handsome business man pointing at womanMost companies are at risk of their star employees being poached; it’s a year round problem that employers have been facing ever since, well, the dawn of employment really. It may not be obvious to you that your employers are being poached, that is, they just resign of their own accord to pursue a career.

But, if you were to conduct detailed exit interviews and your own research, you’d probably find that a percentage of your employees were poached by the competition. And by poached, I mean that they have been actively courted while in your employment and encouraged to join your competition.

It does happen frequently and, in fact, there is a nice new name for it—engaging with passive talent, or people that are currently employed. Research tells us that as much as 70 percent of the workforce look for other jobs as part of their normal daily routine and these are the employees who are most vulnerable to being poached.

Of course, poaching is a fact of life, but it can reduce the quality and readiness of your talent pool and is detrimental to your business, so you should take some active steps to counteract poaching, and I have described this below.

1. Turnover analysis: Do some analysis of voluntary resignations and try and ascertain how many of those are going to competitors. Chances are some of these employees will have been actively approached either by traditional means or via the newer viral, social media route. Once you have these figures, you can understand exactly what the extent of of your poaching problem is or isn’t.

2. Non-solicitation clauses: One way that your staff may be poached is by former employees who have started their own business and/or are working elsewhere and they look to recruit tried and tested team members from your business. You can reduce the chances of this happening by including 6-to-12 month non-solicitation agreements in all your employment contracts so ex employees are legally barred from poaching your staff for a period of time.

3. Review staff/set goals on a quarterly basis: The top four reasons that employs resign and, therefore, become susceptible to poaching are,  in today’s climate: limited career/promotion opportunities, bad boss relationship, compensation and lack of challenge.

Gone are the days where you could settle for a year-end performance review to deal with all staff problems, as your top staff may have been poached in the middle of the year.

Companies should now be engaging in quarterly reviews with their staff at a minimum to stay aware of their staff’s concerns and needs and address them as needed. This more attentive approach is likely to reduce their susceptibility to being poached.

Also, research from Bersin by Deloitte shows that companies who set goals quarterly drive more than 30 percent more productivity than those that set goals annually.

4. Benchmark salaries and benefits regularly: Review your salaries  once a year to check that they are in line with the competition. Why? Salaries have become volatile in today’s talent-stressed climate, particularly in shortage/high-growth areas like IT. Within a year, you could find that your salaries are falling way behind the market, making you susceptible to poaching.

Also, consider perks like flexible working, which is becoming a key pull factor for many workers. If your salaries and perks are way below the competition, many of your employees will be susceptible to advances from recruiters and employers. Don’t make it easy for them.

5. Use personal development plans: Make sure employees always have personal development targets and are working towards continuing professional development and career development. Lack of career opportunities make employees susceptible to poaching, so actively manage each employee’s career with a personal development plan.

6. Always advertise internal vacancies: Invite all staff to apply to help build a sense of an internal job market and career opportunities, which will reduce the susceptibility of your staff to external approaches from recruiters and other employers.

7. Encourage staff to propose new tasks/responsibilities for themselves: Smaller companies may have limited job openings. In the early days, it is new tasks that arise rather than new roles/jobs. Make it clear to employees that they are free to propose new tasks/responsibilities that will challenge them or provide a developmental opportunity. Depending on the value/cost to the business, grant the employee’s requests.

The key message here is that you can’t control poaching completely–it will happen–but what you can do is create an environment that is more resistant rather than susceptible to poaching.

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