Talent gaps from the perspective of a talent limited organization.

Many or­ga­ni­za­tions re­port be­ing tal­ent con­strained and many or­ga­ni­za­tions re­port to be work­ing on fix­ing these gaps. This trend is great and one I am re­ally ex­cited about as the founder of a tal­ent limited or­ga­ni­za­tion. How­ever, I feel there is a bit of a dis­par­ity be­tween the spe­cific tal­ent or­ga­ni­za­tions are look­ing for com­pared to what tal­ent cre­ation groups are of­ten fo­cused on. I do not think this is true for 100% of or­ga­ni­za­tions work­ing on tal­ent or look­ing for tal­ent, but from con­ver­sa­tions I have had with oth­ers, I ex­pect the trends be­low to be broadly true rather than just true for my or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Fo­cus on tal­ent qual­ity over quantity

The first biggest differ­ence that I no­ticed and the one I have heard talked about by other or­ga­ni­za­tions the most is the differ­ent fo­cus on qual­ity vs quan­tity. From the per­spec­tive of run­ning an or­ga­ni­za­tion (both in meta and di­rect poverty) what I re­ally need are top hires, mostly in se­nior po­si­tions. This is the main tal­ent that is re­ally hard to find in the EA move­ment and will have a much higher im­pact on my or­ga­ni­za­tions run­ning (or new or­ga­ni­za­tions get­ting founded) than any num­ber of 10% donors or solid vol­un­teers. To give a re­ally con­crete ex­am­ple, this re­cent EA pro­ject launched was only made pos­si­ble be­cause there was enough highly tal­ented and ded­i­cated peo­ple who ap­plied, but there are still other ideas that could be founded if there were more peo­ple in this camp be­ing gen­er­ated from tal­ent pipelines.

How­ever the fo­cus in many com­mu­nity-build­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions of­ten seems to be more fo­cused on num­ber of peo­ple (at events, in the pro­gram, tak­ing pledges, etc) with few ex­am­ples of se­nior hires for EA or­ga­ni­za­tions (or equiv­a­lent) com­ing out of these pro­grams.

I know that or­ga­ni­za­tion­ally it can be harder and quite a differ­ent mind­set to aim for fewer but high im­pact peo­ple. Some of my points be­low tie a bit tighter into ways to change or­ga­ni­za­tional fo­cuses more in this di­rec­tion.

Fo­cus on endline spe­cific met­rics

The sec­ond big differ­ence I no­tice be­tween move­ment-build­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions and tal­ent-short or­ga­ni­za­tions is how much they are con­cerned with and value in­ter­me­di­ate met­rics. If I am look­ing to start a pro­ject like the one I men­tioned above (a new pos­si­ble GiveWell recom­mended char­ity), it mat­ters very lit­tle to me how many peo­ple hit in­ter­me­di­ate or more gen­eral met­rics such as tak­ing the 10% pledge, and al­though it can be in the­ory used as a cor­rel­a­tive met­ric, there are plenty of rea­sons how you can imag­ine an or­ga­ni­za­tion very good at max­i­miz­ing these in­ter­me­di­ate met­rics with­out many of the endline spe­cific met­rics be­ing max­i­mized.

Very few tal­ent pipe widen­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions seem to fo­cus on spe­cific gaps in­stead of just broadly “cre­at­ing more EAs”. This is on top of the con­cerns that the term “EA” leaves a lot of room for mov­ing the goal­posts. I think by nar­row­ing down to spe­cific ar­eas of fo­cus or­ga­ni­za­tions can a) avoid step­ping on each other’s toes/​im­pact and b) fo­cus on fewer but more speci­fi­cally needed skills.

To give a more spe­cific ex­am­ple of how I could see this be­ing ap­plied would be an or­ga­ni­za­tion set up ex­clu­sively to find peo­ple good at found­ing high qual­ity or­ga­ni­za­tions in a sin­gle spe­cific high im­pact EA area (poverty, AI, an­i­mal rights).

Cur­rent tra­jec­tory and pos­i­tive examples

Over­all I think the EA move­ment is mov­ing more in this di­rec­tion, but I think there is still space to speed up progress on this front. Some pos­i­tive ex­am­ples of things I think have had large im­pact and moved more in the fo­cused/​qual­ity di­rec­tion.

  • EA jobs Face­book group—very fo­cused and very low time cost but has al­lowed many more ap­pli­cants to ap­ply to a given spe­cific job than oth­er­wise would with­out hav­ing to con­tact many differ­ent mailing lists/​de­liv­ery sys­tems.

  • 80,000 Hours nar­row­ing down fo­cus on top cause ar­eas. Be­ing cause neu­tral is not the same as be­ing cause in­differ­ent and over time 80,000 Hours has clar­ified and pub­lished their list of pri­ori­ties as well as moved their fo­cus to their as­sessed higher im­pact ar­eas. Even if I dis­agree with their list of which causes are most im­por­tant, I think this fo­cus is a very im­por­tant way to greatly im­prove im­pact from their per­spec­tive.

  • Tar­geted in­tern­ships—this pro­gram run by Char­ity Science (my or­ga­ni­za­tion) giv­ing spe­cific in­tern­ships aimed at build­ing ca­pac­ity for a spe­cific later job seems like a good way of aiming at both qual­ity and speci­fic­ness that could be repli­cated in other ar­eas.