Competitive Retaliation – When They Recruit Your Talent… Strike Back Hard! (To boost your employee retention)

Why doesn’t recruiting retaliate? Because it is a common deterrent in business and the military. 

Descriptors: retention / retaliation recruiting strategy – how to – 3 min. read 


In today’s competitive recruiting environment.

Whenever your competitors face no negative consequences after they recruit a key employee. 

Their targeted recruiting against your company… will likely actually increase!

“Competitive Retaliation” Is A Common Practice Today

Just read the headlines. You will find that retaliation is a common practice in war (the Middle Eastern conflict) and even in politics (President Trump). It is a commonly practiced deterrent. Because of the effectiveness of the negative impacts you create when you “aggressively strike back.” This retaliation against your enemies/rivals limits the likelihood of them repeating their bad behavior in the future. And, of course, throughout business, competitive retaliation (i.e., directly countering a competitor’s actions) is a necessary and common reactive practice. Especially in the areas of price changes, new retail locations, and new product features. 

Corporate Recruiting Retaliation (CRR) Is An Effective Deterrent

Of course, it’s not illegal for a corporate competitor to recruit away one of your key employees. However, this recruiting should certainly be discouraged by your company because it is so disruptive. When it creates unequal economic consequences (i.e., the competitor instantly gets better, while your own company instantly gets weaker). 

So, in order to encourage each competitor to take the path of least resistance in the future,  HR and recruiting must practice competitive retaliation. Immediately reciprocate and try to recruit away at least one of your competitor’s key employees. This tit-for-tat action will get their attention and certainly restrain the competitor. Make them think twice about the follow-up negative consequences before they even consider recruiting one of your employees again. 

The Top Benefits Of Competitive Retaliation In Recruiting

If you don’t have a competitive mindset. You might not realize the multiple benefits that your organization gains when it retaliates against talent competitors that even target your key employees. Discourage any future recruiting attempts and gain the benefits included below:

  • Negative consequences will improve your retention rates – after your talent competitors experience the negative consequences and the accountability from their talent raiding. At the very least, your competitors will be more hesitant to do it again. Proactively reduce the number of external job options your key employees can now choose from. Your retaliation will increase your odds of retaining those key employees.
  • Higher retention rates will allow you to maintain team productivity and innovation – your competitive retaliation will lower your turnover rates in your key positions. And that will mean that the team can maintain its current level of productivity and innovation.
  • Higher retention rates will also mean reduced recruiter workloads – with fewer hard-to-fill openings in your key jobs. Your recruiters and hiring managers won’t have to work as hard. As a result, they will produce superior recruiting results.
  • This process will help you focus your retention efforts on your “at risk” jobs – by identifying which jobs your talent competitors are targeting in their recruiting. This will allow you to focus your retention efforts on the key employees who are working in those targeted jobs.
  • You will be able to identify and focus on your strongest talent competitors – making it a standard practice to conduct a simple LinkedIn search of your former professional employees. It will reveal which company successfully recruited that key employee. You can then tweak your recruiting and employer branding messaging. So that your messages more effectively counter what your talent competitors are bragging about.
  • You will learn about your competitor’s recruiting tactics – after losing one of your key employees to them. A failure analysis will help you learn about the recruiting tactics that they are using. And how to counter each of them.
  • This practice will allow you to proactively hire the competitor’s most successful recruiters – identifying the recruiters that successfully recruit your top talent. This will allow you to reduce your employee losses. If you have the courage to hire the best recruiters away from your competitors. For example, one corporation I worked with was challenged by a new Intel plant opening across the street in a small metropolitan area. The tech firm developed a plan to approach and hire each and every Intel recruiter within a month of their relocation.
  • Aggressive recruiting will build executive credibility (last but not least) when your executives see that their recruiting leaders are more aggressive and competitive. This more businesslike recruiting function will gain in both status and funding. 


Additional “Hire To Hurt Strategies” For Aggressive Talent Leaders 

In today’s highly competitive and aggressive recruiting marketplace. Everyone must realize that recruiting leaders who remain too passive hurts their organization. So, I recommend you consider adopting one or more of the following top five aggressive recruiting strategies (with hyperlinks). 

  1. How to hire to hurt 
  2. Recruiting from a competitor’s team
  3. Weaponized recruiting
  4. Hire those that beat you
  5. Bold recruiting tools
  6. Building a competitive advantage in recruiting
  7. Team lift-outs, if you really want to hurt a competitor


Tips For Implementing Competitive Retaliation Recruiting (CRR)

If you’re considering implementing part of this Competitive Retaliation Recruiting strategy. Here are some tips to consider.

  • Develop a competitor retaliation process in recruiting – develop a formal “recruit them back” process that can be immediately implemented once you learn you are losing any key employee to a competitor. A first step in that process should be the assignment of one of your best recruiters to target that competitor’s talent. Also, don’t keep it a secret that you are targeting those competitors in retaliation.
  • Prioritize your jobs and employees – no organization has the resources to retaliate after the loss of every employee. So first identify and then prioritize the jobs that your competitors are targeting. In the same light, you should also identify the key employees worthy of retaliation after losing to a competitor. 
  • Use your giveaway/takeaway ratio as a success measure – one of the best ways to measure your overall success in competitive recruiting and retention is through your “giveaway-takeaway” ratio. This is simply the percentage of your employees that a competitor takes from you, compared to the number of employees you recruit away from them each quarter. 
  • Track when competitors have openings in your jobs that they have previously targeted – if you actively track when each competitor is actively recruiting for a job they have previously raided from your corporation. Use this as an alert to energize your retention and recruiting retaliation efforts.
  • Ask your employees to help you identify the recruiters that approach them – before you can attempt to block them. You must identify the individual recruiters that are most successfully raiding you. One way to do that is by asking your employees who are working in your targeted jobs to alert you when a recruiter from a major competitor calls them (a coffee card can be a good reward for reporting each enemy action).
  • Reward successful competitor retaliation – be sure to recognize and reward every recruiter and manager who successfully makes a “retaliatory hire” away from a major talent competitor.
  • And don’t worry about a competitor retaliating against you – because they already are.
If you only do one thing – it makes sense to first determine how severe your recruiting losses really are (to your major talent competitors). Begin that process by listing your top professional employees who quit during the last six months. For each departed key employee. Visit their current LinkedIn profile to capture their subsequent employer’s name. And if the names of the same competitors keep coming up. Take that as a signal that you need to implement a Competitor Retaliation Recruiting (CRR) strategy.

Final Thoughts

For decades, I’ve been writing about how the recruiting function can limit and even block external recruiting. I have also argued for years that HR’s timidness and fear of risk-taking directly hurt the organization’s recruiting and retention results. So, in my view, today, when the market for top talent is so tight (especially for AI talent). It is the ideal time to begin developing a competitive mindset and to proactively retaliate against your most successful talent competitors. Those bastards need to be taught a lesson!

Author’s Note 

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About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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