Recruiting Next Gen Leaders for the Digital Enterprise

(Associate Professor Gina Dokko’s research focuses on careers, social networks, and technology and innovation. She is a member of the Master of Science in Business Analytics Graduate Program Committee.)

One major question that all organizations have to address is how to select new members. How should they attract new applicants? How should they select from among them?

Since talent is scarce, attracting and retaining the best people is essential to maximizing productivity. But simplistic talent attraction and retention practices overlook two important issues in the strategic use of human capital:

  • First, what does “best” mean? The best candidate for a particular job isn’t necessarily the one with the most prestigious background or the highest test score. The most relevant skills and knowledge aren’t always found in hotly pursued star workers.
  • Second, even if you could hire a bunch of superstars, performance isn’t guaranteed. Performance does not always transfer across firms: a superstar in one firm might not be effective in a new context. Also, superstars aren’t always the best at teamwork, which is how most work is done these days. The ”team of rivals” approach can lead to unhealthy competition and wasted effort. Conversely, the ability to look beyond the self and work effectively in teams can dramatically improve organizational productivity.

Analytics practices are upending traditional ways of attracting and selecting people. With the availability of more and better person-specific data, we can attract more diverse applicants and assess them as a “portfolio.” Instead of selecting individuals by background or experience, new “people” analytics practices help managers create teams that further organizational goals. 

Thinking strategically about MSBA students

For our UC Davis Master of Business Analytics program, we will be using these new practices to build a cohort for our inaugural entering class. After all, entering a graduate business degree program is not so different from joining an employer. Looking beyond grades, test scores or Github contributions, we take a broader view of potential to add value in the business of turning information into business results.

We are interested in students who are excited by the prospect of working together on project teams to solve pressing business problems from corporate partners.

We are interested in students who are passionate about a career in analytics leadership.

We are certainly interested in applicants who have proven strength in relevant skills, such as quantitative analysis or computing or business achievement.

But we are most interested in applicants with a demonstrated growth mindset.

After all, entry is only the first step. Joining any organization can be a transformative experience. For UC Davis Graduate School of Management’s Master of Business Analytics program, thinking strategically about the students we bring in and their experiences inside and outside the classroom is one way we ensure their success.


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