The Ethics of “Poaching”

Posted by Mark on Apr 20, 2010 | 0 comments
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The Ethics of “Poaching”

I read an interesting article this morning about the ethics of poaching; not hunting animals out of season, but rather the idea of specifically recruiting or targeting key talent that works for another organization typically a competitor.I have to tell you that my initial reaction was “what”?

As the article went on it did differentiate between specifically targeting an organization with the intention of undermining them through recruitment of their key talent or recruiting with the intent of obtaining trade secrets or proprietary information, but short of that indicated it was ok. Thanks for permission.

It kind of takes to thinking that our lexicon has gotten to the place where we really have started to believe phrases like human capital. One small problem, our employees don’t “belong” to us. We “rent” their knowledge, skills, and behaviors and for a period of time if we are skilled and lucky we create a bond of mutual loyalty because of respect and commitment, period.I think the timing is especially interesting now that it looks like the economy may be picking up. I see a lot of questions out there from organizations about what they should be doing about retention in the face of a more robust economy. I advise prayer.

I am only being semi sarcastic. I am stunned by organizations who do not make investments in engaging and retaining employees on an ongoing basis and then want to install a program to fix it when there are issues.Employment at will is a concept that most employers will defend with the ferocity of Charlton Heston over the right to keep and bear arms- as long as it is balanced in their favor. They don’t like it when employees see themselves as free agents.I hear a lot about loyalty as well. I define loyalty pretty simply. We interact with trust and respect. We meet our commitments to each other and we take into consideration our actions on the impact of the others in the organization when making decisions, period.

Out in the Wild West where I grew up we called it “riding for the brand”. While I was sleeping in your bunkhouse and eating your food I was present, you got my honest effort. There were no life contracts or pledges of fealty.

I guess I am a career poacher. When I see people who are really good at their jobs and whose skills might be transferable to an organization I work with or for I feel comfortable bringing to their attention that if they are interested in exploring options I would like to talk with them.

As you know I am a huge believer in the concept of engagement. I guess my model is the best way to keep your employees from being “poached” is to create an environment where they don’t actively seek or entertain other options because of the relationship of mutual respect and trust you have created. If my employees find another opportunity that they feel meets their needs or provides them with a chance to expand a skill base I wish them well if it is the right opportunity. You see I have found ex employees to be one of my best sources of future employees, if I treated them well they remember it and share it with their friends and associates.

So I guess with the exceptions of targeting or attempting to take trade secrets we need to acknowledge there is no such thing as poaching. Mr. Lincoln freed the slaves well over 100 years ago, people can’t “steal” something from us we never owned in the first place…..

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