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Headhunters Luring Your Staff? Fend ‘Em Off With Tough Tactics

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training,Meeting Management,Office Management

Your organization continuously spends time and money to replace employees wooed away by headhunters. You know the best defense against all turnover—including headhunters—is a workplace that values employees. But as a last resort, you can also turn to proactive anti-poaching strategies.

Headhunters are as aggressive as ever due to the uncommonly low U.S. unemployment rate and a humming economy that creates sharp competition for top talent. Employees are primed to listen to headhunters. About three-quarters of U.S. employees either actively or passively engage in job searching, according to a SHRM survey.

Nothing can stop headhunters completely. But you can take steps to slow them down and perhaps prolong the stay of some employees. How?

Larry Bienati, a principal with San Francisco-based Consultants to Management Inc., which helps employers fight headhunters, offers this advice:

  • Use firewalls and spam filters in computers to block e-mails from known headhunters and reject e-mails from unknown recruiters by recognizing certain terms they use.
  • Program displays on main phones to signal headhunter calls. Tell receptionists to advise recruiters that the people they want are busy. (Of course, top employees don’t rise to the top without building confidential relationships with support staff.)
  • Ask employees to report headhunter calls to HR, and give the company a chance to make counteroffers. You may not keep the employee, but at least you’ll get a heads-up on a pending vacancy.
  • Consider banning personal calls and conversations on work phones, except for emergencies. (It’s a drastic step that companies rarely use.)
  • Enforce existing workplace policies against using the phone, computer, fax and other company resources for nonbusiness purposes. “I would address it that way rather than having a policy that says ‘don’t talk to headhunters,’” says consultant Randy Pennington, president of Pennington Performance Group in Addison, Texas.

Banning headhunter talks may work temporarily but can backfire in the long run, causing poor morale and mistrust among employees, says Pennington. Any company that depends mostly on such policies to keep employees will always have a retention problem, he adds.  

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