The best way to compete with the FANGs for tech talent is not to play their game

  • As advancing technology continues to drive the demand for tech skills, nearly every company faces the issue of how to snag top talent.
  • Yet it's hard to compete with the likes of Amazon, Apple and Facebook, which have the resouces and prestige to attract the top performers.
  • At CNBC's Productivity@Work event Tuesday in New York, senior partner Juliet de Baubigny of Kleiner Perkins claimed the best way to attract talent is to "start with the basics."
A cyclist rides past Google Inc. offices inside the Googleplex headquarters in Mountain View, California.
Michael Short/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A cyclist rides past Google Inc. offices inside the Googleplex headquarters in Mountain View, California.

As advancing technology continues to drive the demand for tech skills, nearly every company faces the issue of how to snag — and keep — the best and brightest tech employees on the planet. Without it, competitors could crush you.

It's no surprise that the top five publicly traded tech companies — Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Alphabet-owned Google — which collectively are valued at nearly $4 trillion, lead the way when it comes to attracting exceptional talent.

Fiercely competitive, they offer everything from extensive benefits for parents — Facebook gives four months of paid leave, daycare reimbursement, adoption fee reimbursement and $4,000 cash to pay for new arrivals — to free meals, car washes, swimming pools and volleyball courts at Google's Googleplex facility, and some pretty hefty salaries: The average salary at Facebook is $117,000, at Google $113,000 and at Apple $120,000. With the job market getting even tigher, at 3.7 percent unemployment, those numbers will likely increase.

What is surprising, though, is that the retention rate at each of these companies is still no more than two years.

"[The FANGs] are susceptible to any great start-up," said Juliet de Baubigny, senior partner of Kleiner Perkins, at CNBC's Productivity@Work event on Tuesday in New York City. The conference, which marks the second event in CNBC's three-part series @Work: Tech, Transformation and the Future of Jobs, examines how CIOs and CTOs are managing the transition to a digital future.

"If you can adapt your organization and culture to be more attractive, I don't see why any company should use the excuse that they're not a FANG as to why they are having a hard time attracting talent." -Juliet de Baubigny, senior partner of Kleiner Perkins

"The movement of talent, particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area ... Sixty percent of millennials are looking for a job at any one point in time; 21 percent moved jobs last year alone. Put yourself in the San Francisco Bay Area, where you've got a complete influx of capital, and you're dealing with other issues," she said.

De Baubigny claims that the big incentives and the impressive salaries the FANGs offer are hard to compete with, so companies need to just "start with the basics."

"If you can adapt your organization and culture to be more attractive, I don't see why any company should use the excuse that they're not a FANG as to why they are having a hard time attracting talent."

The magic ingredient for smaller companies? "Great leadership," she said.

Juliet de Baubigny at the CNBC Productivity@Work event, October 30, 2018.
David A. Grogan
Juliet de Baubigny at the CNBC Productivity@Work event, October 30, 2018.

"It all comes from the founder. If you don't have a great founder, the company is unlikely to really survive," said de Baubigny. "It is that simple. Starting with a great founder, creating a great culture, and then hiring that first-generation leadership team."

She points to Google as an example. "The Google leadership team, as it came together, the bar was so high. It was rigorious; it was measured. And if you look at the leadership teams of Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple, they are really tenured. And yes, they will replace themselves, but if you truly study those leadership teams, you have a lot of longevity. That also creates strong values. It is really attractive. People then want to come and learn from icons in their industry. So you've really got to start with the basics," she said.

She added: "You have to treat people right. Company growth is great, but eventually it has to be meaningful to me."