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This post is contributed by Karla Ahern and Kit Nordmark, Burtch Works’ marketing research and consumer insights recruiting specialists.

As we pointed out in our piece on hiring trends a few months ago, although marketing research has not been as affected by the rapid disruption sweeping other fields, including some of Burtch Works’ other specialties, predictive analytics and data science, there have still been several developing trends that we’re watching, including a greater emphasis on soft skills and niche skills when hiring. Those who are able to work effectively as part of a team or who have experience across a wide array of industries and methodologies continue to be in high demand.

The Research & Insights Market is Active

To evaluate the current job market for research and insights professionals, we took a sample of our LinkedIn network and found that 19.0% of marketing research and consumer insights professionals changed jobs in 2016. This is slightly higher than the 18.1% national turnover rate for 2016 reported by compdata, but not quite as high as the 22.1% of analytics and data science professionals who changed jobs in the same year.

Among the 19.0% of professionals that changed jobs, we found that the average tenure at their previous position was 3.0 years. Burtch Works does not count professionals who were promoted or moved to a different arm/department within the same company as having changed jobs, only professionals that changed companies.

How Long Should Researchers Stay?

An average tenure of three years falls in line with what we typically see in the market. As with the rest of the hiring market, researchers just aren’t as likely to spend an entire career (or even 10-15 years) with the same employer as they were just a few decades ago.

Early career research and insights professionals tend to change jobs every 2-4 years, but tenure often gets a bit longer amongst senior leaders. At higher levels, researchers may stay in their roles longer to make a stronger impact at their organization, and because there are typically less opportunities the higher you go in an organization.

Regardless of level, one year is generally not enough time to have much of an impact and see projects through, so we usually caution researchers against changing jobs too often unless there is an extenuating circumstance. If you’re wondering how you can tell when it’s the right time to start looking for new opportunities, we advise researchers to keep an eye out for new opportunities if their current role has stagnated and/or if they’ve stopped learning or expanding their skillset.

What Employers Look For

With more companies looking to deeply understand their customers, consumer behaviors, and attitudes, and leveraging the growing wave of data from digital sources like social media, there is an even stronger need for professionals who can filter through the noise. Employers are looking for strong marketing research and consumer insights professionals who can uncover these actionable insights and clearly communicate them to leadership.

In our experience, we’ve found that researchers who have a range of experience with different industries, methodologies, and data sources have more options when looking for new opportunities. Although it can be beneficial to have a specialty, you want to be careful not to pigeonhole yourself in case the market evolves and different skills become more desirable down the line. More than any one singular expertise, showing a diverse range of skills and the ability to adapt to change is becoming the key to long-term marketability in the constantly evolving marketing research world.

Lessons for Teams Looking to Hire

For research and insights teams, there is a lesson here. The increase in opportunities for marketing research professionals – accompanied by a tenure shorter than the once-standard 5-10 years – means that candidates are not afraid to take advantage of the opportunities available to them. As such, it is more important than ever to be upfront with candidates about the nature of the job and company culture during the hiring process.

Even if a gambit were to help you land talent in the short term, we’ve talked to plenty of professionals who were looking to leave their new company within the first few months of being hired because they felt they had been deceived in one way or another by their employer. The hiring process is expensive – don’t force yourself to go through it more often than you have to!

Once you have your team in place, one of the best ways to encourage them to stay in their chairs is to make sure you’re offering them opportunities to broaden and challenge their skills. There is plenty of research about how important training and career development is in terms of company appeal, and we’ve found that when research and insights professionals are engaged and learning, they’re more productive and happier, and more likely to stay at their jobs longer.

 

Whether you’re planning your own career or hiring for your marketing research and consumer insights team, we hope this information was helpful! Let us know what you think in the comments, and be sure to connect with us on LinkedIn (Karla Ahern and Kit Nordmark).

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