Don't be a victim of key employee poaching

Jim Blasingame

There’s a qualified employee crisis in America today. Companies of all sizes are reporting they can’t find qualified workers to fill the good-paying jobs they have. Some research indicates the number of unfilled assignments may be as many as six million, with a new report showing one-third of that number is in the manufacturing sector. Many small businesses are reporting that they can’t take advantage of growth opportunities because they don’t have the people.

What does that mean for your business besides your own experience with this issue? It means other businesses – especially big ones – will go key-employee hunting and poach the best of the best from small businesses who can’t compete on compensation and benefits.

So how do you prepare yourself for this assault?  Focus on these two areas:

Invest in training

One of the important lessons small businesses should take from our big business cousins is about their commitment to training – they never stop. Unfortunately, too many small businesses never start.

Historically, big businesses have had an advantage because they have the resources to pay for structured and sustained training programs, and to give their people time away from their assignments to acquire training. But thanks to the Internet, and thousands of companies that develop and distribute convenient and affordable online training programs, small businesses can acquire training in a wide range of fields without breaking the budget and with a minimum of lost production. Training is an excellent example of how technology has leveled the playing field for small businesses. 

Don’t lose a good employee because you didn’t invest in their professional development.

Promote employee success

One of the best poaching defenses is to have a strategy that helps employees to be successful in their assignments, and then recognize those accomplishments. Everyone wants to be successful regardless of their title. Help employees achieve their professional goals on behalf of the company, and then give them credit for the company’s success. This is about more than compensation – it’s about employees feeling professionally fulfilled beyond what they do for the benefit of the company.

Since by definition, all qualified, competent employees of a small business are key employees, you don’t even want to think about what you’d do without them, or how you would replace them. But the dearth of qualified employees is a national crisis that’s unlikely to be resolved for a long time, and it’s putting your leadership to the test. Don’t let another business poach your key people by sweet-talking them with promises of what you should already be providing.

Decades of exit interviews have continued to reveal that the number one reason people leave an employer is because of reasons like not feeling appreciated or professionally fulfilled – NOT money. 

Write this on a rock ... Don’t lose your best people because you didn’t invest in their professional development or help them find professional success.

Jim Blasingame is host of The Small Business Advocate Show and author of the new book, The 3rd Ingredient: The Journey of Analog Ethics into the World of Digital Fear and Greed.

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