Building Resiliency Against Poaching

Shawnee Love   •   May 17, 2019

We recently discussed poaching employees, i.e., headhunting them from other organizations and even sometimes from competitors, clients or suppliers.

While having an employee headhunted away has always been a risk for employers, poaching is becoming increasingly popular now that the unemployment rate is so low and there are so few skilled people available or looking for jobs.

If you can’t grow from within or find the candidate organically, and the business needs to hire to survive, it is understandable why organizations turn to poaching as an option.

However, this blog isn’t a defense of poaching, but rather a blog about how to defend against it.

To shield your organization from poaching, we recommend focusing in a few key areas:

  • Your Relationships: Be the boss who has your employees’ backs.  Know them and what’s important to them. Show you give a damn about them, their families, their goals, and their needs and wants.  Be the boss they can come and tell about a great offer they received.  Help them process it and even encourage them to leave if it is in their best interests.  The open, honest, trust-based relationship you create will be difficult for your employees to replace and will make them think twice when a headhunter comes calling.
  • Culture & Environment: People want to work in a place where they feel respected, valued, and supported.  Create a work environment that the types of people you hire don’t want to leave.  Communicate and consult with your people and ensure to listen to the feedback and ideas.  Ask what they like and/or want in the company and then do your best to get there.  Pay attention to the perks and benefits they want (rather than just offering what you always have). Also, don’t permit toxicity to get a foothold.  Be quick to put a stop to bad behaviours like gossip, backstabbing, or bullying.
  • The Future: Clearly articulate and communicate the future career paths staff can have within your organization. Make it at least an annual conversation and offer employees opportunities to progress or learn.  Train people up (even if it prepares them to leave they’ll be better while they are with you) and promote from within when you can.  Map out possible learning opportunities and don’t hold people back.
  • The Basics: While foozball tables and bean bag chairs are fun, they will not retain people if you miss payroll, withhold expense reimbursement, don’t follow through with promises, put people in legal or ethical quandaries, or act like a jerk.  One final way to shield your organization from poachers is to ensure you don’t give people one of these reasons to leave.

In many cases when an employee leaves a company, it reminds me of an airplane crash. Rarely is there one catastrophic mistake, but instead a culminating series of small mistakes:

  • Missed opportunities to connect, care, coach, praise, explain or encourage,
  • Misjudgments on what to say or do resulting in inaction or inappropriate action, and
  • Misinterpretations regarding what was said or done.

These all add up to create an employee ripe for picking when someone calls with a “great opportunity”.

We make these mistakes because the four resiliency building recommendations require time, money, and/or effort from leaders, many of whom are overworked and under resourced themselves.  Fortunately, resiliency builds not in the grand gestures, but within the small instances of kindness, respect, patience and care, and a few of these a day can make a big difference over time.

We’d love to hear from you if you have questions or want more information.