Poaching of federal contractors: Industry voices weigh in

Recently, the Department of Defense’s Brigadier General Michael Brogan weighed in on a heated topic: poaching of federal contractors. For other takes on the issue, here are some additional perspectives:

Renny DiPentima, former CEO, SRA

renny“Poaching” was a constant issue when I was CEO, including “poaching” by the government. While poaching by other government contractors has always been the norm — we tend to recruit from each other — the federal government, for a while, was the largest recruiter of SRA employees. Having spent a full career with the federal government before SRA, my view was one of understanding that an SRA employee, recruited to the federal government, did so because of the mission they identified with, so much so that they would give up their private industry career for one with the federal government. We respected that and even though it always hurt to lose an excellent employee, we always were supportive of their move and what it meant for our customer. I can’t say we were quite as opened-minded when they were recruited away by another contractor.

Larry Allen, President, Coalition for Government Procurement

larry-allenPoaching is a real issue. Companies spend thousands of dollars to train and obtain security clearances for employees. This is real sunken money in a person and is not limited to the cost of an original hire. There is on-going training the government requires on a whole host of things. Ethics, compliance, etc., are just some areas. Clearances have to be kept current as well. If a person is suddenly taken by the government, the firm is out all of that investment, not to mention that they are put at a disadvantage because that asset is no longer available to them to bid on another contract.

Of course, the government would say that contractors do this to each other all the time. To some extent, maybe, but it usually happens then if an incumbent loses a contract and the new company tries to take the other’s employees. At least then, though, the contractor can see it coming and has time to prepare to reassign or otherwise try to retain that employee. This isn’t really the case when the government does the poaching.

Probably the biggest thing a contractor needs to know is what makes the government look so attractive to an employee.  Probably the biggest thing is job stability, followed by opportunity for advancement.  If you know that these are two powerful drivers, then you as a company need to show how you’re prepared to address them. How stable is your firm? How likely are you to be able to retain good people if you lose the contract that they’re currently assigned to? How clear are the career paths inside your firm? These questions need good, thoughtful, answers. It really doesn’t matter too much to someone assigned to a contract at a specific location to know that the company stock price is up and that there is $ 2billion in corporate revenue. It is more critical to be able to say what you’ve done for that person lately and where, as specifically as possible, they fit into your firm’s future plans.

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