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Prevent Employee Poaching

Posted by Eric Friedman

Employee poaching

Losing top talent is arguably one of the worst fears for any employer. After spending so much time and money finding, recruiting, onboarding, and training employees, it’s understandably disheartening when they leave; especially when they leave your company to join a competitor. This is what happens when companies poach employees—they look for top performers in other companies and try to convince them to leave their current job for a new position.

Poaching can be done in a multitude of ways, and either subtly and overtly. Some companies rely on recruiting agencies or headhunters who actively go after key staff members in specific industries. Some set their eyes on someone and start a kind of courting process, enticing him or her with promises of bonuses, better hours, and additional perks. Even when it’s subtle, poaching is not something to be ignored by any company.

Employee poaching is even more prevalent in certain specialized industries, such as IT and software development. In these industries, employees are often asked to sign a clause in their contract agreeing not to seek employment with a direct competitor for a certain amount of time after they leave their job. They may also be asked to sign a Non-Compete Agreement, whereby former employees can’t use your business methods while working at a rival company or by starting their own, for a period of time.

While you want to put some safety measures in place, in some cases companies have gone too far to try to avoid employee poaching. Take the case of Silicon Valley companies such as Google, Intel, and Apple, which for years have been plagued with litigation over secret agreements to prevent them from recruiting each other’s employees. While it’s understandable that these companies, which rely on such tech-savvy employees, would like to protect themselves from poaching, the U.S. Department of Justice ruled that these agreements restricted competition for workers in the industry and were therefore anti-competitive and illegal under federal antitrust laws.

Instead of focusing on ways to prevent employee poaching and guarding employees from competitors—which may even turn out to be illegal—employers should focus on keeping their employees happy in their positions. After all, poaching is closely related to employee retention, since employees wouldn’t succumb to poachers and leave if they were 100% happy in their current positions.

Here are five ways your company can keep its employees happy and less likely to be poached by your competitors.

  1. Offer a competitive salary. Offering competitive compensation makes it less likely that your employees will seek a higher salary elsewhere. It also helps employees feel that they’re appreciated, and that in turn can help them be more productive and happy at your company.
  1. Encourage growth. Many employees leave their jobs because they don’t see a future for their careers. Employees who feel that they have nowhere to go—and this is especially true for the younger generations eager for new challenges and opportunities—are likely to look for that new challenge someplace else. Without a clear career path within your company, these talented individuals are likely to move on to greener pastures, namely that of your competitors.  Come up with a strategy to offer career advancement opportunities to help retain your top talent.
  1. Open the channels of communication. Employees want to be heard, but they also want to be “in the know.” Many companies implement changes that affect their employees without considering their perspectives, or at least intending to do so. Opening up the channels of communication between employees and the decision-makers in your company can help employees feel more involved, which can make them feel that they play a bigger role in the company and thus have more at stake there. If they feel more connected to your company’s management and its decisions, they’ll be less likely to seek that elsewhere. Open communication is also good for building credibility and trust between your company and its employees.
  1. Motivate and engage. Employees who feel undervalued or unappreciated at their jobs are more likely to leave. Nobody likes to feel that the contributions they make to their company are going unnoticed. Consider implementing ways to let employees know that their work and what they bring to the table is valued. From just sending a “job well done” email after a project is completed to treating employees to a retreat as a reward for good performance, motivating your employees keeps them more engaged and devoted to your company.
  1. Promote balance. We spend a lot of our time at work each week, especially these days when work doesn’t really end in the office anymore. Creating a company culture that encourages employee engagement and a healthy work-life balance will help keep your employees happier and less likely to leave. Flex-time, alternative work hours, and working from home options are all ways your company can help employees to better balance their life and work needs.

Remember, keeping employees satisfied and moving forward in their careers will help thwart poachers’ efforts. What are some ways your company has dealt with employee poaching?

Beating the Odds

Hiring employees is only the first step on the way to building a strong and engaged workforce. Employee retention is critical to a successful business, since you cannot achieve your goals without experienced and qualified staff. Retaining the best talent is a real challenge today, and one that requires a complex and careful approach.

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About Eric Friedman

Author

Eric Friedman is the founder and CEO of eSkill Corporation, a leading provider of Web-based skills testing for pre-employment and training. With academic degrees in Psychology and Business, and experience with both mature and expansion-stage company growth, Eric has focused on how best to hire and motivate team members to be the best they can be for their companies.

4 COMMENTS Join the discussion
  • Jill Stevenson May, 14, 2014

    You can’t stop other companies from poaching your employees because as we know grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. What we actually can do is to prevent your employee from leaving by making him/her want to stay with your company. Treat people well, pay them well, and they will be less likely to leave.

  • Meg Smith May, 15, 2014

    We shouldn’t blame poachers if we start losing employees, but rather look deeper into our companies and try to find the reason there. From my own experience I‘ve learnt that communication tends to be at the root of most problems between managers and employees, but if we listen attentively to what our employees have to say and react to their words fairly and with due respect we will manage to build a loyal team.

  • Dan Bedford May, 16, 2014

    Employees must have a free choice and decide for themselves where they want to work. If they leave a company and start working for a competitor, – it only means that they were not satisfied with the working conditions. It’s a human nature to always look for a better place under the sun – and we can’t blame them for that. What we can do is to find out the reasons for leaving and make the working conditions better, so that future employees wouldn’t want to leave.

  • Dan Greenberg May, 16, 2014

    Other companies may look more attractive to your employees not just in terms of money. Money is important but I’d say the thing that makes people unhappy in a company is a bad atmosphere resulting whether from bad attitude from the manager or from excessive competitiveness. What we should always remember is that most people are recognition hungry, so don’t avoid a chance to show your employees that you value them.

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