Paying top dollar for tech talent pays off

By Michael Friedenberg , CIO |  Career, career, hiring

In the early 1990s, before the browser and search wars, Bill Gates was asked to identify Microsoft's biggest competitor. His answer was a surprise: "Goldman Sachs."

This was a company that loomed large in the financial markets, but Microsoft ruled the software market, so what was that about? Talent, said one of the world's richest men. A company's success hinges on who finds and keeps the best people.

Flash forward 15-plus years to the recent Web 2.0 Expo, where Google CEO Eric Schmidt explained why every one of his 16,000-plus employees just got a 10% raise. It was a salvo in the " war for talent," said one of the world's most successful CEOs. And Google is still hiring hundreds of employees every week.

That same week, Fortune.com posted an excellent column by J.S. Cournoyer about venture funding and talent acquisition. "Big Web companies like Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft are engaged in an all-out war for talent...that should last for years as they compete for Web supremacy, but they are not alone," he wrote.

"Consumer-facing companies like Procter aanndd Gamble, Ford and Coca-Cola have started hiring as well," noted Cournoyer, co-founder of venture capital firms Montreal Start Up and Real Ventures. He pointed out that just as these mega-enterprises need warehouse, sales and customer-service pros, they also need Web engineering talent to thrive in today's market. That rings true in any industry these days.

With the market rapidly taking advantage of mobile, social and cloud computing, CIOs everywhere have to be thinking about having the right talent to compete. Companies are gobbling up software developers and Web engineers by the dozens. When it comes to finding top talent and retaining the best people, how does your company measure up?

Consider this striking example of what it takes to keep stellar talent: TechCrunch recently wrote about Google offering one staff engineer $3.5 million in restricted stock to stay with the company rather than go to Facebook. Now, that's an example from the extreme edge of the talent spectrum, but it spotlights the core issue.

Whatever your business, there is no better competitive advantage than a talented workforce.

E-mail President and CEO Michael Friedenberg at mfriedenberg@cio.com.

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