#23: The Team is Being Poached and 3 Ways I Will Stop It

Alison_NameHeather’s been taken. Our team is being picked off one-by-one, skill-by-skill, and she was the first.

Headhunters and startup founders are tracking down our top talent and offering the world. I was under the delusional belief that we had a good six months before all of this would start, but we are in an often cutthroat business. The worst part is that a few of these poaching businesses are right here in Kitchener-Waterloo. That’s not right. That’s a U.S. thing, maybe even Toronto, but not K-W.

I can’t say I’m impressed with Heather leaving. In truth, I’m pretty pissed. Heather’s new position, besides being a bitch, is a step up from where she stood here at Merge. She’s been given the chance to run a department with a team under her and take a company from the ground up. I can’t say I blame her, but at the same time I do.

Other departments are losing original hires. Out of the first 8 people we hired after expanding the team outside of the founders only 3 remain and they were all poached. They didn’t simply leave out of frustration. They left for new opportunities. That’s the world we live now. No amount of money will keep your team together anymore. You can pay and they might stick around for a while, but that won’t last forever. Their work will deteriorate and their engagement within the team will call to the wayside.

Ryan’s not too concerned at the moment. He’s throwing money at the problems. He’s hiring more. He’s bringing in consultants. He’s not seeing the real issue. Money is great, but we’re a team. We need to hold onto those who know our culture and our vision. You can hire skill, but not fit. People with a good fit are more likely to be happy with their work at Merge and less likely to bail on you.

I’ll concede that there is no perfected roadmap to keeping your team intact. My mom taught me a long, long time ago that you can’t make everyone happy. There will always be haters out there that don’t like your purple sports headband when you wear it to prom and your date ends up bailing on you after the first five minutes after the dinner started. You just can’t dwell on it.

Here are the three things I’ll be implementing to stop the poaching.

  1. Push More Collaboration

I need the team to like one another and feel like they are a family. They can’t do this by isolation. I’ve been pushing for isolation to get the work done. I’ve found that this is alienating and hurting our internal creativity. Right now, I feel creative innovation is more important than an assembly line of app development.

  1. Implement a 20% Free Time Policy

All developers will have the option to spent 20% of their time on personal projects for Merge. Yes, Google has made this famous, but you know what they say, smart people create, geniuses steal.

  1. Institute Margarita Afternoons (Every afternoon)

Pretty self-explanatory.

Let’s see how this works. At the very least there will be margaritas to ease the pain.


Previous Post – #22: Hardware Challenges of a Presale

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