How COVID-19 Escalates the Need for Behavioral Insights

How COVID-19 Escalates the Need for Behavioral Insights

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The COVID-19 pandemic has both reinforced and accelerated underlying shifts in recruiting demand that we detected nearly two years ago. Even before the onset of the crisis, forward-thinking consumer packaged goods companies (CPG) rekindled interest in building their behavioral insights teams – but with key differences in their requirements.

The pandemic has fast-tracked searches for CPG professionals with next-generation skills and agile mentality to move consumer insights to a new level – quickly and economically.

Now we’re in overdrive. Professionals and organizations realize they must evolve more quickly and radically to address the seismic changes in consumer behavior in the post-pandemic marketplace.

Behavior vs. Logic

Emotion is driving consumer behavior more than logic is today. CPG leaders are telling us that data driven insights will continue to play an important role in their consumer insights teams. But analytics, alone, cannot provide the “why” and “so what” needed to understand human behavior emerging from the pandemic. Many of the companies we work with are actively seeking next generation consumer insights talent to address their:

– Belief that most of the data analytics coming out of this crisis won’t deliver enough insight to help business leaders make   smart decisions about where consumers are headed

– Need for professionals who are skilled at actually communicating with consumers as they grapple with the big changes in their lives.

– Goal to get ahead of this change before they fall behind their competitors in the emerging marketplace.

These “next gen” professionals have developed a full set of behavioral, analytical, strategic and communication tools that enable them to function as business partners with business leaders.

No matter what, insights teams and professionals must develop the tools and strategies to deliver these insights rapidly with cost effective and accurate methods that make sense in today’s business environment. Smart insights professionals that have retooled themselves are in high demand.

As a recruiting firm specializing in consumer insights and analytics, our most accurate measure of what is happening in the consumer insights marketplace is what is happening in our business. We have our finger on the real-time pulse of the employment market and gain accurate market intelligence from the multitude of professionals and executives we talk to every day, around the world.

For the past decade or longer, we had seen the acceleration toward data driven insights and deceleration of behavioral insights (quant/qual). Where there had been positive activity in behavioral insights, it was driven by “agile” methods. There were points in time during the last five years, where we were working almost exclusively on analytical and data science type roles.

Classically trained CPG insights professionals had far fewer opportunities available to them outside their current companies. In fact, those same companies were reducing the size of their behavioral insights teams and increasing the size of their analytics and data science teams. Areas like Shopper Insights were providing some mobility, but we experienced less demand for candidates with the classic insights background. Many insights folks were seeking to leave CPG altogether, due to lessening demand.

But, we warned of the growing vacuum that had developed in many organizations. In our article, “Fill the Void” (Quirks, January 2019), we observed that leaders were awash in data and information from a rapid and relatively inexpensive proliferation of sources. However, they were (and are) often surrounded by people and systems ill-equipped to effectively extract, interpret, connect, and deliver clear and actionable insights from the data. They were in desperate need of forward-thinking insights leaders to redefine missions, organizations, and skill sets, so they could build teams of leaders who are capable of aggregating, collaborating, and delivering insights across the business enterprise, even beyond marketing.

Case-in-Point:

A recent client of ours – a blue chip global CPG company – went through a series of reorganizations where they began developing teams that could “fill the void.” Even though they had some of the most talented insights and analytics professionals in the business, some of them did not possess the full tool set required to be strategically relevant in the new organization. We successfully partnered with them to identify the right people for the roles that require “agile mentality.”

More important than simply being familiar with agile methodologies, these professionals need the mindset and skills to creatively develop insights quickly and cost effectively, and then communicate the relative strengths and weaknesses of their approach. This enables the business leaders they are partnering with to make better decisions in a rapidly changing marketplace.

How to Address What’s Next

Now more than ever, teams must become more strategically relevant by placing data in context and telling the stories that explain the “why” of the current state and inform the “what’s next” forecast of customer behavior.

Our advice to candidates still rings true today: consumer insights professionals need to re-tool and become educated in analytics and data science to better understand and advise business leaders on what tools to use when, where and how. Conversely, with the pandemic exerting such strong influence on consumer behavior, data science and analytics professionals can enhance their careers by becoming equipped with behavioral science skills their counterparts bring to the table.

Likewise, some companies have adapted their talent strategy, while others are working to catch up. Consumers behavior is hurtling down a new – yet uncharted – path. The pandemic has fast-tracked searches for CPG professionals with next-generation skills and agile mentality to move consumer insights to a new level – quickly and economically.

If you would like to discuss recruiting strategies that will help you stay ahead of the escalating demand for insights and analytics talent with the right skills. please contact us.

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