According to research by MMC Ventures(1), demand for AI talent has doubled in 24 months, faster than the talent pool can keep up. As of 2019 there was one AI professional for every two available jobs, so building a team of AI developers for your organisation requires both focused recruitment and a sound retention strategy.
Why are there so few AI professionals on the job market? AI development requires a suite of skills from mathematics, computing and statistics, which for many specialists come from years of postgraduate study and experience. Once they attain these skills, they tend to stay in the roles that they find, with MMC Ventures reporting that three quarters of AI professionals are satisfied in their current role.
MMC Ventures predict that the "gulf" between AI talent and supply will eventually shrink. AI skills are gradually becoming more common - and the talent pool growing - as universities and tech companies offer more courses in relevant topics, and tools such as Numpy and Tensorflow make AI development more accessible. But the demand for AI talent continues to intensify faster than the talent pool is growing.
In this competitive environment, how can you attract talented AI professionals to your organisation? MMC Ventures recommend that companies "align roles to AI professionals' primary motivators". Despite AI professionals being among the highest-paid developers, these primary motivators are learning opportunities, working environment and flexibility that allows them to work with their preferred technologies.
MMC Ventures suggest that organisations of different sizes leverage their respective strengths: large enterprises should offer high salaries and access to large datasets, whereas start-ups should focus on emerging talent, offering an appealing company culture and the opportunity to 'make a difference'. Crucially, they state that "start-ups and scale-ups cannot, and need not, compete with the pay offered by large companies". AI developers tend to be highly skilled individuals who relish opportunities to learn, to be challenged and to enjoy the relative autonomy offered by roles in smaller organisations, and these values can overcome differences in pay grades.
Once you have identified your strengths as an employer, recruiting from the limited pool of AI talent requires actively positioning yourself in the areas where the talent are searching. MMC Ventures found that AI professionals who are employed found their roles through recruiters, family, friends and colleagues. Meanwhile, AI developers who are entering the field tend to engage more with company websites and job boards. As an employer, choosing either of these routes to recruitment will therefore lead to more or less experienced AI developers, each option coming with its own benefits and challenges. MMC Ventures recommend that organisations also engage with universities to train existing staff and seek out new AI talent directly.
Read the full report here.
(1) MMC Ventures & Barclays UK Ventures (2019) 'The State of AI: Divergence 2019'