Leaders: There’s nonstop poaching going on.
And I’m not talking about ivory tusks. The poaching is with your high performers. Every hour of every day they’re being approached by recruiters. Lured to more pay, a better leader, a healthier culture. You name it, they’ll promise it. And perhaps it’s all true—sometimes the grass is indeed greener. So fertilize your lawn!
The war on talent is intense and shows no signs of subsiding. Leaders beware: your company’s anti-poaching efforts shouldn’t be owned by Human Resources or People Services. They’re owned by you, on your floor, with your team members, daily. And if you have virtual teams, the challenge is even more vital.
Here are six actions that every leader needs to be mindful of:
1. Your key contribution is not setting strategy, creating systems, setting vision, or recruiting (calming) investors.
Yep, they matter, but not if your people aren’t your people anymore. Your #1 role is talent recruitment and retention. You need to be obsessively engaging with your colleagues to ensure they feel valued, appreciated, challenged, rewarded, and most of all, wanted. Wanted by you. In this organization. For a long time.
2. Set time every day to ensure every member of your team understands how key their contribution is to your mission and that you value their contribution.
Often the best inoculation against poaching is a sincere “How’s it going?” Just check in. People can easily feel invisible to senior leaders in the midst of nonstop meetings, product launches, and other demands. It takes five minutes. Maybe more if it’s not going well, so be prepared for an ambush or a longer-than-you-expected download.
3. Consider their own preferences. It might be a walk around campus.
A text or email. A short Skype call where you have no agenda, but sincerely want to check in and ensure they know you know that they delivered on a commitment, exceeded an expectation, or accomplished a fatiguing task. Celebrate their work anniversary. Invite them to lunch. Fill in the blank: a sincere “touching base” is an invaluable currency in the world of nonstop poaching.
4. Be uber aware of the career market, especially what types of roles are in high demand and are likely to be on your competitors’ radar.
You might choose to disproportionately put time into your “most likely to be poached” associates. Alternatively, you might put a process in place where you and your leadership team review every associate for their likelihood to accept a recruiter’s overture, probably via LinkedIn, and what you are (or aren’t) going to do about it. When a competitor makes an offer and you’re asked to counter, it’s now ransom. You won’t win, or if you do, not in the long run.
5. If you want to know someone’s poachability, check their LinkedIn page—you can generally tell if someone’s open to inquiries.
Better yet, just sit down with them and ask: “How’s it going? Just wanted to check in and ensure you’re enjoying your role and remind you of how much we appreciate you.” (Yes, this will lead to them asking for a raise, so be prepared.) And then, ask them straight up: “I suspect, like everyone here, you’re always being recruited to leave. I hope you feel valued here, and if there are areas we can improve (which, of course, there are), please raise them to the appropriate person.” (If you’re the EVP of Sales, it’s likely not your role to take on the reimbursement system.) If you open the dialogue, they’re much more likely to share their own reality. And perhaps more importantly, as inquires come to them, they may be more deliberate about jumping ship or at least talk to you before they do, because you’ve now set the environment for a safe conversation.
6. Lastly, sometimes losing a star performer isn’t the end of the world. Stars know and hang out with stars.
And if your former star likes your culture and leadership, they’re very likely to recommend someone in their network. And they might even return themselves when they realize (as we all do) the grass ain’t always greener.
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