Poaching Employees – Is it Ethical?

The essence lies in finding the right balance between recruitment and poaching employees. Excessive employee poaching may hamper your reputation permanently. Furthermore, the same thing may happen to you, with your employees joining your competitors and taking all the vital information and knowledge along with them.

The job market is highly competitive. Employers are finding it more difficult than ever to discover and attract the best available talent in their organisation. More often, companies are on the lookout for employees who hold special skills exclusive to their industry. Now, job seekers with such exclusive skills are by far and few. Plus, they are not easy to locate, making the hiring process long and cumbersome.

However, a closer look reveals that the kind of special candidates which an employer is looking for are already employed with a competitor company. That particular employee is exactly what the hiring company wants. And the only way to acquire such talent is by poaching employees. However, does it seem unethical? Is it fine to do such an act? Let us find it out.

What is poaching in recruitment?

In recruiting, the process of sourcing, pursuing and hiring the current employees of a competitor company or from a similar company is referred to as ‘poaching’ or ‘poaching employees’.

Most of the time, employers come up with job roles that require a certain degree of knowledge and experience. And it is highly likely that an individual who is already working in the same industry but for a different company, already possesses the knowledge and experience sought by a recruiting company.

Nevertheless, most companies wonder whether they should indulge in poaching workers to fill their positions or whether poaching employees is ethical. Well, there are two ways of looking at this. On the one hand, the recruiter is helping one entity fill their job position with the most suitable candidate. On the other hand, they are persuading an employee to let down their existing employer, who may have probably invested heavily in the growth and development of the individual, and jump ship just because they are getting a better opportunity which is most suitable for their skills and experience. Therefore, companies think, “is it the right way to hire?” Or, “does it mean taking undue advantage of the situation?”

To start with, poaching is a heavy word — a mere mention of which leads to many emotionally charged feelings and thoughts such as above. In reality, what you do is pursue available prospective passive candidates through the logical recruitment sources. It is a commonly practised hiring process, wherein an employee with tremendous potential is also passively on the lookout for better opportunities while still being employed with their current company.

Why job poaching is an acceptable norm

The loyalty of an employee towards the employer is viewed as a sign of professionalism, but that doesn’t mean that this trait is necessarily required to guarantee employment. Professionals have the liberty to choose when and where they would like to work, and take action when the time has come to seek better opportunities. Progress and change are the natural eventualities of life. Therefore, it is obvious that existing employees will seek newer and better opportunities to improve their overall quality of life after a certain degree of service with their current organisation.

As an employer, you must strive to keep your existing employees satisfied and happy by offering them promotions and appraisals. But how many senior positions do you have available? As the employees move higher up the ladder, their options start to dwindle. Therefore, such employees will seek better opportunities elsewhere.

As a hiring company, you can attempt to contact such employees in your competitor companies, inform them about the job options you have on offer and check with them if they are interested in knowing more. This way, you are not just allowing but pursuing an employee to decide the course of the communication.

If they are truly satisfied in their current workplace, they will either communicate it to you or may not respond to you at all. This response is a sign for you to move on to the next candidate. This way, you are not indulging in foul play nor doing any offence. However, if they are open to prospects, then they will certainly contact you to know more. This approach is ethical, and you can engage with prospects to eventually hire them for your company.

The reverse also holds true – your competitors may also poach your people. You need to keep an eye out for this and respond by matching their offerings or providing better compensation along with great culture and attractive benefits. But keep in mind some employees do look out for greener pastures and newer challenges, nonetheless.

The downside to poaching

Poaching employees from former companies can also become aggressive when the hiring company is disruptive in their approach and is adamant at hiring a particular employee who is already happily employed with a different company and has shown little or no interest in jumping ship.

Encouraging individuals to quit their existing job positions and join your organisation may allow you to acquire good talent in the short term, but it could have unfavourable implications in the long run.

You may gain the infamous reputation of being an aggressive poacher, which would hamper your good reputation amongst your competitors.

The candidate, on the other hand, may get labelled as an opportunist and recruiters may consider them vulnerable to corporate poaching.

These negative perceptions are unhealthy for the future of the organisation as well as the employee. Therefore, employers should tread a cautious path when indulging in poaching workers or employees.

The essence lies in meeting the right balance between recruitment and poaching employees. Too much of poaching employees may hamper your reputation permanently. Further, the same thing may happen to you, with your employees joining your competitors and taking all the vital information and knowledge along with them to another company.

Therefore, even though you badly want that employee who is working for your competitor right now, make sure you make your pursuit look ethical and logical rather than being too aggressive and intrusive.

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