On the Campaign couch: Should I make a stand on poaching?
A view from Jeremy Bullmore

On the Campaign couch: Should I make a stand on poaching?

Even if affection for one's agency may still border on the pleasantly mindless, no chief executive should ever take such fandom for granted.

An agency chief executive writes: The recruitment consultant I use for most of my senior appointments has informed me that he’ll now be poaching from my agency as well as searching for it. I’ve rarely seen a clearer conflict of interests, but am I being naïve in thinking this is wrong? Should I make a stand?

One of the most touching and rewarding aspects of agency life as I remember it was the almost soppy affection that people of all ages would often develop for their companies. I was one of them.

They tell me that it’s different today and that everyone’s a mere mercenary, calculating his or her career moves with the soulless rationality of a procurement executive hiring cleaning staff. I choose not to believe it.

But whether or not it’s true, even if affection for one’s agency may still border on the pleasantly mindless, no chief executive should ever take such fandom for granted.

When one long-serving, highly valued, uniquely talented person unexpectedly told us he was leaving us for another agency, we were deeply shocked. We applied all known forms of persuasion, flattery and coarse inducement. Nothing worked and he left. Three years later, over a glass of wine, he told me why. A third party, whom he’d trusted, claimed to have heard me say: "Oh, we’ll never have to worry about losing Larry. He’s as good as married to the agency." And Larry, as proud and as principled a person as he was talented, at that very instant resolved to prove me wrong.

I had, of course, said no such thing. The person who’d claimed to have heard me say it was a noted gossip and mischief-maker. He, too, left the agency shortly afterwards, though not of his own choice.

And after that three-year-later glass of wine, and then a second – and to universal rejoicing – Larry returned for an even more successful second term at the agency; the agency he thought had been taking him for granted.

Almost as big an error as taking exceptional talent for granted is trying to shield them from the outside world and all the temptations that lurk therein; and that, finally, brings me to your question.

Why are you so opposed to your recruitment consultant "poaching" from your agency as well as recruiting for it? You see it as a "conflict of interest" – but a conflict of whose interest, I wonder? There are three parties involved in this matter: your agency, the consultant and the talent. It’s not a conflict of interest for the consultant and it’s not a conflict of interest for the talent. You – the agency – are the only party to see this as a threat; and that can only be because you don’t want a recruitment consultant, who already has close knowledge of some of the people in your agency, to be able to approach those people with opportunities elsewhere.

Stripping it down to its brutal essentials, this means that you don’t trust your own agency to be able to retain its talent against open competition; instead, you’d like to keep them in untroubled ignorance of the talent market and what it might have to offer them. Or to take it one more hard-eyed step still further: you’re happy, quite knowingly, to attempt to deny people access to information that just might be of value to them when building their once-in-a-lifetime career.

An agency that can retain its talent only through concealing it from exposure to the outside world is not a confident agency. Nor will it be an agency that talented people will want to join.

Neither take them for granted nor hide them from sight. Be as generous in spirit as you are in more material matters. And if your turncoat recruitment consultant succeeds in prising away one of your rising stars, that’s almost certainly more your fault than theirs.

Is crowdsourcing just lazy advertising?

Three hundred hours of video are apparently added to YouTube every minute of every day. I’ve no idea if this figure is accurate; I only know it’s big. And now that everyone in the world can self-publish; now that there are no longer fierce gatekeepers to reject the rubbish (and the occasional gem) before it’s allowed out, the greater the need we feel for a trusted guide, a wise discerning mind, a discriminator, an arbiter, an editor – to sieve and preselect on our behalf.

The same applies to crowdsourcing. Sourcing the crowd may be lazy but making shapely, coherent sense of what the crowd says is anything but.

Jeremy Bullmore welcomes questions via campaign@haymarket.com or Campaign, Teddington Studios, Broom Road, Teddington, TW11 9BE