High Energy Employees: Prey for Poaching?

The recession led to a rather interesting differentiation between employees who change jobs voluntarily and those employees who are poached. It’s the poaching of employees that employers need to fear the most.

These workers are the high energy individuals, who helped their organizations during the recession, are very visible to peers due to their 'catchy' energy and successes and today are not being rewarded adequately. In fact, they are likely being counted on to take on more and more work due to the amount of work they do.

A recent study has called these at-risk employees the "neglected warriors." A recent article in the Automotive News offered an example what is happening: "GM poaches hot, high energy marketing whiz."  The people at most risk of being poached away are these neglected warriors who may be in line to become "heroes" in their next new company.

Going from warrior to hero status takes just one thing – recognition. Heroes are recognized for their deeds. They are not necessarily the best employees, but they are the people who courageously entered into the battle for their organizations’ wealth during the recession. The neglected warriors harnessed their internal energy to drive many initiatives forward; however, with all these good deeds came very little recognition from their current employer.

Neglected warriors have a high sense of urgency, are compelled to move forward, have supported their companies through the rocky changes of the recession, and who today find themselves unrecognized and unappreciated for their efforts. These neglected warriors are not at high risk of voluntary turnover, but they are at risk of being poached away by the companies who know how to find them and who appreciate the type of talent they possess.

The research conducted by Leadership Pulse™ found that employees fell into four groups with the percentage of employees in each group noted below:

Fully engaged




High Opportunity




Most employers are tempted to focus most on the “disengaged” employee.   According to Leadership Pulse, this might be a mistake.  While these employees are at risk of voluntary turnover, they are often burned out.  They are less likely to be poached because of their disengaged state.

The neglected warriors are the employees who will be poached because they have no good reason to stay with their current organization. They are visible to others because they have a high sense of urgency; they have been on the front lines fighting to keep the organization moving forward in tough times. Heroes on the other hand  are the most important employees to keep.  But they are less at risk of being successfully poached because they feel valued. These individuals have a high sense of ownership in their job and company, and they say they are fairly rewarded. Smart recruiters will not go after these people, and their friends and co-workers will not recommend them to their headhunter colleagues.

The highest risk that employers face when it comes to their heroes is that these individuals, based on something that happens in the firm, no longer feel valued and move to the neglected warrior state. At that point, they too are at risk to be poached away.

Today, organizations have a choice. Leaders can sit by and watch as neglected warriors get poached away. Or they can be proactive. They can identify the Heroes and Neglected Warriors and give them their well-deserved recognition. Or they can take a wait-and-see attitude and wage the old war for talent, simply trying to find enough people or adequate supply to survive.


Ira S Wolfe