MOUNTAIN VIEW — When it comes to attracting and retaining talent, Google beats all other U.S. firms, a new study has concluded
And of the companies that made the top 10 in a new study by professional networking site LinkedIn, eight are Bay Area technology firms.
Google tops the list, followed by Salesforce, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Uber, Microsoft, Tesla, Twitter and Airbnb.
LinkedIn said it analyzed billions of actions by users — including job applications, number of views on companies’ sites, and inputs revealing how long a new employee stays in the job — to produce its first-ever “Top Attractors” list.
“Nearly every company is going through or on the verge of going through a massive, tech-driven transformation — and the urgency to lure and keep the right talent to make that transition successful has never been more obvious,” LinkedIn executive editor Daniel Roth wrote in a company blog post about the study. “Being a talent magnet is going to be what separates the winners from the also-rans.”
The high ranking of Google, Facebook and Apple are predictable, LinkedIn columnist Suzy Welch, who worked on the project for several months, said on the company blog.
Amazon came in at No. 5, despite high-profile negative claims about its culture, but the e-commerce giant shares qualities with other companies high on the list, Welch said. “They give people a chance to do meaningful work, make them accountable and make the work count,” Welch said.
Standard measurements of potential employees don’t paint a complete picture for employers, said Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey.
“Part of the challenge for these companies is that they definitely are competing for talent as a raw material for production, but it’s not just their skills and abilities that you’re competing for,” McQuivey said. “You want the people that have that extra energy and excitement that they’re bringing to their skills. It’s one of the things that these tech firms are constantly sifting through.
“They’re trying to figure out which ones have that maybe undefinable personality that’s going to allow them to be the spark, or if they’re not the spark, they’re the kindling.”
Tech firms fill the entire top 10 in LinkedIn’s list and make up 45 percent of the 40 companies ranked. “Though comparatively small and wildly competitive, the tech industry is Shangri-La for workers of the world today,” Welch said.
A number of factors can give a company the appearance of a mythical employees’ paradise, McQuivey said. “The difference between the top five and the next 20 is probably that the top five are capturing people by sheer gravity of being cooler places to work, more exciting places to work,” McQuivey said.
Work with powerful significance to customers also draws and keeps talent, McQuivey said.
“If you work at Tesla, you feel that. If you work at Google, you may feel that. Someone could make the case that Microsoft would be surprising to find in the top 10, but if you’re on the HoloLens team you’re changing the world; if you’re in Microsoft Azure, you’re racing to compete with Amazon, one of the best companies in the world,” he said. “You talk to people at Salesforce and they feel fired up. They’re growing; they’re making a difference.”
A firm’s own narrative — such as a founder’s story, or around creation of a revolutionary product or service — also can play a major role in building the gravitational force that attracts and retains workers, McQuivey said.
One other attractant is obvious: “These companies pay their people well,” McQuivey said.
LinkedIn’s data analysis, however, produced a conclusion at odds with the reality of the Silicon Valley tech sector, Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Jeffrey Pfeffer said. “The study has to be flawed, as turnover in this area is enormous,” Pfeffer said.
Indeed, PayScale in 2013 put Google at No. 4 among U.S. companies for having employees leave soon after starting, with a median tenure of just over a year. Apple’s median tenure was put at two years.
LinkedIn did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Pfeffer’s assessment.
This year, workplace-engagement firm TINYpulse issued a report saying tech workers were more likely than employees from any other sector to say they expected to leave their jobs within a year. Possible explanations for the apparent retention problem include perceptions among some in the survey that firms weren’t better than they’d been a year previously and that management lacked cohesion.