Raising the Talent DensityPosted about 1 month ago by Nick Caley

Have you ever heard of the term ‘talent density’?

I’m nearly 15 years into my recruitment career and last week via a blog by L.J. Brock was the first time I did. 

Google describes the term as, “the quality and density of skills, capabilities, and performance you have in your company. 

“So, if you have a company that is 100% high performers, you're very dense. If you have a company that's 20% high performers, you're not very dense.”

Now back in my school days ‘dense’ was not a term of endearment. Quite the opposite.

What accompanied his blog was a post by L.J., which explained some new processes Coinbase had implemented into their hiring process.

One such process was that, from now on, all offers Coinbase wants to make will need to be signed off by the CEO or COO.

Every. Single. Offer.

There was a range of reasons, with raising the bar very much front and centre, but Coinbase has 3,416 employees.

Let’s say they experience an average 10% attrition rate and currently have 165 live jobs on their careers page. That would equal c500 hires.

And that’s hires, not offers!

In L.J.’s post, he explains that of the 90 offers currently requested for sign off, 71 have been approved, and 19 rejected.

I was/am/still am, incredulous at the idea – but did write a little about that on LinkedIn also – so will park it for a moment.

But what got me thinking more widely about hiring, and especially L.J.’s  ‘raising of the bar’, was a comment on my post from an engineer I worked with in the early 2010s.

He said, “It must get more and more difficult (and expensive!) for the next hire to raise the Talent Average (whatever that is)… Ask FAANG about the recent dumping of high talented, but underutilised, employees. 

“Was that an unconscious, mass-hysteria-type attempt to ‘raise the average’?”.

This got me thinking. Less so about the need to raise the bar, in theory, I understand that, but more about the necessity to raise said bar on *every* hire.

Surely there’s a conversation here around fit for purpose.

Over the last three years, it feels like we’ve experienced a huge amount of big tech businesses hoovering up the best tech talent, but to what end?

They have regularly been ‘raising the bar’, paying the best, and ensuring they’re constantly increasing their talent density. 

But surely, there comes a point in 1000+ size businesses where raising the bar isn’t what’s required.

I would envisage the focus at that size should be on skills-based hiring.

What skills do we actually need?

Are we focusing on people who fit the role and their requirements, rather than someone who – while they could do the job at hand – doesn’t raise the bar to the CEO/COO’s liking?

We regularly work with clients with challenging hires. Where the combination of skills, level of seniority, and budget, make the desired person tough to secure. 

In the FAANG world, and no doubt Coinbase also, the last point and budget seems less of an issue. I.e. they can pay anything.

Which - I would envisage - *really* throws off the fit for purpose question.

If you can afford the best, then you’ll always look to hire it, even if you don’t need to.

The bulk of our clients don’t have the deepest of deep pockets, so must compromise. And in doing so, they’re forced to think about the skills they need, and how they fit the requirements of the work they are looking to complete. 

They are always looking to raise the bar, aren’t we all?

But what are they more focused on? Finding the right person to complete the work required. 

And in that instance, they don’t need the CEO/COO to agree.