How to Attract (and Retain) AI Talent

Last month, we focused on the importance of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in businesses as the world shifts into the next generation of technology. We discussed the fundamentals behind those advancements and identified potential solutions for complications in current systems. After that, we spoke about how some organizations can overcome the resistance to change by emphasizing major economic and social benefits adopting new technologies can bring to a business.

At VTRAC, our passion has always been technology, but our roots are in our people. AI and ML technologies are undeniably powerful but, without the right team behind it, it’s true potential will never be reached.  This poses a new challenge for businesses that are just entering the AI scene. In fact, 50% of executives reported finding top tech talent as their greatest concern.

As a fairly new field, the supply of quality talent is limited. Tech giants act as the metaphorical “big fish” in the small pool of resources, monopolizing talent with brand recognition and high compensation packages that smaller companies just can’t match. So how can the rest of us catch some fish in the resource pool? This week we talk about how to attract and retain top talent for your organization.

1.    Know what you are looking for and where to find it.

Depending on the level of experience required, the search strategy should be adjusted accordingly. It is important to remember that  talent hides in many places, so it’s important to know where to look. For example, universities and hackathons could be a good introduction ground to Jr. ML developers; but successfully connecting with a Sr. AI researcher would be more likely through networking at an academic conference. It’s also important to consider location in the search. Tech giants tend to hire from the same schools and cities, essentially targeting the same candidates. So when looking for talent, go to the places where the others aren’t, open your search nationally and globally. 

 2.    Look beyond the resume.

We believe that passion is the key driver to success. While skills and experience are important, recruiting for AI requires an in-depth look into a candidate’s background and personality. Academic backgrounds in mathematics and statistics often provide candidates with the ability to identify algorithms and optimize them for a specific problem or outcome. Personality-wise, curiosity and creative traits tend to work well with the abstract and unclear problems often facing AI and ML experts, and an ability to learn quickly pairs well with the dynamic environments of AI and ML.

 3.    Give a reason to switch jobs or change projects.

Attracting talent is not about convincing someone to switch jobs. It’s about offering them the opportunity to work on projects that center around what they really love to do. So if  the competitive incentives of the big fish can’t be matched, there is no need to panic. Today’s AI talent is full of curious minds who prioritize intellectual challenges and having an impact over monetary incentives. These individuals tend to value environments that provides quality, meaningful projects while promoting long-term learning and collaboration, where their ideas are heard, areas that major tech companies can’t always guarantee.

4.    Retention is key. And you can’t buy it.

While attracting top talent comes first, keeping it is just as important. Second only to finding talent in terms of business worries, 20% of top executives reported retention as their main concern, and it’s often over-looked in the hiring process. While a big paycheck may be able to attract talent in the short-run, it does little in the long-run. Today’s AI talent market is attracted to innovation and problem-solving. By providing the right combination of opportunities to contribute, experiment and improve, workers feel valued and responsible for their work, making them less likely to abandon a project.  In order to retain tech talent, they need to know that they are making an individual impact in the team. Including them in key decisions, offering collaboration over supervision and working with them to develop actionable and effective professional development plans creates a setting that supports people, and their long-term goals.

5.    Ask for professional help.

At VTRAC, we specialize in finding top talent for numerous organizations across North America. Contact us today to learn how we can help you make your next big catch.