businessman poaching staff

Antony-ElkingtonIt is a controversial topic, the idea of poaching quality staff from a competitor, however, in a niche industry such as mobility and rehabilitation, it is not uncommon. When companies find themselves in a pinch and quickly need the right candidates, then pinching staff from rivals can seem to be an effective solution.

Discussing some of the benefits and pitfalls associated with employee poaching, Antony Elkington, Managing Director of Trusted Recruiter, outlines some of the pros and cons companies should consider before looking over their competitor’s talent pool.

By Antony Elkington

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When it comes to a specialist industry such as mobility, finding the right candidates with the right skills, experience, knowledge and contacts can be particularly difficult, especially when time is short and the time available for training & development is tight.

It can make the idea of hiring someone that has experience of working with similar products or services to your own with the right contacts that can instantly hit the ground and make a difference to your business an irresistible prospect, but is it really the best option?


Less training required

Having someone with industry knowledge and contacts means you need to spend less time on product training, which can be extremely important when there is a key role that needs filling quickly.

In roles where very specialised knowledge is required and the time to train staff can be extremely long, compounded by a shallow talent pool to recruit from, acquiring skilled candidates from a rival company can become an even more attractive proposition.

I would, however, suggest that any company considering hiring from a rival makes sure that the candidate is well aware of your processes & procedures, as well as ensures that person is able to adjust their way of working in line with your business and your company’s culture.

Existing contacts & relationships

The old adage of ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’ does have some weight for specific positions in the mobility industry, especially if you are trying to reach sectors of the market that may prove difficult for someone without the contacts, such as the NHS or local authorities.

Candidates who have worked with a similar market may mean they have existing contacts which can help to grow your business immediately, providing your company with access to individuals and relationships previously out of reach.

Good in theory, there is always the risk that wearing a different hat could be difficult for the poached employee, especially if they have previously dismissed your products or services to those same contacts.

“You can’t poach without breaking some eggs.” Antony Elkington

Improve reputation

A candidate from a rival firm may have an exceptional reputation in the market, which, in turn, could improve the reputation of your business, both with clients and other stakeholders within the industry.

This could mean that not only could your business attract new customers but also potentially more high-quality candidates of a similar nature.

For example, bringing in a well-respected, knowledge and efficient sales director from a rival could enable your company to enjoy a domino effect, with other sales staff keen to work for that individual.

Capitalise on weaknesses

Acquiring exceptional staff or talent from a competitor can also have a strategic benefit of weakening that rival business.

By taking a competitor’s top performer, it could leave a gap in their business that they would struggle to fill and potentially weaken their position in the market, enabling your company to capitalise on the opportunity.


Possible contractual restrictions

There are some companies that are aware that they could lose pivotal employees to a competitor which could be harmful or detrimental to their business, both in the short and long term.

To combat this, your competitors may have a non-compete or non-solicitation clause in place with their employees, particularly relating to those with important responsibilities or top performers.

It is important that before offering a contract to a poached candidate, you ensure that these contractual restrictions are not in place.

Old habits

As the expression goes, ‘old habits die hard,’ and as mentioned above, one of the major issues when hiring from a competitor is that that the person is unable to adapt to a new company, processes and culture.

They may have done a similar role and worked for a similar company, but this does not mean you should lose the things that make your company stand out from your competitors. There is potential for a candidate to bring in old habits and traits which could rub off onto your other staff and be difficult to forget.

Upset current or future relationships

You can’t poach without breaking some eggs. We are in a small sector and pinching from a competitor can cause difficulties and feelings of bad sentiment.

There is a very good chance that at some point, your company will be required to interact with your rivals and shake their hands, be it for joint training sessions, industry exhibitions or trade association meetings.

If you are likely to meet a competitor or need to maintain some sort of healthy relationship, permanently burning a bridge over a single hire may prove to be more damaging than beneficial in the long run.

Also, you may also be opening the doors for competitors to attempt to steal your most valued employees.

A question of loyalty

When recruiting for roles that may be vitally important to the success of your business, loyalty is an important factor to consider. If the competitor’s employee is readily happy to jump ship, then there will inevitably be the question of whether they are susceptible to being pinched again.

For positions that have a high degree of responsibility or long-term importance to your company, it might not be worth the risk.

To poach or not to poach?

There are valid arguments both for and against, but ultimately, the decision very much depends on the circumstances. In the short-term, it can seem like the answer, however, it is always important to bear in mind what the fallout of such a decision could be in the long-term and if it may prove to have costly negative impacts down the line.

Importantly, at Trusted Recruiter, we will only ever headhunt candidates that are working for companies we have no existing relationship with.

Working with manufacturers, retailers and distributors in the mobility, independent living and assistive technology sector on a ‘no placement, no fee basis’, Trusted Recruiter generally recruits for sales, marketing, operations, manufacturing, servicing, customer service and senior management. Check out the latest Trusted Recruiter roles today

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