Posted April 11, 2021 by Mark Perna
In the new landscape of borderless work, employee poaching is a growing threat. Here’s what you can do about it. Mark’s article, “As The Talent Wars Ramp Up, How Poach-Proof Are Your Employees?,” published at Forbes.com on April 6, 2021.
Plenty of hiring and human resource managers felt the world shake a bit back in February when the tech company Salesforce.com announced that it was, in essence, making its pandemic-era remote-work arrangements permanent. As Brent Hyder, Salesforce’s President and Chief People Officer, said in a statement: “An immersive workspace is no longer limited to a desk in our Towers; the 9-to-5 workday is dead; and the employee experience is about more than ping-pong tables and snacks.”
The pandemic brought Salesforce to the realization that it no longer needed to limit its recruiting to areas where it had physical locations. Now, by embracing fully remote workers, the company can recruit diverse candidates from literally anywhere in the world.
As more and more companies adopt similar practices—McKinsey predicts as many as 20% of the workforce could soon be working remotely—this shift promises to be a boon for skilled workers regardless of where they work and live.
But there’s also a dark side to this emerging dynamic. It might mean that your business is more vulnerable than ever to losing your best employees.
While companies like Salesforce might see the upside of expanding their talent pool, they may have also inadvertently exposed their workforce to a higher risk of being “poached,” or lured away, by other companies—maybe even competitors.
As yet, there’s no data about the incidence of poaching since the pandemic struck. But business leaders should consider that borderless work does open up more possibilities for your workforce than if they were limited to jobs near where they live, says Dana Goyer, Director of Recruiting and Resource Management at Experis Solutions, a division within ManPowerGroup. “Tools like LinkedIn have allowed for borderless connections to happen already, even prior to the pandemic,” says Goyer. “A great recruitment department develops various sourcing strategies, with a variety of features to consider, like not being constrained to a respective location.”
It can be easy to forget that just before the pandemic hit, there was a so-called “War for Talent” being waged, where just about every company’s primary pain point was finding enough skilled workers. Despite the record-setting unemployment figures created by the pandemic, that battle for skilled candidates continues today.
That means you need to be actively thinking about how to “poach-proof” your existing workforce to help convince them that their best job is the one they already have. Here are three strategies to approach the problem of poaching—and set your company up to win in the talent wars.
If you’re reactive rather than proactive about poaching, you’ve already lost that battle.
Prior to the pandemic, many companies were already struggling to engage and retain their workforce, especially younger workers. A LinkedIn study from 2018, for example, found that nearly nine out of ten, or as astounding 86 percent, of workers aged between 22 and 37 would take a job for lesser pay if the other job was with an organization that better aligned with their personal values.If you’re reactive rather than proactive about poaching, you’ve already lost that battle. Click To Tweet
While some organizations have gotten into hot water by trying to illegally prevent competitors from poaching their people, the real key to retention is building a workplace culture that workers are attracted to whether they’re working from the office, from home or a coffee shop in another country. It all comes down to being proactive.
“Employers can prevent their employees from looking at new roles by creating a culture that matches their employees’ expectations,” says Goyer from Experis. “A positive culture that aligns with your employees’ perspective and expectations will help reinforce their commitment.
“Companies can also embrace rewards, which do not always have to be financial, targeted career conversations, skills development programs, stretch assignments, and volunteer opportunities. If you are invested in your employees then your employees will stay, and their performance will correlate and even exceed your company as well as their own self-appointed goals.”
Reinforcing a retention-driven culture amid an increasingly remote workforce, with more and more of your people dialing and Zooming in, will require some innovative planning.
Case in point: Jane Fraser, the CEO of Citigroup, recently announced new plans to help employees recharge their batteries and rebuild the work-life boundaries that have been erased with remote work, most notably “Zoom-free Fridays.”
Fraser cited a recent viral slide deck created by young employees at the investment bank Goldman Sachs as inspiration for these plans. In their presentation, the workers at Goldman argued that the excessive demands of their job, exacerbated by remote work, were giving them multiple reasons to go job shopping.
Planning ahead to innovatively meet your employees’ needs—ideally before those needs go viral to the wider world—can help you avoid a moment like Goldman Sachs is currently experiencing.
Ironically, prior to the pandemic, a LinkedIn study found that a majority of workers reported that having the ability to work remotely would make them less likely to leave their job. Now that remote work has become the norm, the focus has shifted to how can employers better keep their people connected to each other and to the mission and vision of the organization.
Employees are far less motivated to exit a work environment where they feel personally known and valued. This is especially true today, when a significant portion of the workforce is feeling burned out and overwhelmed.
“It goes without saying employees want to be recognized and appreciated for their efforts,” says Heidi Lynne Kurter, my fellow Forbes contributor, in her post titled 5 Creative Ways To Keep Remote Workers Engaged And Excited. “Showing appreciation with a simple thank you or a genuine compliment goes a long way. For example, ‘Great job on how you handled the Smith client. I really appreciated how you approached (the situation) and delivered (the solution). Your hard work has not gone unnoticed, and we are lucky to have you.’ These seemingly simple gestures make a massive impact on employee engagement.”
The fact is that remote work is here to stay—and with it, an increased risk of employee poaching. Proactive, planned and personal: these adjectives define the kind of poach-proof workplace culture where employees hit delete, rather than reply, when that next email from a recruiter arrives in their inbox.