When your small business needs someone for a hard-to-fill role, poaching talent from another company becomes an option to consider. Not only could this person bridge a skill gap, he or she may bring along connections that can help secure clients or position your small business more favorably within the industry. Before embarking on this controversial business practice, however, leaders need to be aware of the possible repercussions. Failure to think about these issues could make poaching your dream candidate turn out to be a nightmare.
Small business owners do not have the time or the money to get into messy legal battles, so be certain from the start that your desired new hire is not bound by a non-compete agreement. Such an arrangement may prevent the employee from working for specific industry or geographic competitors for a set period of time after leaving his or her current employer. Failure to comply could result in a lawsuit, so seek advice from an employment lawyer before continuing talks.
Recruiting and training take effort, so it’s no wonder other employers do not look kindly upon people who try to “steal” their talent. Those you’ve angered may now view members of your small business staff as fair game and lure without remorse. Likewise, getting a reputation as a poacher may lead others in the business community to question your ethics and abilities. Do you really want to be known as the person who resorts to moving in on other people’s superstars because you can’t attract or develop worthy candidates on your own?
So what can a small business leader do to minimize problems?
- Make sure the candidate is worth the effort. Save your feather-ruffling for the most important cases. Many times, someone from another company may look great on paper but not actually be the best person for the job. Learn everything you can about the worker before trying to convince him or her to come aboard. As you dig deeper, you may discover a poor cultural fit or qualifications different from what you expected.
- Be subtle. Instead of bulldozing ahead, test the waters. Hiring a search firm to look into the interest level of potential candidates can provide some distance between you and the talent you seek. Introductions through shared network connections or casual conversations at an industry event also can appear more respectable than aggressive wining and dining.
- Respect others. Finally, remember that the cost of landing an awesome new employee should not be losing the connections you already have formed. Hurting a business partner, vendor, or personal friend can have a greater impact on your small business than missing out on an impressive worker. Ask permission before initiating any contact with their staff members, and back off at any sign of anger or discomfort. Better yet, enlist help from these folks — they may know someone looking for a position who could fulfill your needs.