A Blocking Strategy For Increasing Employee Retention, Part 4

Is your firm experiencing an increasing turnover rate because recruiters from other firms are raiding you?

The first three parts of this column introduced the elements of a world-class blocking strategy, including tips to prevent poaching at conferences and events. This week, we look at online blocking techniques, the most effective general blocking approaches, and measuring the effectiveness of implementing these strategies.


Five Methods to Block Online Attempts to Poach Employees

Historically, cold calling was the favored approach of recruiters; however, in the modern world many recruiters use electronic approaches at least as often as cold calling. As a result, any effective blocking strategy must include elements that cover attempts using e-mail and website communication channels. To combat this, consider some of these approaches:

  1. Block access to recruiting websites. After employee referrals, Internet recruiting is the second most-used recruiting method. Block them! The IT department can restrict access to certain websites, although this approach will only work when the employee is on your corporate network. The types of sites could include both national and local job boards, social networking sites, and careers sites of major talent competitors. While blocking social networking sites could impact your employees’ abilities to assist you in recruiting from other organizations, some networking sites are more likely to be leveraged by recruiters. If you don’t feel up to blocking such websites, educate employees about which sites are likely to be scoured by pesky recruiters. In addition to obvious websites, be aware of innovative recruiting approaches leveraging sites like MySpace, FaceBook, and even YouTube (recruiting videos).
  2. Log Internet activity. If you’re not up to actually blocking websites, you can at least keep a record of those job sites that are visited and use it to identify individuals who are probably looking for a job. Block them! It’s possible, based on your privacy policy, to have IT track the websites that employees visit to determine your at-risk employees. You don’t have to tell them how you know or even that you know they’re looking, but it’s a good idea to focus your retention efforts on individuals who are regularly visiting a site that includes job listings.
  3. Post blind ads. Individuals who are actively seeking employment are obviously “vulnerable” to recruiter calls. Block them! An excellent way to identify individuals who are at risk to poaching is to post blind ads on websites, which do not identify your firm. If your own employees apply, you know they’re at risk of leaving.
  4. Block or track recruiting e-mail or IMs. If you’ve developed an effective logging system, you’ll know which recruiters and firms are regularly attacking you. Once you have identified them, use a similar approach to the one used in blocking telephone calls to ensure that emails from recruiting firms, and in some cases, any email from a direct competitor are either tracked or directly blocked. Block them! Work with IT to set your “filters” to intercept obvious recruiter solicitations. Pay special attention to networking organizations like Jobster or LinkedIn, which have positive networking features but also serve as a poaching channel.
  5. Track mobile phones. Because mobile phones do not go through your switchboard and they can now visit websites and receive e-mails, instant messages and podcasts, they must be included in the online category. It’s important to note that in some cases, mobile phones are even more dangerous because, unlike a computer, they are “on” and with your employees all the time. As a result, they are most likely to be used whenever the employee has idle time outside of the office. Block them! Use cell-phone usage logs to identify recruiters targeting your organization. Work with your cellular service provider and IT department to employ the same Caller ID-based call-blocking schemes used on corporate extensions.

