Your company is only as good as its employees, which is why recruiting top-notch talent is always imperative. Sometimes that talent works at the competitor and that’s where poaching comes in. Just like recruiting is an art form, so is poaching. Do it right and you can have a dedicated, long-term employee. Do it wrong and that employee will only be loyal to the highest bidder.
“When you are poaching you are looking to strengthen your talent level and weaken your competition,” says Harry Osle, global HR transformation and advisory practice leader at The Hackett Group, the business advisory firm. The companies that are good at it “are very descriptive in the type of individual they are looking for.”
In the past, many companies would zero in on a person that was successful at a competitor and simply assume he or she would do well in their environment without giving any thought to the differences in cultures and how the businesses are run. Often that ended up being a costly mistake because the person that thrived at the competitor struggled within the new company. Now, Osle says companies are doing a better of job of clearly articulating what they want in a candidate before they start the recruiting process. They are more careful to consider if that person would be successful in their environment and if they possess the skills and competency suited for their organization instead of making broad assumptions.
Successful poaches also don’t try to lure someone from a competitor on a whim. Usually they develop a strategy and have a person in mind before they start recruiting from other companies, says Kathy Harris, managing director at Harris Allied, the recruiting firm. They first determine the role, responsibilities and the salary they are willing to offer and then come up with a wish list of candidates. “You don’t want to be perceived as not being thoughtful and unable to execute on something as important as talent acquisition,” says Harris. That’s why defining a strategy first is so important, she says.
Once the company has an idea of who they want to poach there are different ways to approach the potential candidate. Many companies choose to use a recruiter to do their dirty work while others will turn to social media like LinkedIn to make contact or tap someone in their network who knows the person to do their bidding. “A recruiter produces the right distance for the company,” says Osle of The Hackett Group. One thing that’s very uncommon is a company cold calling into another company to access the person, adds Harris. “There is a sort of diplomatic protocol,” she says. “You don’t want to burn bridges within the industry.”
According to Samuel Tanios, president and chief executive of Human Elements Consulting, the human resources consulting company, companies can even use their own employees as brand ambassadors to lure talent their way. For instance companies can send insiders to industry events and other networking opportunities to forge relationships with the person or people they have their eyes on. Once a relationship is forged it’s easier to approach the person about a job at a later date, says Tanios. He says companies also need to create a social media presence so prospective candidates can get a glimpse of what it would be like to work at their organization. “You have to give them the opportunity to connect. Once you’ve got the connection you have the opportunity to reach those individuals and be able to poach,” says Tanios.
Getting the talent to come on board is one thing, but keeping them there is a completely different story. After all there is always that concern that if someone offers them more money they will jump ship again. While professionals don’t want to be seen as someone who hops from one job to the next, the company has to give them reason to stay with the organization, say experts. Compensation is certainly part of that equation. The employee has to be fairly compensated, have good benefits and be offered wealth building opportunities. But equally, if not more important, is the ability to grow at the company and within their career. “You’ve got to continue to nurture and develop their stars,” says Harris. “You retain star talent by offering them professional movement and a career path. You nurture them professionally.”