In case you haven’t heard, we’re at war — and the frontline is closer to home than you think.
While we’re far from complete economic recovery, the job market has begun to bounce back — resulting in a long-predicted war for talent.
The Manpower Employment Outlook Survey for Quarter 2 2011 reports eight per cent of employers in the U.S. anticipate an increase in staff levels, up from six per cent during the same period last year and consistent with the Outlook during Quarter 1 2011. In other words, confidence among U.S. employers is spreading.
However, with increased employer confidence comes a shift in the job market dynamic. Suddenly, we’re in a job seekers’ market. Bring on the poaching.
Employee Poaching: The Statistics
A recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Plateau Systems, an Arlington, Va.-based provider of enterprise-class SaaS talent management suites, reveals that, despite high job satisfaction, a wide majority (74%) of employed full-time and part-time workers would consider a new job opportunity.
Nearly 50 per cent of employees surveyed by MarketTools, Inc., an enterprise feedback management and market research company in San Francisco, have considered leaving their current jobs, and 21 per cent have applied for another job in the past six months.
CareerBuilder and Harris Interactive surveyed more than 2,400 employers and 3,900 workers nationwide from November 15 to December 2, 2010 across industries and company sizes. The survey found 15 per cent of full-time, employed workers are actively seeking a new job. 70-six per cent reported that, although they are not actively looking, they would change jobs in 2011 for the right opportunity.
Although the statistics report varying levels of “passive” job seekers, there’s no doubt they exist in large numbers. And where there are passive job seekers, there are companies ready to make them offers they can’t refuse.
“The severe slowdown in the economy has had a two-fold impact,” says Jeffrey Diana, chief people officer at SuccessFactors, a provider of cloud-based Business Execution (BizX) software in San Mateo, Calif. “Companies moved quickly to control costs and reduce headcount levels to weather the financial storm. Secondly, the uncertain economic environment kept people in place unwilling to take the risk on switching employers.”
The result, explains Diana, is companies in the same industry or geographic markets fighting over the same talent.
“They need to hold on to the people in their own organisation who might be considering greener pastures for the first time in a few years. Whether it’s retaining and monitoring top talent already in their workforce, recruiting new faces to contribute to your success, or determining succession plans in the case employees leave your company, 2011 is fast becoming a make-it or break-it year in terms of talent,” he says.
How to Spot “Poachable” Employees
“They are not always the most qualified, but they are always the most liked from among whomever the employer says is most qualified. Likeability relates to fit, chemistry, expertise, and the ability to deliver quick ROI to employers,” says Jeff Garton, the former head of global staffing for Kraft Foods and Miller Brewing and author of Career Contentment.
Bruce Hurwitz, president and CEO of Hurwitz Strategic Staffing, Ltd. located in New York City, adds: “They stay for at least five years with their employers. They are always advancing in their careers. They will be hard for their present employers to replace. They are not looking for a new job but will consider a position that sounds intriguing.”
Employees are poached because their skills and job performance are publicly available, says Tim Gardner, associate professor of management at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. One of three situations likely takes place:
- The hirer heard from someone in their network about an individual’s skills or performance
- The hirer observed the employee’s performance in some way
- The hirer read about the employee’s performance
“Once they learned about the person they did additional research and decided to hire them. Bottom line poachable employees have valuable skills or job performance that can be observed by rivals,” explains Gardner.
What Can You Do to Keep Your Top Talent?
Gardner has three suggestions:
- Keep rivals away. Discourage rival firms from targeting your talent. If a poaching event happens, your CEO should call their CEO and discourage the practice. Colluding and making agreements not to hire are illegal. But, it is fair game to respond aggressively to a poaching event to deter future ones.
- Keep the skills and performance of your employees secret. Don’t advertise each new promotion. Don’t publicize your employees and how to reach them.
- Make your top employees want to stay with you. Good workers will always have options. Make staying with your firm better than leaving. This can be done by making your company an enjoyable place to work or a costly to leave. If, for example, employees have a short commute, friends at work, and benefits not available at other places, it will be costly for them to leave.
David Schroeder, president of Charlotte, N.C.-based LoyalNation, which manages incentive and loyalty programming, agrees in particular with Gardner’s third point.
“The best thing employers can do to keep their top talent is to recognise the fact they are valuable and reward them as such with recognition, compensation, and ongoing opportunity. Effective leaders understand this naturally and, in turn, attract and retain top talent,” he says.
As with many aspects of the job hunting and hiring processes, Diana suggests being proactive — even taking steps before you acquire “poachable” talent.
“Create better job descriptions based on experience and skills of current star employees. Recruit talent from all areas, including those who are not actively seeking jobs. Delve into social networks like LinkedIn to find the right people before you need them — whether or not they are actively looking for a job. Collaborate with employees on referrals and hiring decisions,” he says.
Unfortunately for employers, the war for talent has only just begun.
“Loyalty today means something very different than even just 10 years ago,” says Michael T. Denisoff, founder and CEO of the Denisoff Consulting Group, a management and HR consulting firm headquartered in Los Angeles. “The most radical advice I can give an employer is to talk openly about the reality of poaching. Most companies don’t want to acknowledge it even when they know it to be a reality in the workplace. Put it out there in the open and address it. Denying or hiding it only gives the poacher the power.”
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