Are your employees being targeted?


What’s the risk of being really successful? I had a great discussion with a local business the other day and it turns out that one of those risks is that other companies in your industry start aggressively targeting your employees in the hope of ‘stealing’ your magic.

In this particular case, the business is a fairly small, fairly new player locally in the industry, but they are doing a lot of things the right way, they’re seeing healthy growth and they achieved some significant local industry bragging rights.

However – in a perfect example of a nice problem to have, their success has put a spotlight, or better said a target on their top employees. This became clear when they lost a couple of good players within a few days and had another really core employee announce they were planning to leave as well.

What do you do when your employees are being targeted?

The business had already done several of the right things tactically to address the issue…or at least the short term impacts:

  • Have a staff meeting and let people know this targeting is going on and why.
  • Specifically acknowledge their efforts as a big part of the company success (hopefully you’ve been doing this all along).
  • Let them know that you’d appreciate the chance to talk with any of them if they are approached.
  • Meet one on one and reinforce the message of appreciation.
  • Ask them what they enjoy about working for you and find out if there are any glaring challenges you could address preemptively.
  • When employees come to you with a counter offer (which hopefully they’ll do, especially now that you’ve brought this out in the open), determine if it makes sense to counter the offer…whether that’s financial, a title or responsibility.

Note – it may not make sense to try and keep the person if the requirements just don’t make sense (i.e. promoting a new staff person to a VP position).

Bigger Picture ideas for protecting your staff

It’s always a bad idea to compete strictly on price. If the cost is the only difference between  you and your competitors then you’re in for a painful spiral of an unprofitable business.

The same idea holds true with employees – if the only real difference in working for you or working for someone else is how much salary or benefits they’re getting, then you’re going to be in trouble.

A better alternative is to create a culture, a work environment that your competitors can’t really match. A good way to do that is to understand how people are truly motivated – and it turns out that money is only a small component of that formula.

In Daniel Pink’s book Drive, he identifies 3 key elements for motivation in today’s world – Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. Your people should be paid at or slightly above the industry expected wages and benefits. That’s a great start, but science tells us that paying people beyond that level won’t improve performance. However doing something special around Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose will make a big difference.

Want an example? Consider Treehouse – an online education company that has 70 employees and does over $10 Million in revenue and has experienced 120% growth the last few years.

It turns out that Treehouse only works 4 days a week…offer a very flat, non-managed structure and deliver a lot of autonomy and opportunities to grow! In fact they specifically attribute their culture to keeping people in house, despite being targeted by major tech companies like Facebook.

Check out these 2 articles to see what I mean:  Company works 4 day work week and Secrets to Treehouse Success.

Not everyone is going to be able to do what Treehouse has done but it’s worth at least considering.

Here are the 3 elements to consider if you want to develop your culture / environment:

Autonomy – what could you do that would give your staff more control over their time (when they do things), their tasks (what they focus on doing), their technique (how they do things) and their team mates (who they work with)?  It doesn’t have to be a huge change, you could do it a little bit at a time.  Why not ask your team what they’d like to see change?

Mastery – what could you do to make sure everyone on the team is challenged the right amount and has room to grow? Can you switch responsibilities around and help people focus on their strengths?

Purpose – what do you stand for? Obviously your business is there to make profits and pay salaries, but it’s likely that you believe in something bigger. What could you do to focus on that? There’s an interesting organization that helps companies become established as ‘B’ Corporations (companies that are creating a positive impact in the world). Check out their website for some cool examples of companies that stand for something.

If you’re seeing success, it’s likely that you already do some of these kinds of things, but perhaps you could do more (some industries are easier than others). What could you do to help keep your employees on the team?  We’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas – share them in the comments below.

Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach