Buying Top Talent (The Acqui-Hire)

You’ve probably already heard yesterday’s big tech news: Facebook purchased Instagram, a photo sharing application for the iPhone, for a whopping $1 billion. This is Facebook’s largest acquisition to date because the company has primarily made acqui-hires. An acqui-hire is when a company acquires a smaller company for access to the engineering talent in its workforce. For example, Posterous was acquired by Twitter last month for 36 of its most talented employees.

With respect to running a competitive business, top talent is worth its weight in gold – literally.

In the United States, there has long been a shortage of engineers, especially software engineers and systems developers, because so many new technologies are enabled by software. Many emerging growth, venture-backed companies offer potential employees amazing perks and benefits to generate interest and inspire loyalty. Larger, more established technology companies are having trouble competing with these smaller players as they look to find, hire and retain top engineering talent.

So, they make acqui-hires. But wouldn’t it be less expensive for these larger players to adjust their recruiting strategy to focus more sharply on retaining top engineering talent once a remarkable hire has been made?

Here are some ways that companies can keep employees (especially engineers) engaged and innovating – without spending millions of dollars on acquiring an entire company to access this talent pool:

Screen shot 2012 04 09 at 5.22.44 PM 300x201 Buying Top Talent (The Acqui Hire)Provide employees with interesting work. Make sure that your company has a clear vision, and that all of your top hires buy into this vision. When they do, you are empowering your people to be creative, imaginative and innovative – and to work towards the same goals. Only then can they contribute to your organization’s bottom line by making informed, strategic decisions.

Give employees room to grow. Provide learning opportunities to your top talent at conferences and in the office. Embrace mentorship for free, and spend money on making your employees smarter. This will not only help them in their own careers, but it will help your organization, overall.

Don’t hire jerks. Top talent gravitates to top talent, so hire awesome people and give them the power and the flexibility to own projects from start to finish. Trust them, and let them work together to obtain results that you never would have dreamed of. Awesome people love to work and to learn from other awesome people; they feed off of each other.

Money can’t buy happiness, but for many behemoth technology companies, it has been able to buy top talent. Take a few moments to think about your hiring and retention strategy; what minor adjustments can you make today to keep your top talent happy?

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