Five Miscellaneous Blocking Approaches

  1. Employee referrals. Over the course of the last four years employee referrals have become the number-one source for recruiting externally. Because a great deal of investment is currently being placed in such programs to make them more sophisticated and effective, any good blocking strategy should include methods to block them. Referrals are particularly insidious because the inbound attack can come from anyone at any time.Block them! The most powerful approach to blocking poaching efforts via employee referrals is education and employment brand management. Reinforce to employees that your organization provides the absolute best combination of employment features available, and that assertions by other organizations are just that, assertions. Accomplishing this relies first on a dedication to following through on employment brand messaging (something very few organizations attempt) and on competitive intelligence. With these two components underway, educate employees through frequent side-by-side organizational comparisons, benchmark studies, news reports, editorials, and management presentations.
  2. The restaurant across the street. Because large numbers of your employees are likely to go to a restaurant close to work, consider such venues obvious recruiting spots, especially when alcohol is involved. Block them! Educate employees about the likelihood of a recruiter being present. (In addition, tell employees not to leave their business cards in the “wish bowls” at restaurants or other locations.) The more aggressive approach is to directly ask key individuals to report back to you whenever they observe recruiting. Other approaches include asking the wait staff to keep you informed or even sending one of your own recruiters to these venues to periodically monitor what’s happening. If you don’t believe recruiting happens at these venues, you are na?ve at the very least.
  3. Temps and contractors in your midst. The use of contractors and temporary workers is growing in nearly every industry and geography as more and more companies embrace a project-based work allocation model. While this new work model enables organizations to remain significantly more agile and lean, it also brings a significant number of unaccountable eyes into the organization on a daily basis. Some innovative recruiters actually employ temporary workers as talent scouts. While on the job site, the temporary worker will scour the organization for trusted resources, the top performers, and the key process people. Having spent a few days on the job, they can leave your organization with a blueprint detailing how top talent is dispersed throughout your organization, and in many cases, provide insight to their real employer as to the motivations and habits of the identified key players. This is a serious problem that can not to be overlooked. Block them! Because the information mined by such temps is not leveraged by them or their temporary agency directly, it can be difficult to identify when you are at risk. Consider adding terms to your temporary labor agreements that bind such workers to confidentiality. While making them liable through contracts may dissuade a few, it isn’t going to eliminate the process. Consider having instant background checks done on any temporary worker who will have access to corporate directories and in a position to observe key business operations. Recruiters who employ these labor spies often pay them under the table, so your background investigations should look for obvious signs of unreported income. Work with the agencies that supply such labor to ensure they have systems in place to screen out such individuals.
  4. Interns as sourcers. Similar to temporary workers, interns quickly identify key individuals within an organization. Because interns often move on following their internship, they leave with a virtual treasure trove of information. Block them! Because some interns are na?ve, you need to let them know upfront that you have an expectation that all professionals maintain confidentiality. Obviously, offering interns return opportunities for another internship or a job is a possible way to limit these leaks. To maintain their loyalty following an internship, consider paying them a monthly stipend to act as an on-campus “ambassador” to spread the word to top students and student organizations about the value of working at your firm. This experience almost always solidifies their loyalty.
  5. Team lift outs. Some recruiters are realizing that poaching or “lifting out” an intact team can have a large and instant impact on business results.Block them! Lift-out attempts almost always focus on well-liked or charismatic team leaders. If you want to block this practice, identify any cohesive or “tight knit” teams that have a reasonable probability of leaving en masse. In addition to approaching the team leaders, ask individual team members to alert you whenever anyone on the team discusses a possible group move. You can also use a “dry search” to identify these teams or do periodic mystery recruiting to see whether they will respond positively to a recruiting-type phone call from someone on your team. Assign extra resources into “lift out” blocking because the business and PR consequences of a successful lift out are, to say the least, dramatic.

Blocking Effectiveness Metrics

Any good process continually monitors its effectiveness and reports its results to senior management. A blocking strategy should not be exempt to this rule. Here are some blocking results/output metrics you might consider:

  1. Giveaway/take away ratio. Firms that are truly competitors in the war for talent track each quarter the number of individuals that they “take away” from each talent competitor compared to the number that is “taken away” from them. Obviously, whenever you have a negative giveaway/take away ratio, your recruiting and blocking efforts need to be dramatically reinforced.
  2. Track your poaching loss rate. Most companies track overall turnover, but that is not the same as poaching loss rate. If you’re developing a poaching metric, I recommend that you include individuals who go to a direct competitor, individuals who leave and go to the same or higher-level jobs and the same job family for individuals that acknowledge that they’ve been poached during the exit interview or when you contact them six months later for your post-exit interview.
  3. Consider multiplying the poach rate. Some organizations weigh or multiply a loss when they calculate their poaching loss statistics. I recommend this approach because it puts a higher weight or value on the loss of someone from a mission-critical job, someone who is a top performer (the loss is multiplied or reduced depending on performance appraisals ratings), someone who is hard to replace, or someone who has a critical company knowledge or future skill.
  4. Mystery poach results. One of the best metrics to use is the percentage of “mystery poach” attempts that succeed. The process is simple: periodically ask an employee to call or email (using a generic account) into your organization to see what percentage of messages are successfully blocked. You can expect 100%, but if you’re getting below 50%, your system is just not working.
  5. Post-exit results. One of the best ways to identify where individuals are going and why they are leaving is to ask them directly during the exit interview. Unfortunately, they’re not always forthcoming at that time; instead, identify where they go during the standard exit interview and then call them three months later, using what is known as a post-exit interview. The metric to track here is the percentage of top performers who reported why they left and hopefully, the tactics that were used. This information is then fed back to the blocking team, so they can develop approaches to block these obviously successful tactics in the future.

Next week in the final installment, look for the best overall blocking approaches and some miscellaneous final tips.

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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