By: Karin Eldor
You often think about the good times you shared: you completed each other’s sentences, collaborated on successful projects, and were — for all intents and purposes — the exemplary #dreamteam.
I’m referring to those memorable colleagues and team members from former jobs, where you basically made magic together. (As far as “work magic” can really go!)
You’ve kept in touch throughout the years, via email, text, catch-up coffee dates, and even LinkedIn. But you’ve since moved on to new opportunities at another company.
And now a new job opening has been posted at your current workplace, and of course your former star team member is top of mind.
Enter, poaching: a slightly taboo yet accepted business practice.
Turns out employee poaching is done more regularly than we think — and in all forms. According to John Boitnott, a contributor for Entrepreneur, it’s done often because of “‘shrinking talent pools of specialized skills.” This is especially true in today’s hot tech / startup scene!
When it comes to poaching, there’s the kind where you recruit talent from another company (it’s usually handled by your company’s HR department or with the help of a recruiting agency). And there’s the kind where you dust off the old virtual Rolodex (also known as your contact list) and consider former employees and/or team members for a role.
If you do decide to go this route, you must consider the impact it might have on your department and on your reputation. So proceed with caution!
Here’s how to deal and prepare your team for the integration of new hires, especially if you’ve worked with the new recruits “in a previous life.”
Make the first move
Chemistry between colleagues and in the boss-employee relationship is undeniable, and doesn’t necessarily happen often. So if there’s this great person you’ve worked with before who you know is at another job, it’s tough to ignore the temptation to lure them your way — especially if you know the person would be thrilled in the new role, and your team would be even more complete with that person. #winwin.
In the social media era, it’s very easy for your company’s HR department to reach out to him or her, and gauge their interest in the position.
Level the playing field
If it all works out and the person you used to manage accepts the job, it could cause panic among your current team members. Be sensitive to the fact that your current team will eventually find out that you and the new hire have a former working relationship, which could make them suspect favoritism.
I spoke with Jessica Glazer, President and CEO of MindHR Recruiting, about this topic. She said that before it gets to the hiring stage, “It’s common that a manager brings in team members to an interview so that the interviewee gets a feel for the vibe [and vice versa], and gets thoughts from current employees.” This way employees feel included in the process, and all of a sudden, they’ve had a hand in hiring the new team member. This can help ease the transition for everyone.
The other difficult point that can cause confrontation is if the new hire is at a more senior level than the majority of the team. This will take an adjustment period for the current team, so be mindful of the seniority level the new person is starting out at.
The last thing you want is for the new person to come in raging, like a bull in a china shop — and several brownie points in their pocket.
Since your current team members will likely assume this new person is an “automatic favourite” in your eyes, you need to be transparent and honest with your team before the new person starts. Avoiding to address it will only cause rumours and a bad case of “broken telephone” to occur, which can snowball into a tension-filled workplace. And you definitely don’t want that.
Share the news with the team, and list some of the new person’s skills and the projects which you’re most excited about them focusing on. And assure your team that they’ll all love the new person — you’re confident about the cultural fit!
Mind your rep
Word will get around that you poached a former employee — and it might not sit well with your former boss or executive team (if they’re still there…). But it becomes easier to justify when the poached employee was in the process of looking for a new role — all you did was guide them in the right direction and gave them the “nudge” they needed.
There are ways to keep your reputation intact within the industry, such as ensuring the new recruit gives their former employer adequate notice (two weeks is the standard) and making sure they haven’t signed a non-compete agreement.
And of course, make sure the new hire really has what it takes at your current company — or else your reputation can be harmed there too.
Be careful about promises
Don’t sell the new hire the moon when talking to them about the role. You might be tempted to throw in some promises, to sweeten the deal in the negotiation phase.
If you know your former employee is super happy where he or she is, don’t paint a rosy picture of your workplace and company if you know the person being poached is happy at their current job.
You also want to avoid the new person coming in with the promise of big promotions, as this can also rub your current team the wrong way.
Glazer adds: “I don't think there is a direct impact when a manager needs to hire a former employee from another company. It's because they have looked at the resources they have internally and feel they need to go elsewhere because the current team doesn't have the skill required. If everyone is professional and the new employee matches the company culture, there shouldn't be any issues.”
Just make sure you follow the rules of the poaching playbook!
How to Poach Talent Politely
How to Master the Art of Poaching Employees