How To Block A Firm From ?Raiding?/ Stealing Your Employees — (Large scale ?anti – raiding? and ?blocking? strategies)

In the ?war for talent,? companies need to be aware that competitors are continually adding new tools and strategies in order to ?poach away? (translation: steal) your employees. One of the most devastating things that can happen to a firm is when another firm?s recruiters start large scale ?raiding? of entire departments and plants. Unchecked raiding can mean the loss of dozens of people in a brief period. The resulting ?shock? of a mass loss of talent (during a short period) to production and product design can run into millions of dollars. If you are going to be successful in blocking or mitigating a competitor?s raiding strategy you must first: POSSIBLE BLOCKING STEPS

  1. Calculate the potential cost of the raid and then devote at least 25% of that amount to the blocking effort.
  2. Treat the campaign in a similar vein as a union organizing campaign.
  3. Be pro-active and realize that you must start well before the raid begins.
  4. Pre-identify the companies/ search firms that might raid you.
  5. Develop a strategy, a plan, and pre-test it?s elements.
  6. Assign an ?anti-raid/ retention director” to manage the process.
  7. Be prepared to combat ?dirty tactics.?
  8. Hire a temporary team of ?anti-recruiters to help you anticipate and counter the competitors every move. (Anti-recruiters are current or former aggressive ?headhunters? and union organizing professionals that know what tactics are likely to be used.) Add to that team several well respected and popular employees who can ?influence others and talk up? our firm. You also need to hire away their top recruiter and a former employee (generally an HR person) that can paint a true picture of what it?s like to actually work at the other firm.
  9. Put on your ?aggressive hat? and begin the ?war to block the kidnapping.?

There are no magic bullets in the ?blocking? campaign. You institute a mass experimentation approach in which you try different tools, you track their effectiveness, and you keep the ones that work. There are two basic categories of blocking tools: group and individual. Within them there are two basic types of strategies: monetary and non-monetary. Whatever you do start early so that the employees don?t see it as a tit for tat matching effort rather than a sincere concern for the employee. The tools mentioned here are just those used by others and are not ?recommended? without first setting your own ethical boundaries. GROUP WIDE ?ANTI – RAIDING? BLOCKING TOOLS I) NON-MONETARY TOOLS Strategy and planning

  • Benchmark other ?raids? and identify the steps and the key success and failure factors.
  • Have your CEO call theirs and ask for cooperation. Consider threatening to cut off purchases if you are a customer of theirs.
  • Identify disgruntled and former employees of the raiding firm (boomerangs) by posting questions on chatrooms and listservers. Use them to make a list of what is wrong with working with the raiding firm. Use quotes, stories and information to ?bring some reality to the image being painted by ?their? recruiters.? Visit ?anti-company? web sites and see what others say.
  • Show the potential $ damage of lost employees to your senior executives so that they are willing to fund the effort.
  • Block easy access to organizational charts and telephone directories. Educate your employees on the importance of not supplying names to outsiders.
  • Warn employees about the ?put your business card in the bowl for a free lunch?? trick. Educate your receptionists on the need to screen out ?headhunters calls? and how to identify them. Test the training by calling to see if you can get through.
  • Put yourself in their shoes and use your recruiters/ headhunters to develop a mock plan on how you would raid a firm/ yourself. Use the mock plan to help you anticipate moves and identify blocking strategies.
  • Prioritize key on which to focus (hard to fill, key impact).
  • Consider selling the plant to them or moving it.
  • Slow up the actual plant opening using legal and ethical tools.
  • Tie up/ pre-buy housing, shipping, suppliers, etc. to ?slow down? their growth efforts.
  • Identify local economic growth to see if this is to be a continuing trend.
  • Develop tools to identify potential ?spies.”
  • Develop a raiding plan to raid them (others).

