A Blocking Strategy For Increasing Employee Retention, the Final Part

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

The first four parts of this column covered all of the elements of a world-class blocking strategy. In this fifth and final installment, we wrap up with miscellaneous blocking tips, as well as a listing of the possible blocking strategy categories.


Final Tips to Consider

  1. Get executive support for blocking by calculating the potential cost of being raided, and more important, the cost of top performers migrating to direct competitors.
  2. Set up an anti-raid/blocking/retention team to manage the process.
  3. Work closely with your labor-relations team, because union avoidance and blocking raiding share similar tools and approaches.
  4. Be proactive and realize that it is best to develop a blocking strategy long before any active raiding begins.
  5. “Sign-on” search firms that might raid (or that are already raiding you) because that alone will stop their efforts (it’s in the contract).
  6. Develop a profile of the top recruiters and top firms that attack you and the appropriate blocking strategy to block each approach. Distribute those profiles in a “rogues gallery” so managers and employees can know the enemy.
  7. Find out who does the recruiter training for each raiding firm; then take the training to learn their tactics.
  8. Conduct a failure analysis after each failed blocking attempt to determine the root causes of the failure.
  9. Learn from the poachers themselves by visiting Maureen’s sourcing group or other similar places that talk or write about the very best recruiting strategies so that you can learn the insiders’ secrets and then learn how to block them.
  10. Use the knowledge gained from external poachers to limit internal poaching by managers that are grabbing employees from critical business units.
  11. Have your CEO call the raiding firm’s CEO and ask for cooperation. Consider threatening to cut off purchases if you are a customer.
  12. Spread the word internally about the problems at raiding firms. Identify disgruntled and former employees of the raiding firm by posting questions on chatrooms and listservs. Use them to make a list of what is wrong with working with the raiding firm. Use quotes, stories, and information to bring some reality to the image being painted by their recruiters. Visit “anti-company” websites and vault.com to see what others say. (Also, check and counter your own.)
  13. Put yourself in their shoes and use your recruiters/headhunters to develop a mock plan on how you would raid a firm/yourself. Use the mock plan to help you anticipate moves and identify blocking strategies.
  14. Prioritize and focus on key jobs (i.e., hard to fill, key impact).
  15. Develop tools to identify potential or actual internal spies within your firm.
  16. Visit all of their recruiting events to see their approach. Find out whether any of your people are looking there.
  17. Send your loyal employees to interview and find out what they are offering and what they say.
  18. For large-scale raiding, set up a management “war room” to monitor your progress and to focus your resources.

Possible Blocking Strategy Categories

Throughout this series, I have mentioned numerous individual blocking strategies. In this final section, I will broaden the perspective to the 30,000-foot level.

Below I list each of the possible “broad categories” that these numerous individual approaches can fit into. When considering new blocking approaches, it is important to place individual approaches into these categories in order to limit unnecessary duplication and over-lap.

1. Blocking Entry or Access

  • Limit access to information. This category includes blocking easy access to organizational charts, promotion announcements, telephone directories, and employee business cards.
  • Train those who can block access. This category includes tools and training that prevent outside recruiters from ever talking to employees. This includes training call screeners and electronic blocking strategies for phone calls, emails, and websites.
  • Block recruiting when employees are off site. This category approaches the limit-poaching success at job fairs, professional events, during travel, while surfing the Web at home, and while employee are at public non-recruiting events.

2. Information-Gathering Approaches

  • Call and incident logs. This category covers any mechanism for discovering a caller’s pitch. Having employees log calls or log incidents when they are approached online or at a professional meeting fits under this category.
  • Exit interviews for learning “who and why.” An essential part of your blocking strategy pertains to gathering information obtained during the traditional exit interview. It’s essential that exit interviews include a simple request: “Please give us the name of the recruiter who convinced you to leave.” If you can get it, you also want to know what company the separating employee is going to and what approaches were used to reach and convince the employee to leave. Other approaches under this category include delayed (post-exit) interviews and “why do you stay?” interviews.
  • Information gathering during orientation. A lot can be learned from new hires on their first day. The approaches that fit under this category cover questionnaires and interviews with new hires during orientation to find out what approaches were used on new hires by other firms’ recruiters. If the new hire has had multiple calls, you can learn a great deal about how competitor approaches differ from your own.

