Creating Your Own ‘Unicorn’ Employee

William Wrigley our consultant managing the role
Posting date: 7/18/2019 8:32 AM
The elusive unicorn. Once a mythical beast, it is now a term for a new mythical creature; the unicorn employee. As Data fields transition from generalist to more specialised niches within the industry, businesses are realising the need for more agile and adaptable employees. However, there is a bit of a twist on the business end. It’s a mix of a diversified skillset and expertise. Though one seems at odds with the other, it doesn’t have to be.

On the flip side, employees want development, citing it as the number one reason for leaving a business in our 2019 Salary Guide. So, we thought we’d take a look and see where the disconnect was. After all, if employees want development and businesses want diversification, couldn’t the two come together for the benefit of all? 

In a word, yes. Investment in employees through reskilling and upskilling are two important and useful ways to create your ideal employee and placement. There’s no better return on investment. Let’s take a look at how finding your unicorn employee can add value to your business.

Think Outside The Job Description


While the job description offers a good guideline of what’s expected in your day-to-day role, it can’t predict the changes, trends, and other issues within your industry. And in the digital tech world, change is the name of the game. Businesses need someone who can react quickly and effectively. Employees need to have skills either to manage the job themselves or know when to reach out to team members for help. This can’t happen in a siloed situation. 

A few traits of the unicorn employee include flexibility, a curious nature, excited about learning new things, and the openness to offer suggestions within and across teams. 

In a recent LinkedIn article, Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes captured it best. “Like actual unicorns, they’re hard to find, but once hired, offer up enormous benefits in the workplace. To name a few, they shatter expectations, raise the bar for everyone and are simply a joy to be around. Unicorn employees can literally take your business to the next level.”

If you’re looking to hire a unicorn employee, look beyond their resume. While it’s a tool and will offer skills the employee has now, it can’t show you whether or not he or she will go the extra mile. And like the mythical beasts, these unicorn employees may come from surprising places, be open to new possibilities and think beyond the job description. 

How to become a Unicorn Employee


  • Be Coachable. Have a growth mind-set, a desire to learn, and find every opportunity to upskill. This is lifelong learning at its finest.
  • Be a hard worker, but know when to rest and recharge.
  • Raise the bar as a teammate and encourage others to do the same. 
  • Raise your Emotional Intelligence. Demonstrate empathy, be aware of your emotions and your teammates’, and help motivate others.

How to Attract and Retain Top Talent


As you plan your next level of hire in search of the not-so-elusive ‘unicorn’ employee, consider these few steps to get you on the right track.

  • Understand job roles. The job beyond what’s on paper. See what it’s like on the other side and make assessments from the point of an employee. What’s their day-to-day routine, touchpoints, and technology turn-ons to help them do their job?
  • Employee experience and technology are forever entwined. What tech skills do your potential employees have and what would they like to learn? Does their curiosity spark yours? 
  • Broaden your range. Encourage employee participation in technology decisions and include people from a wide range of levels and departments. Let them help with planning, selection, and design. After all, who better than those who use it and know it inside and out?
  • To upskill is to create lifelong learning opportunities through classes and beyond. Other ways to upskill include exploring new mind-sets, developing diverse relationships, and redefining how people work.

These few suggestions scratch the surface. Though, Gartner does offer these strategies in competing for talent.

The demand for top talent and the scarcity of it hasn’t diminished, but with a few tweaks to your planning strategy, you can lay the groundwork for attracting great employees. If you’re an employee hoping to broaden your range, open to new technologies as well as reaching out in a department not your own, and a team motivator. You might be a ‘unicorn’ employee. Somewhere between the two, we hope you’ll meet and in next year’s guide, development and diversification won’t be quite as at odds with each other.

Companies need to remember candidates are stakeholders in the hiring process. Candidates need to remember sometimes it comes down to education. Educate the company how you can best serve them. That question they ask – why do you want to work for this company? This is where you ‘wow’ them and educate them to your why.

Be flexible in your hiring and consider flipping from top-down to manager-centric in a bottom-up approach. After all, who is better positioned to offer insights into how jobs are changing and the skills required for it.

If you’re looking for a unicorn, or to make your mark on a company, check out our current vacancies or get in touch with one of our experts consultants to learn more. 

Related blog & news

With over 10 years experience working solely in the Data & Analytics sector our consultants are able to offer detailed insights into the industry.

