Economists work in a world where data and people intersect. Simply having the technical skills necessary to do the job is not enough. Those who work in applied economics need interpersonal skills learned through team-building exercises to achieve the highest levels of success.
The best graduate school programs for applied economics include courses that make economists more well-rounded employees. Learning team-building skills for data professionals is a key part of a strong curriculum.
In applied economics, the idea is not to just refine your skills in research and statistical modeling. The idea is to apply these strategies to address practical situations in the real world. That cannot be accomplished without mastering team-building skills for data professionals.
Bridging the Gap
One of the most important issues that those working in applied economics must address is bridging the gap between professionals with technical skills and those without. In many ways, they speak completely different languages. Because they collaborate with both, economists are in a position where they can (and must) improve communication between the two.
This can include working with leaders in marketing, sales, finance, and human resources. Economists must develop the ability to support productive dialogue between, for example, a software engineer and a marketing manager.
Doing so requires developing skills in many areas. They include the following.
This is the cornerstone of any leadership position. For professionals working in applied economics, it’s essential. They need the ability to take the information gleaned from data analysis and to present it in such a way that makes it understandable for those who don’t know their econometrics from their predictive analytics.
In a situation where an economist is “reporting up” to executives, they are expected to have done their job and produce a report that presents clear, actionable options for decision-makers. Executives do not want overly technical analysis they do not understand.
Executives and people in other departments not related to analytics often mistrust data. This is the case despite years of media coverage on data, creation of quality applied economics master’s programs, the use of data in process improvement, and four championships by the data-driven Boston Red Sox. In particular, executives often don’t trust data and continue to lean on judgment and instinct to make decisions.
Applied economists must work to turn this trend around. One step in the right direction is to learn about ethics in economics. Building trust is important for findings to be taken seriously. As noted by the Harvard Business Review, it’s impossible to expect decision-makers to use data if they don’t trust it or understand how it was created.
While the modern business world is catching on to the importance of soft skills true collaboration skills are still lacking. Because of an increase in specialized knowledge, people tend to cluster in silos more than ever and focus on their area of expertise.
As noted above, economists must bridge that gap. It’s an issue for employers, which is why teamwork ranks high for skills employers seek. In a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, these are the top five skills employers say they look for the most:
- Problem-solving skills
- Ability to work in a team
- Communication skills
- Strong work ethic
Clearly, employers want those who can work on cross-functional teams for the betterment of the organization. That’s why quality graduate programs in applied economics teach valuable team-building skills for data professionals. Having them can help make a good economist into a great one.