“I’m going to fucking kill Google,” Steve Ballmer has been credited with saying. Ballmer allegedly included this statement in his exchange with Marc Lucovsky when Lucovsky declared his intent to leave Microsoft to join Google. In defense, Ballmer stated that Lucovsky’s decision to leave was disappointing and that he attempted to persuade Lucovsky to stay. Obviously, Ballmer’s efforts were ineffectual despite Ballmer allegedly throwing a chair across a room.
The article at smh.com.au also describes Kai-Fu Lee’s offer. Google put a 2.5M USD signing bonus, a 1.5M USD bonus for staying a year, 250K USD annual salary, and some stock and stock options on the table. I have had earlier thoughts about the Kai-Fu Lee ordeal.
It is obvious that Google understands the potential contributions that these individuals can provide. Google also seems capable of making offers that Microsoft cannot match. There are at least three things Microsoft can do: increase compensation, increase job flexibility so that developers do not feel limited to or forced to specialize in certain projects, enhance company image so that Microsoft attracts industry researchers and innovators. Surely, if Microsoft matched Google’s offer and provided an environment that is similar to or more appealing than the one that Google provides, it would be more difficult for other companies to lure its employees away. After all, these candidates recognize the risks they take when entering a new company, and they surely measure the benefits gained from the new company over the loss of tenure at their former one before they make their decision to leave.
The choice to risk little for a lot of gain is obvious. To keep employees, companies need to make the gains that they provide to their employees equitable or competitive to the gains offered to their employees by their competitors.