The problem this causes is twofold. Firstly, you’re losing a valued member of your team, who will take with them ideas and knowledge of how your business operates, to a competitor. Secondly, you’re going to have to spend time – and money – sourcing a replacement and training them. All this is bad for business.
So how should you react when a competitor is trying to steal an employee? And what measures can you take to deter your staff from jumping ship?
Here are some things to consider if you find yourself in such a situation:
Is it Worth Enforcing Non-Competes?
Non-compete clauses are pretty standard in today’s employment contracts. Put simply, this involves an employee agreeing ‘not to enter into or start a similar profession or trade in competition’ against their employer. They are also referred to as restrictive covenants.
However, in a bid to encourage innovation and entrepreneurialism, Governments across the UK and Ireland are seeking to change these rules, and employers must put forward a strong case that demonstrates their case is reasonable and protects a legitimate interest.
Enforcing a non-compete is always costly and difficult to enforce and might even work against your business. Restricting an employee’s ability to develop their career and limiting their ability to make a living can breed resentment, which may impact on productivity and your brand’s image. What you could consider is making sure you have a robust confidentiality clause in your contract as well as restricting any ex-employees from contacting your customers or trying to poach your remaining staff for a period of time after they leave. These clauses are generally easier to enforce.
However, before launching straight into the legalities, it’s worth exploring other avenues first.
Should you discover one of your best workers is thinking about leaving, it’s important to take positive action. Ignoring the problem, suggests you don’t care, and is a sure-fire way of pushing them out the door. Instead, sit down with the person, acknowledge their position, try to understand what has led to their wanting to leave, and see if it can be fixed.
While money is important, it is not usually the driving force behind an employee’s decision to leave. More often it comes down to feeling undervalued or under-challenged. If this is the case, perhaps involving such employees on new and innovative projects, or giving them greater responsibility for a specific task may be enough to coax them to stay.
Counter Offers Are Counterproductive
Following on from my second point, if an employee decides to leave for a job with better pay, making a counteroffer might seem like a sensible option. However, without understanding their underlying issues, you’re basically paying more money to keep an unhappy worker. It might act to bandage the problem for a while but, sooner or later, their dissatisfaction will start to show in their work.
Furthermore, if word gets out (and it always does) that one employee received a pay rise, then it can cause problems with the rest of the team. They may feel unappreciated for the work they do. The could demand a similar pay rise. They may decide to seek out pastures greener themselves.
Invest in Your Staff
Some years back Richard Branson famously said business should ‘train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.’ Many companies make the mistake of sending employees on costly courses and training programmes to further develop their skills, but fail to invest the time or effort to show them they matter to their organisation. When the employee moves on to a competitor, where they feel more valued, the employer is left feeling betrayed and offended.
Invest in your staff at a personal level. Take the time to understand how they feel about their jobs, what motivates them, what frustrates them, what you can do to support them in their role and keep them from leaving. Too often, employers wait until the exit interview – when it’s too late – to ask these questions.
From their feedback, you can develop bespoke retention plans, while reinforcing all the positive points that working for you offers them. Just be sure to act on the feedback, less it become another bureaucratic exercise.
Don’t take it Personally
No matter how good an employer you are and how big an effort you make to ensure the happiness and wellbeing of your staff, people are going to come and go. The most important thing is that you don’t take it personally and don’t overreact.
It may be a case that the employee just needs to try something new, or is keen for a change of scenery. Retaining a relationship with these people, even if they’ve been poached, can benefit you in the long run. They may become advocates for your brand, sharing their positive experiences of working with you. Better still, they may come to realise that the grass is not always greener on the other side and wish to come back to your company. Check out the article I wrote about Boomerang Employees here.
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