Saturday, February 6, 2021

It's Almost Spring Poaching Season in the Prefab Construction Industry

One of the ‘rites of passage’ in the modular housing industry is “Poaching” season.

It happens almost every day in our industry but it seems to peak just before the first day of Spring.

Because our industry is just a very small, but growing niche in the overall housing market in the US at about 3% of all new housing starts, we tend to know who are the players, who are the fakers, slackers, mediocre players, and who isn’t worth the powder to blow them up.

Competition in the modular housing industry is always fierce, and with the labor shortage and fewer builders, we’re facing competitors beginning to take an interest in your sales reps and skilled employees.

“Employee poaching” is a term often used to describe a situation where talented employees are directly hired from another factory or builder and many companies might see this action as immoral or illegal, but that’s not completely accurate.

Employees aren’t property or mindless pheasants or instinct-driven deer just following the next meal (or paycheck). No—employees are human beings with distinct preferences, interests, skill sets, and most importantly, free will. In other words, organizations don’t force employees to jump ship; employees choose to jump ship themselves.

So why on Earth would they want to leave your wonderful factory and go to another?

More often than not, when an employee is poached by other factories, it’s usually because the employee either has been actively seeking new job opportunities with your competitors.

There can be numerous reasons why an employee might be dissatisfied with your company. It could be a boss that micromanages, an absentee boss, oppressive company culture, or the employee feeling unfulfilled in his/her current position. Regardless of the reasoning behind it, there are a few things you can do as an employer to help keep employees invested in your company and content with what they bring to the table.

Are there signals that might indicate an employee is thinking of moving on?

Most times there is a “trigger event” that will radically change the employee’s outlook on the job and make other companies look better by comparison, whether that’s having a project postponed, being turned down for a promotion, or in the case of sales people having their territory reassigned.

One of the ways the US East Coast modular home factories let sales reps know they should start looking for a new place to work (actually encouraging ‘poaching’) is by assigning the rep to the Western PA, western MD, and WV markets. These are the areas between the custom-rich modular New England and MidAtlantic areas and the Midwest where custom modular isn't as popular.

Keep your ears open for company gossip as well, as it’s more than likely that employees wanting to quit will openly discuss the matter with other employees.

If this gossip is about one of your better employees don’t wait until they hand in their two-week notice. Ask them as soon as you hear the gossip mill at work and have a frank discussion with the employee. Be upfront with him/her without coming across as harsh, and if you have the power to do so and see the benefits of keeping the said employee on staff, offer to fix the situation.

If you find the employee is unhappy at your company don’t make a counteroffer. All you’re doing is keeping an unhappy person on your payroll and they may still jump ship down the road.

Another scenario is a person that is bluffing about being poached by a competitor to get a raise or better territory. Let them go immediately as this is deceitful and if works once they will do it again and again over the years.

If you do have a poached employee, the natural assumption can be that he/she will try to take other employees with them, or in the case of a sales rep, they could take their builders with them. This isn’t paranoia and can be a legitimate concern.

Sometimes you may want to encourage an employee to be poached.

This reverse poaching happens when the modular factory or modular builder would be better off without the faker, slacker, or mediocre employee. These three types tend to infect the entire staff with their tales of being treated unfairly or underpaid or under-appreciated.

To get these employees poached simply add a suggestion into the industry's gossip mill and the word will get out to your competitors that one of your 'key' people (Not Really) is looking for a change.

It will take about a week to get the smile off your face when they hand in their notice.

Gary Fleisher, the Modcoach, writes Modcoach News and Modular Home Coach blogs as well as the best site for off-site consultants, Modcoach Connects

Contact Gary at

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