Meta Losing A.I. Specialists to Google, Startups: Report

Meta (formerly Facebook) is having trouble retaining some of its top artificial intelligence (A.I.) specialists, according to a new report.

The ever-popular “people familiar with the matter” told CNBC that “at least” four members of Meta AI have quit in recent months. Another source raised that number to six, telling the news outlet: “Meta’s London office just collapsed and they lost most of their [top] researchers in the span of six weeks.”

Some of these researchers have ended up at A.I. startups or Google. Although Meta’s stock has dipped in recent months, radically lowering some workers’ compensation, sources insist that’s not the only reason behind the departures; some felt they could better pursue professional or research opportunities somewhere else. 

Meta’s A.I.-related departures come at an auspicious moment. With tech unemployment notably low, companies everywhere are scrambling to secure top talent—and to retain the technologists already on their staffs. For example, Apple is reportedly paying software and hardware engineers a second round of stock-based “special retention grants.”

However, many companies have discovered that retention is about far more than money. Limeade, which produces corporate well-being programs, recently surveyed 1,000 employees at companies with 500 or more workers and found that burnout was a top reason for departure, followed by their company’s organizational changes, a lack of scheduling flexibility, insufficient benefits, and more. 

Employees (especially technologists) overwhelmingly want remote and hybrid work—and choice. A recent report by Blind, which surveys anonymous technologists on a range of issues, found many employees at Google dissatisfiedbecause they couldn’t choose which days they returned to the office. Schedule flexibility and working from home could become two key pressure points as companies figure out how to keep technologists onboard and happy. 

In the meantime, technologists with the right mix of skills and experience have more leverage than ever to decide what they want in terms of their careers. Managers are under pressure to keep teams whole, which means they’re amenable to discussions about a range of benefits—not just flexible schedules, but also nice-to-haves like company-subsidized training, more vacation time, and stock bonuses.