The language of hiring is broken. From the cog-like “human resources” to the scalp-trophy chase of “head-hunting”. Yuck. But no term gets me more riled up than “poaching”. It’s shockingly revealing: You’re an animal, our animal, and other hunters better keep their hands off our property.
Employees should go wherever they can get the best deal for themselves. I would! Better deal in the holistic sense of everything that’s involved with working for someone else: Most interesting and rewarding work, most freedom in living arrangements, autonomy/responsibility, and, yes, pay and benefits.
If you can only retain employees by fencing them in with non-competes, hiding them away from your about page, or blocking competitive deals from even reaching their attention, well, then you suck.
All your energy should be poured into making sure you have the better deal. That work aligns perfectly with having a better business in general, so it’s not like you’re taking a detour here.
If you’ve done all you can, if you sleep sound with a smile knowing you’re offering a great deal, then the sting of someone leaving should be manageable too. They found something that was better for them. Be happy! You helped someone get to a better place, and you’ll surely be able to find someone else to fill their shoes.
You can’t keep everyone forever, and you shouldn’t try. That’s called captivity. Some people will want to try something else regardless of how good your deal is. That’s natural, and fighting it is only going to make matters worse.
So stop nurturing your poaching fears with defensive moves and start putting in the work to make your deal better instead.
Lucas Arrudaon 14 Oct 15
Thank you for this, DHH.
First time I’ve seen someone not been hypocrite or ironic about this!
Matton 14 Oct 15
Thanks, DHH. We, the hiring world, need to talk about this. You are how you speak and behave (labeling theory and all). I’m a recruiter—I know, gross—and I spent some time at external contingency agencies before becoming a tech scout for a small-but-growing product company in Chicago (that you and Jason actually gave a talk at, DHH). If you can believe it, the terms used in the agency world are even worse. Recruiters talk about candidates being “walking invoices”, being an “automatic fee”, or having an “invoice on their forehead”. Large recruiting shops are, almost without fail, dehumanizing pyramid schemes with no regard for the long-term prospects of the candidates and companies they work with. There are exceptions and I do think external recruiters who “recruit small” and retain their humanity can be a big help (I recently started my own shop to do just that but I won’t plug it here) but…the industry needs help.
DHHon 14 Oct 15
Matt, you’re absolutely right. When recruiting works on a spamming principle, just blast as many email addresses as you can scrape from GitHub, then it’s dehumanizing in itself.
But we just had a really good experience with an executive recruiter hiring Mercedes De Luca to be our new COO. That couldn’t have been more opposite. It was far, far fewer candidates. But they were approached like humans, through networks, recommendations, and the like. It’s possible to do this the human way, but that’s not compatible with the bulk required for entry-level positions.
John Lockeon 14 Oct 15
I know there are many people with experience in building enterprise software teams that will disagree with this article. But I think the reality is that employees usually switch jobs every few years, even when a company is doing everything “right”.
If you’ve managed to build a team where few people want to leave, then people should be studying that!
It’s difficult to scale the job of building goodwill with employees, and making sure the company and them are a great fit. But it’s an incredibly important job. Being human is a great start.
Matt Hoffmanon 14 Oct 15
@John-even the very best teams will lose people for one unavoidable reason over time: companies and individuals are not static entities. People change and learn and, if they’re good, their interests and experience almost inevitably outpace the problem they’ve grown used to solving. On the other hand, most companies contract, grow, or change almost constantly. Often someone who’d enjoy the low-resource environment of an early stage company would detest working at a later-stage company with more evolved policy that might also be willing to hire away a problem. I’ve always thought that you can and should welcome departure when it’s time as long as you’re doing a good job of blending developmental recruiting and senior-hire sourcing. It’s not as if you want someone there who’s ready for something new.
Christophe Limpalairon 15 Oct 15
David, you reminded me of this during our interview when you mentioned master/slave vs. primary/replica. It’s slightly disturbing that I’ve read, heard, and used many of these terms numerous times without ever thinking about it. Thanks for helping me snap out of it.
Jameson 15 Oct 15
I’m sitting here trying to empathize with companies who might try “desperate” acts to retain their employees.
It’s not easy for me as I’ve been an employee who’s been used and shit on many times by multiple employers. Metaphorically speaking of course.
My guess is that not all companies are in the position to offer the best deal. Not all are in the place to offer the best value for an employee. So, maybe it’s a bit more complicated than a company being inhumane heartless douche bags.
We all can do desperate things when we are desperate.
It gets even more complicated whenever you add in variables such as employees who demand more value than they deserve.
I wish we lived in that world where everyone was putting others first—so we’d all end up in first together.
Unfortunately that’s not the case.
Dan Yoston 15 Oct 15
As DHH notes, I would say “the best deal” is often nothing to do with money and benefits. Note: money and benefits matter, yes, and should be considered.
I have heard it said, “People rarely leave companies. They leave bosses.” I’m pretty sure that’s true. And usually companies produce/grow/spawn their bosses. So if employees are treated very well, such as given respect, opportunity, responsibility, team-oriented success together, vision, etc.-just a very solid working environment, which I’m only summarizing here-they are almost always very happy. And yes, good pay and benefits probably helps that too.
But if the company is like probably 97% or so of companies, a “better deal” (meaning a better working environment) is always coming.
Gianlucaon 16 Oct 15
Kudos. This is what I’ve been talking about for the last year or so.
Bramon 18 Oct 15
I have always had something against the term HR, like I am some resource that needs to be completely drained and then tossed away. Replaced by a new and fresh resource… Like coal, water, et cetera.
John Topleyon 19 Oct 15
Bram, when people call you a resource it’s fair game to call them an overhead...
This discussion is closed.