Dear Workforce Should We Poach Employees From the Competition


Jul. 22, 2006

A Dear Gun-shy:

I’m afraid that you are misguided, and may even go so far as to say that your timid mind-set may be a significant factor in limiting your organization’s potential. If the other functions in your organization operated under the same fear, it’s safe to say that you would not be in business much longer.

Your question is a blazing example of human resources people seeing ethical concerns where none exist. Business professionals expect competition. If HR truly wants to be a business partner, it must start to think and act as a businessperson. Clearly your senior manager understands the value of talent and the need to fight for it, so it’s time for you to drop your recruiting pacifism.

Recruiting great talent is always a fight (some call it a war). If you want candidates who are well-trained and talented, you really have no other option but to poach from existing pools of talent, including competitors. Hiring exclusively from non-competitors invariably means you’ll get saddled with: 1) People who lack experience in your industry; 2) Candidates from outside the region with high relocation costs; or 3) Candidates so poor in quality that your competitors would not touch them with a 10-foot pole.

Whether you like it or not, large competitors in all industries continually target the employees of smaller firms. You ought to be alarmed if your competitors don’t try to poach your employees, as it would be a sign they aren’t worth having.

Hiring away from other companies:

  1. Enhances your company’s talent pool while that of your competitors gets diminished.
  2. Gives you well-trained talent with skills and knowledge that your current employees might not have.
  3. Enables you to gather competitive intelligence and learn from competitors’ techniques, approaches and mistakes.
  4. Often brings a significant portion of your competitors’ customers your way.
  5. Forces your organization to pay attention to top performers to keep them from being poached.

Some firms like FirstMerit Bank in Ohio actually calculate the giveaway/takeaway ratio of talent. They monitor whether they are taking away more talent from competitors than they are losing. You might want to start something similar.

SOURCE: John Sullivan, San Francisco State University, August 15, 2005.

LEARN MORE: Much more onretention.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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