Eliminating Talent Shortages: Maybe Poaching Competitors Is the Way to Go

Article main image
Jul 2, 2015

Second of two parts

Yesterday, we dug into the topic of how to handle talent shortages in There’s No Talent Shortage if You Can Poach From Your Competitors.

As the economy continues to improve, any current shortage at your firm will only get worse, at least until you upgrade your recruiting and employer branding strategy to the point where it is near the top in your industry.

Some of the recruiting action steps that I recommend to eliminate talent shortages at your firm include:

1. Build the business case

Very few things in business can be dramatically improved without an increase in resources, and recruiting is no different. So start your talent shortage reduction effort like other firms have, with a strong business case. As a result of making a strong business case, Google has a recruiting budget that is double that of the average firm in their industry.

Even less-glamorous firms like The Container Store have created a powerful business case, including in its case the calculation that one great performer produces as much as three good employees. So work with the CFO’s office to prove the bottom-line impact of upgrading your recruiting function and its results.

And incidentally, even the most expensive recruiting function on the planet requires less than 1 percent of the total company budget, so relatively speaking, it doesn’t take very much of the firm’s money to develop an industry-leading recruiting function that can permanently end any talent or skills shortage at your firm.

2. Directly target the talent at your competitors

If you want a high volume of already developed and proven talent, you have no choice but to focus your recruiting on luring out that most desirable talent away from your product and talent competitors. And finding the names of the talent who work at your competitors is now amazingly easy as a result of LinkedIn and other social media sites.

Because their current boss will probably fight to keep them, in order to successfully recruit at your competitors, you will need great recruiters, a poaching strategy, advanced recruiting/selling tools, and a perceived better opportunity than their current job at their present firm.

3. Require recruiting to be data-driven

Because recruiting and the job market are constantly evolving, you can’t expect to remain effective by just copying the current practices of the top firms. Instead, you must use data to continually improve and to stay on top.

Start by measuring the quality of hire, the dollar impact of top performers and innovators, the selection criteria that accurately predict top performers, and the most effective recruiting sources (usually employee referrals). The talent management function with the highest business impact is recruiting, so make your executives aware of that fact.

4. Build a magnet employer brand image

In a social-media-driven world, no firm can hide the fact it provides a bad candidate experience or that it doesn’t offer exciting work. And with all the clutter, you must be both precise and proactive in virally spreading your own positive brand message.

In order to build your image, both your executives and your employees must get involved in improving and then spreading the word about the practices that make your firm a top place to work.

Incidentally, if you must also target university grads, you won’t capture even your fair share of them without a superior employer brand and an up-to-date college recruiting strategy.

5. Stop offering paycheck jobs

Top performers want two things: to do the best work of their life, and to have a major impact. If you merely offer a “paycheck job” that isn’t challenging and exciting, you certainly won’t convince the best to leave their current job.

And yes, that probably means redesigning your hard-to-fill jobs and your work environment, so that employees have more freedom, challenge, learning, and excitement and that those features are visible to external prospects.

6. Offer remote work

If you want to attract top talent from around the world, you simply can’t expect all of them to relocate. By converting your hard-to-fill jobs into remote work jobs, you can expand your recruiting target from the employees at the best firms in your location to the employees at the best firms everywhere in the world.

If you’re facing a shortage of women recruits, remote work will dramatically increase the number that are interested in working at your firm. Remote work options can also eliminate any problems associated with your worksite’s location.

When you implement remote work, you need to convince your managers to be bold and experiment. You also need to ensure that managers understand the tools for managing a remote worker. If they try to manage the remote worker with their current style, the experiment will fail, they will never try it again, and they will spread that negative message to other managers.

7. Use better and unique recruiting tools

because other firms will also target the same talent as you, the recruiting tools that you use must provide your firm with a competitive advantage.

You simply can’t win any recruiting competition if you continually use the same recruiting tools and strategies as your talent competitors.

8. Hire or develop great managers

Top talent only wants to work for great managers. So if you expect great recruiting and retention, you must focus on recruiting or developing great managers in large numbers.

9. Courage and the willingness to take risks

Even though it is listed last, courage may be the most important element of a targeting-your-competitors recruiting strategy. Since the answer to any firm’s talent shortage is luring away talent from your competitors, your executives and HR/recruiting leaders should have the courage to raid, poach, or draw away currently employed top talent.

Unfortunately, most do not. If you’re worried that that might ignite a war with a competitor, get over it. You fight a war with your competitors every day over customers and no one in sales would ever argue that stealing customers is unethical.

And finally, in order to be successful, you also need highly aggressive and well-trained recruiters that excel at direct sourcing. 

Great recruiting impacts the bottom line 

Having great recruiting not only solves the so-called “talent shortage problem” but it also has many positive bottom-line impacts.

In case you are not aware of it, the top three most valuable firms in the world Apple, Microsoft, and Google all excel at employer branding and recruiting. And Facebook, also a recruiting powerhouse, has moved up to No. 10 even though it has been only three years since its IPO.

Executives should realize that attracting top talent from competitors has numerous bottom-line impact.

  • First, you acquire talent that has already proven experience on the job.
  • Second, you can target current innovators, which may have five times the impact of a regular hire.
  • Third, these individuals bring with them the best practices from their previous firm. And finally, attracting this talent makes your firm stronger, while weakening your competitors at the same time.
 Unfortunately, many firms don’t realize this high ROI because their risk-adverse recruiting leaders often don’t have the will and weak recruiting functions don’t have the capability of effectively drawing top talent away from other firms.

Final thoughts 

Once you realize that there is an abundance of talent working at your competitors, the next step is to make recruiting an integrated effort that involves everyone. If you make a strong business case, every executive and hiring manager will almost overnight develop an interest in helping to develop the capability of drawing away top talent from competitive firms.

But you should also get your employees involved, and you can do that by revitalizing your employee referral program and making every employee a 24/7 talent scout and an employer brand ambassador. Once everyone is involved, it’s recruiting’s job to use metrics and analytics to determine which recruiting and branding approaches work the best.

If you’re still not convinced, consider the case of Duke in college basketball and Alabama in college football.

Most college teams with average images and recruiting approaches face a shortage of talent year in and year out. But no matter how weak the overall recruiting class is, these two recruiting powerhouses always end up with a surplus of talent.

And that is because the answer to all talent surpluses … is simply great branding and recruiting!

Get articles like this
in your inbox
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting articles about talent acquisition emailed weekly!