3. Focusing Your Effort

  • Prioritize who is at risk. Focus your blocking strategies on at-risk individuals. Identify who is vulnerable, who is currently looking, which raiding firms are the strongest, and which jobs get priority in blocking efforts.

4. Training and Awareness

  • Increase employee awareness through information. Make employees aware of poaching approaches through posters, e-mails, tent cards in the cafeteria, or through inserts in their pay envelope. Or, provide managers and employees with side-by-side comparisons so “targets” will know when outside recruiters are exaggerating offers.
  • Increase employee awareness during orientation. Teach employees that successful poaching impacts everyone’s job security and business success. Remind them it is part of their job to be on alert for both poachers and employees who might consider leaving.
  • Offer training programs. Consider offering employees brief training in how poaching occurs and what to do when it does occur. Because training can be time-consuming and expensive, focus on key target employees who are most likely to be targets. If you can’t afford the time for training, at least post some online training on your intranet.
  • Identify the poaching approaches. In addition to the already mentioned categories, a competitor’s poaching approaches can also be identified through finding out who trains their raiders, benchmark calls to identify their best practices, how they learn about new approaches, and how to turn the tables and use their own approaches against them.

5. Metrics and Rewards

  • Use rewards for managers to encourage their support of blocking. I find managers to be simple people. They are very busy, and as a result, they tend to focus on a few things and those are the things that they are either measured or rewarded on. As a result, it’s critical to add poaching and retention to managers’ bonus formula.
  • Measure poaching and distribute those metrics widely. Distribute a forced ranked listing (listing managers from the best-performing to the worst) on their blocking and retention performance. Distribute the list to every manager the first of every month in order to build awareness or to increase “embarrassment” and competition between managers to excel at stopping poaching.
  • Reward HR. Most HR functions have no blocking strategies or function. Part of that is due to confusion about who should own the blocking process. If you measure blocking success and then reward HR professionals for reaching blocking goals, it should clear any confusion quickly.

6. More Aggressive Categories

  • Stop them once they have returned the recruiter’s call. This category includes strategies that focus on convincing an employee who is already talking to a competitor to stop the recruiting process. This includes counter offers, re-recruiting them, transfers, and redesigning their job.
  • Involve your recruiters. No one knows more about poaching than recruiters themselves, so it just makes sense to use your own recruiting workforce to help you block others from poaching you. Recruiters don’t always get upset when someone poaches from their organization because high turnover rates translate into full employment for in-house recruiters. As a result, educate all recruiters on how poaching negatively impacts the company, their colleagues, and themselves (replacing top performers is, after all, hard work).
  • Steal their recruiters and their related practices. It might seem radical, but the number-one way to stop poaching from an organization that regularly poaches you is to hire away their most successful poaching recruiters. The recruiters you poach away will not poach from you anymore, and they are well aware of the successful poaching strategy used by their previous firm.
  • Use mystery callers. Another category of blocking approaches includes testing the blocking system by hiring recruiters to try to break in. It’s too aggressive for some but it is effective.
  • Prevent the “lift out” of entire teams. Block the most sophisticated group of raiders, those who specialize in poaching entire teams at one time. Approaches under this category include monitoring team leads that are influential enough to “bring along” their team and building a warning network of employees who “talk” when their leader approaches them about leaving as a unit.
  • Poach to distract them. This is a proactive category that emphasizes continuous intense poaching to distract any attacking firm.
  • Use contracts to guarantee protection. As a final fail-safe option, consider signing key employees to individual long-term employment contracts, so that leaving is no longer an option for that employee during the specified period of time.

Final Thoughts

Blocking raids on your employees is really less about which approach you use and more about doing something and seeing what works best for you. As a result, I recommend that in addition to a corporate-wide strategy, you provide managers with a range of blocking tools and let them choose the ones that make sense to them.

By allowing for some experimentation, you can learn faster what works and what doesn’t. The only real mistake is assuming that you are not currently being raided and thus waiting until it is too late to develop a blocking strategy!

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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