re fortunate enough to have one or more, then spending time with them as you begin to develop messaging about your firm’s culture, work environment, and goals is critical. Really try to assess what it is or was that attracted them to your organization. What is keeping them there? Where would they look for a new position, and what messaging would they look for that would make a company interesting? Learning answers to these questions will definitely enable you to shortcut the process of attracting qualified candidates with the right profile.

If you’re a prospective candidate looking to explore the market research and consulting fields, then networking with employees of firms that match your interests (i.e., subject matter being researched, industry focus, etc.) via LinkedIn and other networking tactics is a good start. Also, following various thought leaders or opinion leaders is another good idea. Engaging in interactions with these connections in a positive, and thought-provoking manner is always a good idea, and offering additional perspective/thoughts/ideas that build on topics is always a good idea.

With the market research industry constantly evolving and clients’ needs constantly changing as a result, having a team of flexible go-getters who can roll with the punches will be the key to surviving through the tumult. If you’re planning on being in this industry in a decade, attracting and retaining critical utility players who can adapt and deliver should be a top priority.

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One response to “Hiring Practices: Choose The ‘Utility Player’ To Be Your Key Employee

  1. I don’t believe that the concept of “Utility player” is new. Arguably, up until the 1980s, most researchers were utility players. Most came from social science backgrounds which equipped them with a broad set of skills and the ability to apply them creatively.

    Specialization has eroded skill sets. Most of the people with good, interdisciplinary backgrounds now are older workers that corporations don’t want to hire. (Yes, age discrimination exists.) Specialization may have contributed to the trivialization of research and to the quantity of really bad work being conducted.

    You don’t need to know Hadoop to be a good researcher. If fact, if the only thing you have is Hadoop, you’re a programmer, not a researcher or statistician. Do you need to know what the resource is and how to deploy it? Absolutely. The good utility player does, plus a lot more.

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Rob Clark

Rob Clark

Senior Vice President, Azure Knowledge Corporation