What actions might Yahoo take to strengthen its internal recruiting? How might these efforts support Yahoo’s corporate strategy? One person who contributes to a solution is Susan Burnett, Yahoo’s senior vice president of talent and organization development. Burnett aims to create an environment in which employees learn the skills they need to take on greater responsibilities. Burnett first established a development program for 2,000 highpotential employees. The program, called Leading Yahoos, teaches leadership, goal setting, and measurement of results. By helping these new leaders align their work with the company’s overall strategy, it supports Yahoo’s effort to make goals more visible to employees at all levels.
More directly, Yahoo is seeking to find highly skilled software experts by recruiting away from Silicon Valley, where the competition for talent is intense. For example, it worked with the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation to announce that it wanted to hire software developers to work at the University of Illinois Research Park. Yahoo said it had six to nine open positions but would consider hiring more if it received enough good applications. The company’s publicity noted that it paid above-average salaries for the research park and that the Champaign facility was innovative, having applied for patents on 25 ideas.
Observers note that Yahoo still earns most of its money by employing reporters to write stories and salespeople to sell ads, an old-media kind of operation that is hard to run at a profit. Yahoo outsourced web search to Microsoft’s Bing, and in spite of its leadership role in advertising, it has yet to offer much in the hot young market of mobile ads. Shifting from unprofitable, low-growth activities to activities with more potential could lead to significant staff cuts in some areas even as a hiring push continues in others. Still, one former employee sees hope. Geoff Ralston, who worked on Yahoo Mail, notes that EBay and Apple both survived periods when they seemed to be fading away. Ralston believes the solution is to buy or build “consumer experiences that are unbelievably great.” That’s a mission a tech worker would choose to accept.