I still remember the call. An HR Manager rang me a few years ago to say that her company had a no-headhunting policy. Not only did they refuse to pitch their opportunities to individuals who were already employed, but it was ‘against the rules for other companies to speak to their people.‘ I found this shockingly naive and quite silly! It also came as no surprise that this company was struggling to stay alive in fierce talent market.
When I started in recruitment, companies would train receptionists to block recruiters’ calls, and ensure that Monster and Workopolis were banned from company internet. But these days recruiting messages are everywhere. It is impossible and impractical to block LinkedIn, Twitter, or to halt conference attendance and rendezvous’ with former colleagues and miscellaneous strangers in coffee shops.
If you are losing top talent to the competition, it is logical to want to keep headhunters at bay. But the truth is your people have lives that extend beyond your four walls. In reality, trying to keep your people from connecting with headhunters is like building a fence around your yard to keep the birds in.
Your best employees are probably not out there actively looking for a new job. They are too busy working, and solving problems, and networking on behalf your company. As your people evangelize your business, and get into the community to learn and grow professionally, you benefit – even though it makes them more visible.
The top headhunters have the tools and the networks to find your most talented people – and your brightest stars have free will and are clever enough to entertain a conversation. Your best people are not only talking to headhunters, they are likely helping them! They are learning about your competitors and evaluating the teams, the technologies and the opportunities in the greater market. If you’ve done a good job providing them with the environment and challenge they desire, all of this could actually benefit your company.
The trick is not to hide your people from the headhunters
You have to make sure that your employees will always choose you even when they know what other options exist – because they just can’t imagine being more fulfilled somewhere else.
If the headhunters are circling, it means that your people are the envy of your competition. Congratulations!
But …if your people are never recruited it is not because you have a great ‘no-headhunting’ policy. It is because you have mediocre talent and maybe you need to deploy some good headhunters of your own.