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Blog>Trends>Poaching or Teaching: How to Get the Best Talent for Your Team

Poaching or Teaching: How to Get the Best Talent for Your Team

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Key Points

  • 60% of high-performers reported being poached last year

  • More than 80% of poached hires were contacted again by hiring managers from other companies after accepting their new job

  • 3 in 4 of Human Resources (HR) professionals agreed that fostering current talent was better than poaching a high-performer


Companies looking to hire talent for top-level positions are facing an extremely competitive hiring market, so a well thought-out strategy is integral to their success. HR professionals responsible for bringing in high-performing talent are faced with decisions including where to find talent, which qualities are most valuable, how to make attractive offers, and whether it’s better to leverage the company’s current roster versus recruiting externally.

Not only did we want to find out what HR professionals thought about this crucial process, but also wanted to dive deeper into what current high-performers were experiencing during recruitment and what they valued most when evaluating a job change.

We surveyed 306 HR professionals and 734 full-time employees who had been recruited in the last year to find out what the experience was like from both sides. Our results shed light on what’s happening behind the scenes, as companies across the nation look to fill vital roles within their teams.

What to Look for in a Top Candidate

Not all employees are the right fit for the job. HR professionals weighed-in on what they believed to be the characteristics that made a worker a high-performer. More than results and outcomes, these professionals were most impressed by an employee’s work ethic. Additionally, they were interested in workers that demonstrated self-sufficiency and leadership skills.

Infographic about hiring top performers

Of course, it wasn’t all personality based. HR professionals highly valued consistency in meeting goals and quotas, but regular promotions matter to only a quarter of these respondents. When looking at how they went about poaching their new talent, 60% of high-performers reported having been approached by a recruiter on an online job platform.

Hiring and Retention Strategies Differ

Retaining top talent is just as important as attracting it to your company in the first place, yet our study found some discrepancies between what high-performance workers were looking for and what HR professionals were offering them.

Infographic about attracting and retaining top performers

Both recruiters and recruits saw money as the most tempting aspect of a potential job offer — albeit to a markedly different extent. Potential high-performance hires were looking for generous salary offers at over twice the rate of other factors such as vacation time, health benefits, or personal development services. On the other hand, while HR professionals placed the highest value on salary as a recruitment tool, the margin between money and health benefits was much smaller in comparison to what high-performance hires were looking for. Recruiters also felt that training and personal development were much more important to potential hires than it appeared they really were.

At the same time, HR professionals who prioritized salary when trying to retain an employee weren’t always offering candidates what they were looking for either. While both groups valued pay over every other factor, only 52% of current high-performers felt it was the best retention strategy, compared to 78% of HR professionals. An employee already making great money in a high-performance role placed much higher value on personal development, training, vacation, and health benefits.

With so much demand for top talent in today’s job market, high performers are clearly looking for more than just money. They’re likely to find it, too: 84% of those who were poached saying they had been contacted by other companies even after accepting an offer.

Top Talent You May Already Have

While HR professionals saw more value in training employees with potential versus poaching high-performing talent, newcomers still had significant value to offer. One-third of HR managers said that new high-performance hires did better than internal employees with potential, and 58% said these two groups performed about the same. Here’s what it takes to get existing talent up to speed.

Infographic about hiring externally or nurturing existing talent

Over 70% of hiring professionals said it would take less than a year to turn an employee with potential into a top performer, which is not that long, considering how long it could take to locate, recruit, interview, negotiate, onboard, and train an external hire. This might explain why 75% of HR professionals felt that training existing talent was more valuable than poaching a high-performance employee from elsewhere.

Infographic about the top 10 tools for rising employees to their potential

Additional training was the most important tool used by HR professionals to raise employees with potential to the same level as an external top performer. Many employers see training as something an employee only needs to complete once during their first few months at the company. However, one study found that companies investing in regular training programs for their workers were able to increase their profits margins by 24%. Beyond learning new material, personalized attention from coaching and mentorships were also by over half of our professionals. Additionally, HR professionals identified ways of leveling up employees’ skills without having to expend too much increased effort such as increasing flexibility and giving the employee more autonomy.

Looking at the Big Picture

Our research indicated that HR professionals seeking talented workers for key jobs preferred to have as full a picture as possible of potential new hires. Still, they didn’t necessarily need to look any further than their current company roster to fill those positions, with the majority agreeing that developing existing talent was a more valuable approach than hiring externally. Perhaps they felt evaluating new employees was not as easy as evaluating the performance of existing employees in their current roles.

While money was a big draw and the most effective tool for hiring talent, the high performers we surveyed felt the perks of a big paycheck could be matched by other benefits when it came to job retention.

If you’re being actively recruited but haven’t yet received the right offer, or even if you’re struggling to move up in your current company and want to find the right place to grow, Joblist can help find the best position for you. Whether you’re a recent graduate looking to begin a career, thinking of going remote to cut out that commute, or have been professionally affected by the pandemic, Joblist’s advanced matching tools let you customize your search to find the qualities that are most important for you and your future. Visit Joblist for more information.

Mentioned In This Article

Methodology and Limitations

We surveyed 306 HR professionals and 734 high-performers about their recruiting and job-seeking experiences. 44% of respondents were female and 56% male. For short, open-ended questions, outliers were removed. To help ensure that all respondents took our survey seriously, they were required to identify and correctly answer an attention-check question. Survey data have certain limitations related to self-reporting. These limitations include telescoping, exaggeration, and selective memory.

Fair Use Statement

Looking to spread the knowledge about how to snag a high-performer for your own team or elevate existing talent? Fine by us – just be sure that it's for noncommercial use, and that you link back to this page.

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