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Employee poaching risk increases with remote work hiring

Remote work opportunities may give rise to employee poaching, putting added pressure on HR departments. As geography starts to matter less, employee experience may matter more.

Salesforce's decision to implement a work-from-anywhere policy may send a chill through hiring managers worried about employee poaching.

An employee's location is no longer a barrier in the company's hiring strategy so that a skilled worker in the Midwest, with no interest in relocating to Silicon Valley, may encounter new employment options. Salesforce is not alone in changing its hiring approach. Other firms, such as Facebook, have said geography will matter less in hiring.

The pandemic "has taught many employers that they don't have to stick to any particular geographic location," said Mark Kluger, employment attorney and founding partner at Kluger Healey, a law firm in New Jersey.

But the expansion of remote work will also affect employee management. "Poaching will be more expansive as a result of the remote workforce," he said.

There are carrots and sticks to remote work hiring. Remote work may put added pressure on HR departments to deliver a strong employee experience and help drive the adoption of employee experience tools, which are systems used to gauge employee sentiment, offer rewards and recognition programs and training. But the added risk to employee poaching might also prompt some employers to try to erect legal barriers that make it difficult for employees to move to a new job.

Kluger, for instance, sees increasing interest in noncompete agreements. These agreements prohibit employees from taking a job with a rival for a specified length of time.

But Kluger also sees a growing legislative pushback to noncompetes.

For instance, Washington, D.C., recently adopted a noncompete agreement law, which takes effect March 19 and broadly prohibits these agreements.

Dream job available, relocation not required

Someone who also sees the poaching risk is Dana Mavica Goyer, director of recruiting and resource management at Experis Solutions, an IT staffing provider and part of the ManpowerGroup. The company hires nationally and has long supported remote workers, a plus for job seekers, she said.

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"We have an advantage with regard to our competitors, especially those that are very adamant about being in office," Goyer said. Experis Solutions has also built internal tools to support remote work and monitor productivity.

[The pandemic] has taught many employers that they don't have to stick to any particular geographic location.
Mark KlugerEmployment attorney, Kluger Healey

Still, a worker's dream job, which might have previously required a relocation, may now be available as a remote position, Goyer said.

Goyer said HR departments looking to keep employees happy rather than lose them to competitors should invest in learning and development strategies, as well as offer "stretch assignments," which expose employees to new and different tasks so that they can grow their skills.

Employee experience programs will gain importance as companies continue their remote work strategies, Goyer said. Programs that "encourage employees to promote one another within their organization" and tell others about individual successes, which are also seen by upper management, she said.

The newfound hiring flexibility -- for firms and their applicants -- will underscore the importance of an employer's brand and approach to employee experience, said Josh Bersin, an industry analyst and head of Josh Bersin Academy.

Keeping a sense of belonging

With a remote work hiring strategy, HR managers will "have to work even harder to make sure that people will feel that they're part of the company," Bersin said.

Employees won't leave quickly, and many are motivated to remain because they like the company's mission and the people they work with, he said. "That is a kind of gravity that keeps people affiliated with their companies."

Employees who decide to leave may have more freedom to find work at a competitive company. Workers in Washington, D.C., may no longer have to worry about noncompete agreements. Its new law broadly prohibits noncompete agreements.

"The D.C. bill is among the most expansive in the country," said Evan Starr, an assistant professor of management and organization at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business.

D.C.'s law imposes financial penalties on employers that attempt to impose noncompete agreements in violation of the law. The law also requires employers notify employees about the noncompete law.

But remote work will challenge state boundaries, over which state noncompete laws apply, Starr said.

Carlos Castelán, founder and managing director of The Navio Group, a management consulting firm in Minneapolis, also expects a "likely increase" in employee poaching because of remote work.

"The key to prevent poaching is to keep your best talent engaged," Castelán said. "When employees are engaged and have a sense of meaning in their work, they become more committed to the company they work for and have a greater drive for producing results."

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