Is This Why Uber Can Hire Anyone It Wants?

Chetan Reddy

Autonomous self-driving cars. Uber. $40 billion USD valuation. It’s a marriage that needs to happen.

Uber can get any top talent it wants. Having just finished another round of fund-raising and with billions of dollars in investors’ money, Uber is looking toward replacing its drivers with self-driving google self driving carcars. With reports that Uber poached 40 top-of-the-line robotics researchers from Carnegie Mellon’s National Robotics Engineering Center, completely decimating the center of its top talent, it looks like those marriage vows may be in the works. Uber ended up doubling salaries and paying bonuses on the order of hundreds of thousands of dollars to those robotics experts. But the real question is, why did the researchers leave?

All employees want to be valued, and they want their compensation to align with their contributions to the company. However, money isn’t the only factor in the retaining of top employees. Employees also want to feel engaged in their work. They need simple communication of goals and values, and ultimately, they want to develop personally. Uber’s recent employee acquisition now sparks the need for a conversation surrounding the retaining of top talent.


According to a study conducted by Gallup in 2014, less than one-third of U.S. workers are engaged in their jobs — and with  more and more employees becoming disengaged at work, turnover will increase. Employees who simply go through the motions of work at a company that they don’t care for create a scenario with no loyalty. Disengaged employees who feel little connection to their work have no problem leaving — in fact, they may even see it as a positive step. Humans share an innate desire to be loved and valued, and increased engagement plays to that.

When an employee leaves, many companies conduct an exit interview to determine why the person is leaving. Instead, managers should conduct stay-interviews with employees determined to be at risk of leaving the company.  By conducting these interviews, managers can not only identify problems (which is the purpose of the exit interview), but also formulate actions to improve the employee’s experience. These interviews also showcase a personalized attention, a key facet to fostering employee loyalty and engagement. Why wait until an employee is gone to start the betterment process?

Simplify communication

Ever play the Telephone Game when you were a kid? One game that started with the phrase “I like green cheese” ultimately concluded with “pink rats have medicinal powers.” Though a trivial example, this sheds light on the importance of simple communication.

When an employee receives information from management 5 levels above their own position, details will almost certainly get lost in translation. Instead, mandates should be simple to follow, and communication must be a two-way street (I write from an office on a one-way street…oops).  Goals need to be communicated in a manner that is clear, easy to follow, and easy to act on.

According to Clear Company, 86% of employees and executives cite lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures. Companies that deliver a consistent message clearly to all employees will foster unity and inclusiveness, and ultimately higher retention rates. If you don’t understand the importance of your company’s goals, why stay?

Don’t let green cheese morph into pink rats.

Personal development

Money dominates this world in many ways. But there are other needs, too — personal development of employees, for example. “Millennials want developmental experiences. They want to be constantly learning on the job,” says Kyle Borchardt, COO of Virtuali. This is in contrast to older generations of workers, who are more likely to already have the requisite tools and skills to be successful in the workplace. When employees are not given the opportunity to further their careers, they will move on.

To combat this movement, employers can consider programs similar to the ones implemented in Denmark. There the government, unions, and corporate policies allow for any employee to take a leave of absence to attend paid training and learn new skills, according to Fast Coexist. This is known as an “active labor market policy,” an area in which Denmark leads all countries in spending. Such programs allow people to adapt to changing work and technological environments while remaining employed by their company.

Consider the example of Uber and CMU a warning: Poach. Don’t be poached.

For more forward-focused HR strategies, see How To Build Employee Loyalty For Life.

About Chetan Reddy

Chetan Reddy is a Duke sophomore studying Economics. He was a corporate marketing strategy intern during the Summer 2015.