Image: GettyImages/Dave Nagel

Earlier this summer, Skynova released a report titled “Ethics of Employee Poaching.” The survey findings highlight the extent to which poaching is used to acquire talent, incentives used to lure workers, ethical considerations at play and more. After a year of hiring freezes and layoffs, employers have boosted hiring, but a tight labor market has put a premium on top talent. So, are employers poaching top talent more than normal?

“Employers eager to hire top talent are usually willing to hunt and even poach that talent. In this job market, it’s possible that employers have been poaching more often to secure what they need for their business,” said Bri Godwin Huyke, a spokesperson for Skynova.

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Poaching: A hiring strategy

A portion of the report dives into the extent to which employers use poaching to staff their companies. Overall, the vast majority of hiring professionals (74%) said they’ve poached employees and 29% said they poach employees frequently (8%) or regularly (21%). One-third of hiring professionals said they poach employees sometimes and 24% only do so rarely. Interestingly, only 14% of respondents said they never poach employees.

But just because people do not poach often doesn’t mean they do not have candidates in mind. For example, 69% of hiring professionals said they “had a potential hire in mind to poach if they could,” per the report, but how much time and energy are companies putting into these poaching efforts?

Overall, 48% of hiring professionals said their employer puts a moderate (24%) or decent (24%) amount of effort into poaching, according to the report, and 12% hiring professionals said their employer put a “great amount” of effort into poaching, compared to the number of respondents who gauged these efforts as “slight” (25%) or nonexistent (16%).

Ethical poaching?

A portion of the report focuses on the ethics of poaching talent from another company and direct competitors. Overall, the majority of respondents (71%) saw poaching as an “important hiring strategy” and the same number of people felt these procedures were “just part of doing business.”

“It seems that despite potential ethical concerns such as how it affects the company the employee was poached from, most agree that poaching is acceptable and just part of business,” Huyke said.

While 60% of respondents viewed poaching as the “only way to get the right employee,” others saw “effective poaching” as a “competitive advantage,” according to the report, and only 20% of hiring professionals thought poaching was rarely (11%) or never ethical (9%). On the flip side, 16% felt as though poaching is always ethical and a similar number of respondents believed poaching is usually (31%) or sometimes (33%) ethical.

Competition and top poaching perks

Amid a tight labor market, employers are pulling out all the stops to bring on top talent, including signing bonuses, increased salaries and more. The report details some of the deal-sweeteners companies use to acquire outside talent. In order, the top incentives used to poach talent are bonuses (63%), raises (58%), promotions (52%), better benefits (44%) and improved hours (17%).

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It’s important to note that there appear to be benefits for employees due to the prospect of poaching competitors. For example, 65% of respondents felt companies treat workers “better to prevent poaching” and 54% thought poaching boosts pay and benefits, per the report. These top benefits related to poaching include the creation of new opportunities, the act serving “as a motivating factor” and some felt poaching kept “things interesting/fresh.”

But what are employers willing to shell out to keep top performers on the books? In order, raises (62%), bonuses (60%), promotions (56%), and better benefits (46%) top the list of incentives companies are willing to offer to retain “valued employees.”

“If employers truly want to retain their employees, they may want to consider the incentives they’d be willing to offer to retain their talent,” Huyke said.