The truth about poaching

Few Latino employees will leave you if they trust you and you help them grow

In May 2014, Inc. magazine published the article "How to Master the Art of Poaching Employees." Yes, there actually are people teaching you how to poach employees to solve labor needs.

In a way, business relationships are like marriages. You spend a lot of time with and invest a lot of energy into your employees, and they invest a lot of energy into you. For whatever time period you are together, you are locked at the hip. But as in a marriage, if a person has been unfaithful, chances are high he or she will cheat again. So if you build your workforce by poaching employees from competitors, realize that if they were willing and able to leave another company for yours, if something that appears better comes along, they'll leave you, as well.

The fear

One thing I often hear when I encourage contractors to send their Latino workers to training and educational events is: "Why would I send my Latino employees to an event where my competitors will try to poach them from me?" (According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics [BLS], the term "Latino" "refers to persons who identified themselves in the enumeration process as being Spanish, Hispanic or Latino. Persons of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity may be of any race.")

For example, I was invited by a roofing contractors association in a southern state to speak about how to best work with the Latino labor force. About a week later, I was informed the leadership was divided regarding me speaking at the event, and my invitation to speak was rescinded. Evidently, several board members commented: "Why would I want to develop my Latino employees so they can go to another company or maybe even become my direct competitor?"

This experience brought to mind a spiritual adage that says what you fear will come upon you. You make it happen because you're operating out of fear and insecurity. It is the weakest position in which you can put yourself. By not developing your employees, you are simply buying time until they leave for a better opportunity.

So how do you get past this? How do you develop a company that not only attracts people but also retains them?

A person who fears having employees poached by a competitor knows something is shaky in his or her company or relationships with certain employees. If you're married and you know you're treating your spouse well and your spouse is loyal, you don't walk around fearing he or she will leave you for someone else. That's downright debilitating.

The same is true in business. If you know you are doing well by your employees and they are loyal to you, why fear sending them to a public event? Could it be that easy for someone else to take him or her?

Fear is driven by insecurity. Insecurity can be produced by previous experiences of abandonment, incorrect or negative thinking, or some unaddressed relationship issues with the person you fear losing.

Develop your employees

Whatever the case, if you want to develop your employees, you must be willing to help them grow. And some of that growth must happen outside of your control. Yes, you have to trust your employees, but more important, you have to trust you are doing your best for them.

Now, if you are using employees to merely accomplish your goals and objectives, you should fear losing them. At least with Latinos, for that to happen they won't need to go to a learning event with national speakers, they just need to get on Facebook or WhatsApp and communicate with some of their friends who work for other companies.

According to Theresa Rice, director for public relations firm Burson-Marsteller: "[Latinos] cultivate the most extensive personal and professional networks online and offline."

The Latino culture is viral. There are no secrets in the culture, and your employees already know of other job opportunities through their Latino friends. Whether they go to an event is irrelevant to whether they leave you. However, by sending them to a training event, you develop a deeper level of trust and loyalty. You show them you care about their growth and development, not just having them work for you to get the job done.

Consider the following:

  • According to BLS, nearly 50 percent of all laborers in the roofing industry are Latinos. In many states, especially across the southern U.S., that percentage is much higher.
  • BLS also states by 2020, 74 percent of all new labor force growth in the U.S. will be Latino.

If you don't properly educate and elevate your Latino employees, not only will it deeply affect opportunities for them, but it also will weaken your company and has the potential to deeply weaken the entire roofing industry because of the sheer size of the demographic.

The roofing industry must begin to develop Latino employees, and contractors cannot fear losing employees to competitors. In fact, the companies who are proactively developing Latino workers are finding out the most amazing thing: Few want to leave because they have deeper levels of trust and loyalty.

Earn their trust

To gain trust with Latinos, it is important you refrain from just giving them nice things. First, tell them you are going to do something for them based on some condition. This should be something that is culturally relevant, and if they fulfill their obligation, you must do what you said or risk losing them forever.

Latinos come from nontrusting environments. Building trust takes time and some strategic cultural thinking. Broken trust will occur immediately if you don't keep your word, and forgiveness is not easily granted. It's always better with Latinos to implement a series of smaller trust-building things over time than it is to do a periodic big splash or big bonus. Keep it culturally relevant, and keep it manageable.

Once trust is gained, Latinos are extremely loyal. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if you're having high turnover, there are trust issues in your organization.

In an extensive study that tracked Latino e-fluentials (people who have influence online), Burson-Marsteller found Latino e-fluentials were 87 percent loyal to their favorite brands. Your company should become their favorite brand! In addition, they shared a positive experience with an average of 23 people compared with the rest of non-Latino e-fluentials who only shared with 10 people.

Here's what really happens when you properly develop trust and brand loyalty by building and developing your Latino team: They stay with you and become a magnet for your organization to attract and keep more like-minded people.

So the next time a training opportunity comes to your town, send your people. Send every Latino possible. And don't fear poaching.

Ricardo González is founder and CEO of Bilingual America, Atlanta.


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