Creating Healthy Competition: Recruiting the Best Employees from Direct Competitors

Brittany Hink

Organizations continue to fight the battle to recruit and retain the best employees, even if that means, "poaching" the employees from a direct competitor. It is common for recruiters to seek top talent at other organizations in order to strengthen their team, sometimes this can come from direct competitors and other times it comes from an innovative and aggressive industry. Keeping the competition healthy not only adds excitement to the workplace but it also puts added pressure on leadership to keep every employee engaged with the company.
In one of HRIQs most popular articles, Is Poaching Employees Ethical? by Danny Kellman, she discusses some of the issues that emerge when organizations seek to hire individuals from the competition. However, there is an ethical way to recruit employees as well as many dos and don’ts. Here are a few dos and don’ts that many recruiters agree on.
The Dos
Do Your Homework- Ensure that you understand the individuals direct roles and responsibilities before reaching out. Jumping ship is a stressful decision for many employees. Many individuals are comfortable in their current role and the idea of moving from one organization to another can add unneeded anxiety. Doing extended research will give you the ability to ensure the transition would be a smooth one.
Do Create a Healthy Competition- The key word here: healthy. It is fun to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of recruitment. Your main responsibility is to find the best talent out there for the position and to bring them on as a new hire! It is fun to offer someone a new job that is THE perfect fit for them and to be able to experience the excitement of the future possibilities. If that person is an employee at your biggest competitor, it can be a thrill to "win them over." Keep in mind that your direct competitors are probably doing the exact same thing, so don’t be surprised if one of the organizations "prized employees" jumps ship. A healthy balance of competition and fun will add to the excitement at work, but remember to keep the competition fun.
The Don’ts
Don’t Steal Them Unless You Need Them- Some organizations can get a "big head" when it comes to recruiting from the competition. Once they snag one of the top employees, many recruiters feel they can recruit more of the competitors’ top employees. This can be disastrous to your organizations reputation as well as the other recruited individuals. If your organization doesn’t really have the need for that employee right now, don’t try recruiting them just to say you can.
Don’t Add Pressure- One of the most awkward situations is when an employee is approached by a recruiter and feels the automatic pressure of having a conversation. Be open and clear about the conversation, but don’t force individuals into a conversation. Adding pressure not only decreases the benefits of the conversation but also impairs authentic decision-making skills. Potential employees will be turned off from the entire idea. The chance of having a valuable conversation will decrease significantly. Be friendly, open, and honest with the individual; it makes a difference.
Don’t forget about internal employees-Many recruiters forget about one of the best places to snag the best talent- their own organization! There is tons of talent under your own organizations roof, don’t forget to include those individuals in your talent search. Remember that many employees want expand their business knowledge and skills and they will jump at the chance to work in a different department. Internal employees can be some of the best candidates for the role you are looking to fill, always remember to keep those top internal employees in mind for other positions.
What should you do if your organization has been "poached?"
Learn from it. It happens to everyone. People no longer stay with one organization from their very first job until retirement. The average number of years that workers spend with their employer is 4.6 years according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Four years of time and investment into one individual and they leave for the direct competitor. At one point or another, someone will recruit a top producing employee right out from under you and you will wonder: What went wrong?
One major reason that employees leave an organization is due to the fact that they are not recognized for all of their hard work. Employee recognition is instrumental in maintaining engagement with the company and many organizations are falling short. Peer-to-peer recognition is one of the most sought after forms of feedback for employees. It gives individuals the chance to hear first-hand praise from their counterparts and provides instant gratification. The organization as a whole needs to implement a strategy to enhance recognition among all departments. When employees receive constant recognition for their accomplishments, they become proud of the work they are doing. Employees that are truly proud of their work continue to work harder.
Maintain a culture that your employees love. A great company culture is hard to leave. It won’t matter if the other organization is offering a bigger salary or a nicer office space, if the culture within your organization is outstanding, employees will have a hard time leaving. Even though recruitment continues to be a challenge for organizations, the bigger issue tends to be retaining the top talent. By giving employees an environment that is fun, relaxing, and still rewarding, employee retention will continue to grow.
The biggest tip: Keep your employees happy and engaged and they will have no reason to go to the competitor!
What are your thoughts on recruiting top employers from direct competitors?