There's no more vital factor in the long-term success of Google, Facebook, Yahoo!, Apple, and the rest than the quality of their human capital. No wonder then that Google has been paying $500,000, cash — and as much as $50 million in stock — to retain its top engineers.
Now, you might think that Google's towering piles of cash would allow it to win the Valley's talent war. But not according to a fascinating graph by Top Prospect. As you can see, their data shows that Facebook is far and away the biggest winner:
As they point out, Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, eBay, and Amazon have suffered the most employee losses in recent years. Meanwhile, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, LinkedIn, and Apple were the biggest gainers in total head count. And finally, hot startups obviously posted some gaudy recruiting ratios: At Twitter, 10.9 people joined for every one that left; Facebook, 8.1; Zynga, 8.0; LinkedIn, 7.5; and Groupon, 3.9.
Top Prospect assembled this chart from their own data: They're a referral service for the Valley, which uses social networks to connect job recruits with companies looking to hire. The data was gathered by looking at all the people in its database who have changed jobs in the last two years, and then crunching where they went.
The war for talent looks a lot different at the lower rungs.
Which means that this chart could very well suffer from severe sampling bias. Facebook might very well come out looking hot, simply because the service has caught on among Facebookers (who, after all, have a vested interest in new social networking sites). Moreover, this chart doesn't give you overall volume: That is, Google can grow a tiny portion of its huge workforce; Facebook, in its early days might have doubled its own. But that doesn't mean that Facebook has more engineers than Google.
But this chart does tell you some fascinating things. Namely, you can discern a sort of "coolness" ranking among the companies: Google is drawing most of its talent from the stodgy halls of Microsoft; Facebook, meanwhile, is drawing from other hot startups. Which is a powerful suggestion about how has the buzz among the most fickle and talented people in the Valley.
The chart also shows how the war for talent looks a lot different at the lower rungs than the headlines might suggest. We tend to focus on big moves at the top — hence all those headlines about Google giving $50 million in stock to retain one engineer. You'd assume that the money means that Google is winning the war (or maybe losing it?).
But I'd argue that we severely overestimate the impact of top people on an organization's success. It's the worker bees that make the honey, not the queen.