THE BARBER DICTIONARY
In the barbering world, ‘poaching’ is when you actively ask someone who is already employed by, or working at, another barbershop to come and work for you, rather than advertising a vacancy which someone then applies for.
We are an industry of creative types and most of us have built our businesses on emotional connections. After all, that’s why we chose this wonderful career path as opposed to a 9-5 desk job. The very phrase ‘poaching’ already throws up an issue that people need to think about: in order for something to be poached, it firs must be your property. For the most part most staff are never anybody’s property but their own.
We live in a free world and are able to live our lives however we want. But in an age of increased mental health awareness and the phrase ‘be kind’ at the forefront of our minds, surely there should be some basic practices when operating in such a close-knit industry? When a staff member you have invested in on many levels ups and leaves because cheaper rent has been offered elsewhere, it does really hurt.
What needs to be addressed is the impact poaching has on people and the ripple affect it has on staff members. We spend a lot of time making our clients feel good, yet staff poaching shows a disregard for people in the industry. It’s a real contradiction.
“An offer of a job from one business to a member of staff from another business without a job being advertised is poaching,” says Alan Beak, co-owner Ruger Barber. “Recruiting a member of staff from another shop should be done tastefully.” And this echoes the sentiments from other business owners across the country. “There’s a difference between head-hunting and poaching,” says Frank Rimer, owner of Thy Barber. “You can head hunt to add a talented member to your team or you can poach somebody for their client base regardless of their talent. Business is business, but it should always be done tactfully and respectfully.”
It goes well beyond just adding a member of staff to a business. A heightened sense of people’s well-being needs to be employed too. The practice of poaching won’t just stop happening, and I’m not advocating that it does necessarily. What concerns me more is that, especially with the challenges that 2020 has thrown at us, an act like this can have lasting damage on people’s mental health. Which is frustrating when it could’ve been handled with greater foresight and respect.
“WE SPEND A LOT OF TIME MAKING CLIENTS FEEL GOOD, YET STAFF POACHING SHOWS A DISREGARD FOR PEOPLE IN THE INDUSTRY”
Most barbershop owners pour their heart and soul into their shops, forging friendships and sharing experiences on a professional journey that makes it hard to keep things ‘just business.’ So when a person leaves under unfavourable circumstances, it can affect people in a detrimental way.
What are the rules and where does ethical recruiting stop and underhand tactics begin? For me, if somebody approaches me looking for work, I first need to understand their reasons for leaving. I have never employed anyone for financial gain primarily. I consider if this person will blend well with the team and if they have the same work ethic as the brand that I’m building. I started my business with a vision in mind, to put my own stamp on the industry, to set a standard of fairness and to inspire staff to one day branch out on their own. I want them to extend this attitude of respect when, or if, they start their own business. It’s up to business owners to act with professionalism and barbers to make sure they’re conducting themselves with respect.
A feeling of community as opposed to competition must be promoted now more than ever. There’s more than enough hair to go around and business should never be about earning a quick buck. There’s a longer game to play with reputation and integrity at its core, and this is achieved by looking out for one another and considering your actions and their effects.
The National Hair and Beauty Federation (NHBF) chief executive Richard Lambert answers some of our queries on this controversial subject.
IS IT ILLEGAL TO POACH SOMEONE ELSE’S STAFF?
No, it’s not illegal. However, there are situations where poaching of employees could result in dispute. For example, if you had signed a contract with a previous employer with a non-poaching restriction in it. This would prevent you from approaching your ex-colleagues for a period of time with a view of offering roles to come and work in your business or with your new employer.
AS A BUSINESS OWNER CAN YOU CREATE A CONTRACT THAT RESTRICTS WHO YOUR BARBERS CAN AND CAN’T WORK FOR NEXT?
Yes, but only if they are employed and on the books. Such a clause would need to be agreed and within a contract, normally from the outset of employment or included when a new role i.e. promotion is offered. You can only impose restrictive covenants for a restricted amount of time – usually around 6 months and / or within a set area from your business e.g. within half a mile radius of the place of the employment – going no further than what is reasonably necessary to protect your business interests. Anyone who rents a chair isn’t an employee and so is already, to an extent, a competitor. You can’t impose restrictive covenants to stop them setting up on your doorstep.
WHAT RIGHTS DO YOU HAVE AS A BUSINESS OWNER WHEN IT COMES TO STAFF MOVING TO A COMPETITOR?
This will depend on the terms of the contract of employment in place. You need to ensure that you have included a restrictive covenant clause in their contract of employment. That way, if an employee leaves and breaches any of the restrictions then you can take legal action which could include court proceedings to seek an injunction and/or claim damages. If the individual was self-employed and renting a chair from you, the enforcement rights would depend on the commercial agreement in place. This may restrict the solicitation of clients of your business for a period of time, although having such terms for chair renters may raise questions about their employment status.
AS A BARBER WHAT RIGHTS DO YOU HAVE WHEN IT COMES TO CHOOSING YOUR NEXT EMPLOYER / PLACE OF WORK?
You can look for any role that suits your needs. However, if your contract of employment with your current (or most recent former) employer contains a ‘restrictive covenants’ clause then you need to abide by these (as long as they are reasonable) or you risk legal action being taken against yourself and your new employer.