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The Scramble for AI Talent

Research suggests the economic value of AI tools could be as high as $26 trillion, but its potential is held back by the lack of skilled talent. So how can organisations realise the efficiencies and benefits of AI without the budgets to attract the very top talent? 

The runaway success of OpenAI's ChatGPT has sparked excitement, with investors eager to pour money into AI startups and discover the next overnight success. This influx of cash has intensified the competition for talent. With high budgets and no shortage of challenging work, businesses are finding themselves in a bidding war for the best minds. Meanwhile, the question of what AI is for is still open-ended. With use cases only beginning to emerge, the fight for talent is as much about the vision and strategy to apply AI effectively as it is about the technological skillset.

Attracting the best in AI talent is not business as usual. Those at the forefront are a small, highly sought-after group, commanding six-figure salaries, equity, bonuses, flexibility, creative freedom, purpose, innovative culture and impact. The good news for established businesses is that talent is moving into more traditional healthcare, banking and manufacturing companies. Meanwhile, the big five tech firms (Meta, Alphabet, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft) are facing just as much competition to recruit, with reports of high-profile founders such as Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg and Open AI’s Sam Altman personally calling candidates to encourage them to join. Tech giants like Salesforce are also making bold moves, with CEO Marc Benioff offering to match any resignation from OpenAI with full cash and equity.

While many firms will struggle to meet the salary demands of the most sought-after talent, there are other attractions. The draw of a business that can implement change at pace, allows for creativity and encourages innovation that can draw talent away from the big hitters. This is one reason why small companies are winning the battle for talent. The ability to implement change quickly, alongside offering creative control and flexibility on hours and location, can trump a slow-moving and inflexible organisation, even if the salary is higher.

With budgets tight, AI leaders may find themselves tasked with developing junior hires and internal movers rather than searching for the perfect skillset. While this may slow the application of AI in an organisation, it has the benefit of increasing engagement amongst existing employees and attracting those keen to learn. It also allows an organisation to benefit from the institutional knowledge embedded in existing employees, as they can use this combined knowledge to identify specific use cases for AI in the organisation.

AI and Talent Acquisition

Download our AI and Talent Acquisition guide for more on this subject, including the seven steps you need to take to build an AI team in your company.