Recruiting tools

  • Send your loyal employees to interview and find out what they are offering and what they say/ sell in the interview.
  • Consider ?bussing? in workers from remote areas.
  • Do a ?dry raid? on yourself to see if your defenses work (especially against calls and name gathering).
  • Hire away the competitor’s recruiters the minute they come to town (ask hotel owners for help in identifying them). Hire all of the best contract recruiters for a 6 month stint right before the competitor is scheduled to come to town.
  • Lure away their first hires immediately after they are signed.
  • Strengthen the employee referral program and get all to refer people.
  • Identify ?boomerangs? and get them to return.
  • Talk retirees into part time work.
  • Improve relocation plans so that ?outsides? see more of a reason to come.

Market research/ data gathering

  • Poll your employees and new hires and identify what are the best practices and compelling reasons to work at our firm. Educate employees so that when asked they say it?s a ?WOW? place.
  • Identify (through a survey) what frustrates workers and eliminate or minimize as many as possible.
  • Identify why current workers stay.
  • Identify why people accept/ reject offers.
  • Survey people that quit 3 months ago and ask them why. Use the info to develop preventive measures.
  • Develop a ?dream job? and frustration list for each employee. Give managers the flexibility to start moving ?at risk? people toward their dream job.
  • Do competitive analysis/intelligence to identify how we are superior/ inferior.
  • Survey the economy/ ask the chamber about future growth plans.

Retention tools

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  • Train your managers and employees about what to expect when ?they call.? Educate them not to answer the call and/ or how to resist the temptation to listen.
  • Place an ad in the local paper/ radio/ billboard thanking employees for their loyalty.
  • Identify key opinion leaders and get them to talk us ?up? and them “down?(give them info about the negative aspects of working at the competitors).
  • Pre-identify who might be looking or at risk. Search the internet for their resumes or post a ?blind ad? to attract them.
  • Have managers have a 1 on 1 with key employees and ask them to stay.
  • Have the CEO visit/ call key employees to keep them excited.
  • Utilize traditional retention tools for individuals including pre-qualifying, re-recruiting, over-due list, challenge and learning plans).
  • Involve the family in the retention effort.

Management related

  • Fire your bad managers to increase retention rates and to ?poison? the competitors.
  • Pre-identify weak performers and encourage them to leave/ join the competitor.
  • Buy each manager the books ?1001 ways to reward your employees and ?first break all the rules.? Discuss both in staff meetings.
  • Change spans of control to allow for more promotions and increased management contact.
  • Ask employees that have already left you to ?keep you informed? of what they plan/ do offer.

Training / Development related

  • Increase over-all training opportunities.
  • Give top employees ?one day a week? job rotations to excite and challenge them.
  • Develop for each key individual a challenge/ learning plan.
  • Put them in a ?longer term? training program that will ?tie them up? until after the recruiting push.
  • Develop apprentice programs to ?grow your own.?
  • Increase training and other tools that show we are interested in their long term future.
  • Offer partial (one day a week) job rotations to challenge them and also prepare them for their next job.


  • Identify if you are a large or key customer of the ?raider.? Use that leverage with their CEO to develop an anti-raiding agreement. Consider a coalition of customers to put pressure on the raider to stop raiding customers and suppliers.
  • Team retention bonus ? offer an incentive to the whole firm and key teams and divisions for 100% retention (exclude terminations) over a 6/12 month period and another bonus for 90%.
  • Measure and reward managers for great people management. Post the metrics.
  • Offer a preemptive bonus/ raise before ?they do? to show you care (rather than being forced to do the right thing by the competitor).
  • Retaliate instantly and match pay offers as soon as the competitor raises their pay/ benefits. This sends the message that they can?t win a bidding war so the competition must be non-monetary.
  • Offer a ?stay-on? bonus to those that are still employed on a certain date (3 months after their initial hiring thrust and plant opening). Offer a special bonus to opinion leaders and people that would cause others to leave if they did.
  • Re-assess ?market rates? to reflect the new realities. Anticipate future salary level matching or raising by the competitor and have a response already prepared.
  • Match their offer with a counter-offer immediately (for top talent).
  • Offer equivalent stock options and benefits.
  • Offer to guarantee them equivalent pay to match what ever the other firm offers.
  • Demonstrate the actual dollar losses in retirement/ stock for each individual, if they leave for the other firm.
  • Offer them a bonus if they ?return? within 3 months.

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website and on He lives in Pacifica, California.



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