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June 11, 2014

Play Offense and Defense to Prevent Employee Poaching

Dollarphotoclub_62517069When talent leaves your business for a competitor, it’s like a fumble on the football field—it hurts you twice. First, you lose that person’s contributions to your business; second, your competition gains them. Overnight, you get weaker and they get stronger.

Considering all the work it takes for you to hire top talent, you need to make talent takeaways less likely by paying attention to both offense and defense.

On offense—Keep ‘em happy.

You already know plenty about keeping your talent happy—you couldn’t have made it this far in business if you didn’t! But one of these small suggestions could make a big difference:

  • Give her a 3-5% raise. It doesn’t take a blockbuster pay raise to lure someone to a competitor—it’s often as little as 3-5%. Pre-empt that move by giving top talent a little bump before her next annual review.
  • Give him a more important title. Does a talented person really need a cool title to make him feel valued? He might! Dropping “associate” from—or adding “senior” to—his title raises his status within the company and motivates him to take a more prominent role.
  • Create something they’ll miss. Whether it’s free child care, a dog-friendly office or paid scuba lessons, if you introduce unique perks that employees love, they’ll think more than twice about jumping to a competitor.
  • Recognize the warning signs. Is someone taking an unusual amount of personal time? Leaving at the stroke of 5:00 every day? Avoiding social activities they used to love? She might be unhappy in general, or she might be in talks with a competitor. She should be in talks with you—today.

On defense—Lawyer up.

No defense in football can stop every move by the opponent—but by sticking with fundamentals, they can prevent the disastrous big play.

Your defense against competitors stealing your talent should be designed with the same strategy. You can’t prevent it from ever happening, but you can make sure it isn’t catastrophic when it does.

And like it or not, it all starts with legal contracts.

  • A confidentiality (or non-disclosure) agreement should be mandatory for any employee of any business where intellectual property is created—which obviously includes any tech company, large or small. It won’t stop your talent from joining a competitor, of course, but it protects the work they did before they left.
  • A non-compete clause. If you value someone enough to legally block them from going to a competitor, you have to pay him accordingly. But it’s worth it for top creative or sales talent—you really don’t want to say good-bye to him on Friday and be competing against him Monday.
  • A non-solicitation agreement ensures that someone who leaves can’t immediately start stealing your customers. It might happen eventually—these agreements are notoriously hard to enforce—but at least you don’t have to worry about a big chunk of business vanishing overnight.

The good news is, you can download and customize generic contracts at little or no cost. But you’d be well advised to consult with a lawyer before anyone signs anything.

On special teams—Call your staffing agency.

A top staffing agency like WunderLand doesn’t just find you people who can do the job well. We find you people who are a great fit for your company and your culture—people who are less likely to be lured away by a competitor.

Because the best offense and defense against competitors stealing your talent is hiring the right people in the first place!

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