Google Fights Back In Battle For Talent, But May Be Creating A Worse Problem For Itself

Earlier this month I wrote about the extraordinary steps Google is taking to retain talent. It doesn’t seem like such a big problem – after all LinkedIn is only tracking 118 (well, it’s 120 now) former Google employees now at Facebook. But it’s being taken very seriously at Google.

The counter offers we’ve confirmed are so large that some commenters scoffed, suggesting it wasn’t accurate data. But even former Googler now Facebooker Paul Buchheit has confirmed these counter offers.

And worse – he’s confirmed that many Google employees are interviewing with Facebook and Twitter, among others, simply to get a hefty raise. “Many people at Google use Facebook offers in order to get a big raise,” says Buchheit.

What’s Google offering? An immediate response for starters. They have put policies in place to ensure that an employee gets a response within 24 hours, we’ve confirmed from sources close to Google. Raises of 15% – 20% aren’t uncommon, as are new restricted stock grants ranging up to $500,000 in value. Employees are also often offered a different job, a move into a managerial role, etc.

Why does one of the hottest companies in the world need to work so hard to keep employees? Three words – Pre IPO stock. Silicon Valley is where even regular joe employees can make millions if they join the right company at the right time. And it’s a pretty safe bet that Facebook and Twitter are the right companies at the right time right now. So employees, particularly engineers, flock to those companies. Because of the stock options, as well as the chance to work at the hot company of the moment.

Google knows all about this because not so long ago they were the hot company and stole engineers effortlessly from Yahoo, Microsoft and just about everyone else.

It’s Different This Time

Google is doing more than just the usual recruiting stuff to fight this. Counter offers like these are relatively unheard of until now. In the past companies have let those engineers go, knowing it’s the way Silicon Valley cycles through things.

But some are saying that Google’s aggressive counter offering is actually creating a much bigger problem by encouraging even loyal employees to dip their toes into the Facebook pool. Why not? Only a sucker would sit and hope for recognition, when they can, as Buchheit says, “use Facebook offers in order to get a big raise.”

Maybe it’s better if Google just lets some of its engineers go. The finger in the dam approach rarely works, and it seems to be affecting morale across Google.