Uber Consolidates Its Power By Putting People Strategy First

Uber Consolidates Its Power By Putting People Strategy First

If you want to know where the great tech companies are headed in 2015, don’t wait for January: Look around you, at all the big hiring moves they’re making right now. When putting together their 2015 operating plans, these companies are also looking to secure the A+ executive talent that can help them execute their new goals.

In other words: There’s a hiring rush on, and top executive talent is more valuable and sought-after now than ever.

Blockbuster transportation service Uber is one clear – and controversial – example of this trend. They’re clearly looking to take their success to the next level, and they’ve done so by making some very big hiring decisions.

First, Uber hired Travis VanderZanden, the COO of its long-time rival service, Lyft. The rivalry between Lyft and Uber is both heated and legendary, and, understandably, Lyft has not taken this well. (VanderZanden now says he was in talks to replace Lyft’s CEO before he left – a fact that Lyft’s CEO was apparently unaware of.) Still, by bringing VanderZanden on board, we like to think that Uber is not just taking a swipe at a rival; it’s making a smart, informed decision to hire people who can inform and challenge the rest of the team in new ways, no matter where their relevant experience lies.

For another example of this strategy, you can look to Uber’s more recent big-name hiring decision: They’ve brought on Tom Fallows, head of Google’s same-day delivery service, to head up their own delivery service initiative. In this case, things have gone a bit more smoothly for all concerned: The relationship between Fallows, Google, and Uber remains smooth. (One would hope so: Google is an investor in Uber.) But, again, this move consolidated Uber’s power by making sure that anyone who was doing truly excellent work in the fields it wished to conquer was working for Uber.

The question of hiring from competition has always been particularly charged in the tech world. Early this year, some of the biggest names in tech were called out for “wage theft,” due to an ongoing agreement not to recruit from each other. This seemed like a gentlemanly, cooperative practice at first sight. But in fact, it actively drove down the salaries of top tech professionals by eliminating competition, where the forces of the free market would otherwise have driven them up. Not only did companies lack the ability to hire everyone they wanted to work with, the executives in question lost an estimated $9 billion in income. Being able to approach top-performing executive talent, no matter where that talent works, builds companies and individual executives alike.

Uber’s decisions won’t be popular. (In fact, the lack of diplomacy may make it harder for them to attract top talent in the future. Professional executive search professionals are schooled in the ethics of recruiting, and know how to conduct delicate negotiations so that everyone walks away happy.) But they do demonstrate that people strategy is a strategic asset – that the rush for top executive talent is just as vital to a company’s future as the rush to create truly disruptive technologies. Uber is trying to dominate the market by collecting all-stars. If your company does the same – with a little more tact, and some professional help – then you may just see your way clear to a record-breaking 2015.

Dave PartnersUber Consolidates Its Power By Putting People Strategy First