Big Tech Lures AI Talent With Outsized Salaries

Big Tech Lures AI Talent With Outsized Salaries

At the New York Times on Sunday, Cade Metz, whose work on the AI talent market we’ve looked at before, wrote about what may be the key factor allowing tech giants to corner the market for AI talent—namely, salaries far above what smaller and less wealthy competitors could afford to pay:

Typical A.I. specialists, including both Ph.D.s fresh out of school and people with less education and just a few years of experience, can be paid from $300,000 to $500,000 a year or more in salary and company stock, according to nine people who work for major tech companies or have entertained job offers from them. All of them requested anonymity because they did not want to damage their professional prospects.

Well-known names in the A.I. field have received compensation in salary and shares in a company’s stock that total single- or double-digit millions over a four- or five-year period. And at some point they renew or negotiate a new contract, much like a professional athlete. … Salaries are spiraling so fast that some joke the tech industry needs a National Football League-style salary cap on A.I. specialists. “That would make things easier,” said Christopher Fernandez, one of Microsoft’s hiring managers. “A lot easier.”

The concentration of AI expertise in the hands of a few large, rich companies is a matter of concern because it runs the risk of shutting out not only smaller enterprises and startups, but also universities from hiring these cutting-edge technologists. If the academy is unable to compete for PhD holders in this field, that runs the risk of creating a shortage of professors to teach the next generation of AI specialists and conduct research in the public interest. Recognizing the transformative power of this technology, some tech leaders have talked about making AI innovations open and accessible rather than proprietary, while some AI experts are turning down industry jobs to work at universities or research institutes, but half-million-dollar salaries are hard to resist.

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Do You Need an Anti-Poaching Plan?

Do You Need an Anti-Poaching Plan?

A recent survey of around 400 HR professionals conducted by Marlin Hawk and Hunt Scanlon Media warns that a quarter of US businesses are seeing a rise in C-suite poaching but have no plans to combat it:

Of responding HR experts, 54 percent indicated that their company either has no plan to ward off poachers or, if it does, they’re unaware of it. And of those whose companies have a strategy in place, only 39 percent were satisfied with it. …

This talent retention survey – which collected information from companies in sectors including financial services, technology, retail/consumer goods, healthcare, government, and manufacturing – indicates that while only 4 percent of respondents believe talent raids have been declining during the past two years, just 47 percent of respondents said their companies have a definitive plan to identify vulnerable talent.

This presumes that companies control people, but in today’s labor market, that’s outmoded thinking. If you really care about employees, you make them employable. And if you do it right, they thank you for it and stay. Or if they don’t stay, they’re more willing to come back.

That’s why employer alumni networks are growing. Not only that, given how many CEOs want to reposition their companies in the broader ecosystem in which they operate (according to IBM’s latest global C-suite study), and that CXOs increasingly need to partner with more organizations, having your talent go elsewhere can enable these objectives. That’s because you really know the people on the other side.

In short, thinking of talent as a zero-sum game is, at best, a distraction for a company. Focus on building your reputation as a talent magnet, not forcing people to reluctantly stay at your company so you “control” the best resources.