“I found out that a recruiter has been contacting some of my senior-level employees. Maybe I’m being naÃ¯ve, but it angers me! I’ve finally developed a strong team, and someone’s trying to steal away my best players. I’m curious if there’s anything I can actually do about this. I’d like to call the recruiter and give her a piece of my mind!”
“A wise person once said, ‘Tell your spouse you love them — before someone else does’,” says Gary Gregg of AppleOne Employment Services. “As a recruiting firm, we have been accused in the past of stealing employees. The reality of the situation is quite simple: you cannot recruit a happy employee out of a company.
“Most people will listen to what a recruiter has to say about a new opportunity; however, only those employees who are dissatisfied with their work situation will take the time to go for an interview. Therefore, to ‘recruiter-proof’ your company, do the following:
- Treat your employees with respect, and don’t take them for granted.
- Listen to them when they have issues, and support them in their actions.
- Let them know where they stand, and be honest.
- Pay them market rates versus standard cost-of-living increases.
- Praise them in public and discipline them in private.”
I am a professional recruiter and have been for more than 12 years,” says David Can Schaik from Derhak Ireland & Partners Ltd. “Try as you may, you cannot prevent me from contacting your people. If they are any good, I will find them and contact them. So what can you do? If you really are an entrepreneur, you have built a business and your clients come to and stay with your firm because you listen and fulfill their needs better than your competitors. You understand the business and manage it.
“To keep your top performers — why would have any other kind? — you need to understand their needs and fulfill them, or your competitors will. Well-managed candidates do not leave, unless there are no career growth opportunities. Employee retention cannot be explained in a short reply but to “recruiter-proof” your company you will need to become an expert.”
A simple thank-you card or e-mail sent to the stealing recruiter’s management usually gets your point across,” says Karan Kinder, a PR consultant. “Write something such as: ‘Dear Sir: Your interest in my employees only goes to show that I do have a winning team and the best team players in the business. The compliment is appreciated, and I wish you all the best in your continued search. However, please keep in mind that some headhunting methods are considered illegal, and I am sure our legal division will have no issues following through with appropriate legal action if necessary.’
“I worked for a few companies where my role was to find employees gainfully employed elsewhere and entice them to work for us instead. It is a common practice, especially where specific skill sets are rare. But there is a fine ethical line, and crossing it can cause negative ramifications. Bad publicity can hurt a company’s value (stockholders don’t take that well) and legal battles can hurt a company financially, so most headhunters try to avoid stepping on these potential land mines. Usually making the offending company aware of the fact that you know what they are doing slows down their active pursuit of your employees. But it will not stop it.”
“Confident employers encourage their employees to look at other opportunities,” says Stephen D. Smith of Pivotal Managed HR Solutions. “By knowing their market worth, and having weighed the pros and cons of working at your firm, you’ll have more productive workers. Shielding them from market forces is more dangerous in the long run. It’s your job as their employer to provide a stimulating and challenging workplace.”
“The best advice is, ‘Get over it!'” says Michael Pearson of CONTAX Inc. “There is no way you can prevent headhunters from contacting your employees, nor should you even try. Your employees will always have the choice of working for you or for someone else, and you cannot interfere with this fundamental right.
“Open discussions regarding pursuing employment prospects outside your company should definitely be discouraged. In a true team environment, it is seen as disloyal to be known to even be contemplating such a move. Creating a strong team spirit will discourage any such types of conversations between staff.
“When I think about my staff being contacted by headhunters, I ask myself, “What would I want them to tell the headhunter when they call?” The answer is something along the lines of, “I am very happy in my current job. I feel valued, challenged and rewarded. I know someone else may be prepared to pay me more money, but I do not wish to leave my current job, boss or co-workers, because I feel like a valuable member of the team.” I then picture the headhunter hanging up and crossing their name off the list.
“The real challenge, of course, is to make your employees feel in such a way so they would want to respond that way. It won’t always work, and you will lose staff from time to time. That’s life. On the whole, though, most people who are treated with respect and loyalty will reciprocate, and thus lower the chance of you losing valuable staff.
“Rather than investing your time and effort in trying to prevent headhunters from contacting your staff (a task at which you will certainly fail), focus your efforts on building this positive work environment, a true team atmosphere and a strong sense of loyalty to the company.”
For his answer, Michael Pearson will receive a copy of Solving Tough Problems: An open way of talking, listening, and creating new realities, by Adam Kahane (Berrett-Kohler Publishers).
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