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A decade of data

A Decade of Data

Y2K was nearly 20 years ago. Remember when we were all worried about the massive changes that could mean; the preparations we made getting ready for the turn of the century? Ten years later, we scoffed at our worries and hopped on the Data bandwagon…some of us. Others are still trying to catch up but in recent years, most businesses have realised it isn’t a matter of “if” you should have a Data strategy and begin to build your team, it’s a matter of “if you don’t do it, you’ll be left behind.” As the year and the decade come to a close, we thought we’d take a look back and see some of the trends which have shaped a decade of digital transformation. And like everyone who takes a moment to look back and reflect, in our next article, we’ll take a look forward and see what surprises 2020 has in store. Data Trends Then and Now Still reeling from the financial crisis of 2008-2009, budget concerns were top of mind for many. The takeaway? Plan, and be flexible.  Other trends which began in 2010 still exist today, but the vocabulary has changed. And there are further changes still which impact our technologies today and in ways we may not have realized. Train and Retrain becomes Upskill and Reskill. In 2010, organisations were advised to train, and cross train their staff. Not much has changed in ten years as it’s just as important now. Only the vocabulary has changed. Now it’s upskill and reskill those employees with the skill and inclination to pivot into more Data-centric roles within your company.Colocation Concerns Give Rise to the Cloud. Astronomical real estate costs for Data centre space and colocation prices drove businesses to find another way to store and manage their Data. As Cloud Computing spread, it allowed companies to avoid costly IT infrastructures. Not only did this save money, but it also gave businesses the flexibility they needed. In addition to the benefits of enterprise level organisations, cloud computing levels the playing field for smaller businesses to get in on the game.Virtual in the Palm of Your Hand. Smartphones and apps offer project management of our businesses and personal lives from “what’s for dinner?” to “let’s schedule our next meeting.” Our smartphones are a one-stop shop for phone calls, text messages, video conferences, scheduling, communication with remote teams, online banking, bill pay, and more.Eco-friendly is not an option, it’s an imperative. Carbon-emissions and reduction plans were already abuzz within companies. Today, Data has evolved from LEED green building certification to massive advances and predictions on the climate crisis. Standards are set.Blockchain finds friends in finance, and beyond. Though it debuted in 2008 in the finance industry, it was quickly snapped up in every industry from manufacturing to retail to shipping; any business requiring a more organised supply chain.  Rise of Automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) offers benefits beyond basic tasks. While this evokes fears for many in the workforce, there are benefits which is what’s driving things forward. While this is intended to streamline processes and avoid health risks in dangerous places like factories, there is still some cause for concern. However, some studies suggest people are happy to allow computers to take on mundane, routine, and menial tasks, freeing humans to think more creatively.  Getting Social Goes Online. Though platforms like Facebook and MySpace (yeah, remember MySpace?) were already available in 2010, the plethora of platforms today was a glimmer in our smartphones’ eye. No longer relegated to youth culture, social media has become one of the most important ways for leaders and corporations to communicate with people.  The Information Age has morphed into the 'Data Decade', with improvements across Data and Analytics, AI, and Machine Learning just to name a few. It’s enhancements within these spectrums which allow Data professionals to search and sort more quickly to provide the most useful Insights for their enterprises.   It’s estimated that in the next couple of years, 90% of companies will list information as critical and Analytics as essential to their business strategy. If you’re interested in Marketing & Insights, Robots and Automation, Big Data and Digital or Web Analytics, we may have a role for you. Take a look at our latest opportunities or get in touch with one of our expert consultants to find out more. 

MARKETING INSIGHT AND THE CUSTOMER FEEDBACK LOOP

Marketing Insight And The Customer Feedback Loop

As the holidays approach, Marketers are focusing more than ever on User Experience (UX). They’re not only looking at what kind of product customers might want or need but how will it look and feel to them? If a product doesn’t have what you need or doesn’t function as appealingly as others, what good is it? Key elements such as aesthetics, usability, and ‘feel’ are integral to the user experience. Because these elements come from such seemingly disparate departments as Marketing and Developers, it’s important to figure out how to come together for the ultimate UX. After all, if today’s buyers buy experiences over tangible products, then ensuring the experience is important to bridging the gap between customers, marketers, and developers. This, when done right, helps to build and retain customer relationships; the foundations upon which business is built. Design User Experience with M&D By bringing marketers and developers (M&D) together, you create the opportunity for innovation. But there are some key elements to consider when designing UX and it follows four stages. Do your research. Identify needs, spending patterns, buying behaviours, and historical data to determine what it is customers desire. Find out what they want or need and give it to them. This is the role of the marketer backed by development.Gather the data. Using multiple touch points across multiple sources and channels, find what works. What product offers usability and determine how design choices can help to create a seamless experience for your customer.Design your idea and create a prototype. Brainstorm your design. What are its product features, user interface, and aesthetics? Does it look user friendly? Would you pick it up off the shelf? Why? What is it about the product that makes you want to have it? What problems can it solve for you?Time to Test it. Is your product user friendly? What are its useful functions? How does it look? Feel? Incorporate feedback to improve its performance, function, or aesthetic. What does your test market say? Would they buy it? Why or why not? Bridging the Gap with collaboration We can forget sometimes, lost in our jargon and our buzzwords, that it’s the customer who we hope will benefit from our product or service. Yet, traditionally, marketers gathered customer preferences and drove sales, while developers designed products based on those preferences. However, the two departments were often siloed and creativity, usability, function, and aesthetics either got overshadowed or underrepresented to varying degrees. Enter customer feedback an integral point of reference for all parties involved. Customers are at the heart of user experience and it’s their feedback which can inform the user experience. What better marketing insights than those straight from the customer? Working with Marketers and Developers, customers provide a crucial component to helping marketers understand market dynamics. On the flip side, customer feedback can help mitigate risk or issues down the road by providing solutions and helping to resolve problems. the impact on Product Development By conducting user experience testing, marketers and developers can determine if a product is a good fit for customer needs. At the same time, they may identify issues to be resolved which can be learned of in real-time for a better user experience once the product is launched. Each has their role to play in designing the user experience and contributing to market insights for more informed business decisions.  These include: Marketers are part of the design experience from conception to inception. They are responsible for gathering the data to identify problem areas, working with Developers to create a product or service to solve a problem, and gathering data from the customer. Do they like this product? Why? What pain points does it serve? And how can it be made better or improved? Developers are the designers. They must take the information the marketers have collected and try to make the product into something functional and aesthetically-pleasing. Though they operate more at the back-end, they too much collaborate with customers to capture issues and solve problems. Developers test the products, making improvements as needed. Each stage a constant in UX design.Customers offer invaluable data and metrics through their feedback and reviews. The insights they contain as the end user about using the product, revealing its challenges, and suggesting room for improvement, make this three-part collaboration the final link in the chain between marketers, developers, and customers when it comes to designing the ultimate user experience. If you’re interested in the relationship between insights and UX, we may have a role for you. Check out our current opportunities or get in touch with one of our expert consultants to learn more. 

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