A group of friends and I were talking about inventions, copyrights and non-compete agreements. Part of the conversation was how these might affect employees. I mentioned the number of times which I had seen organizations take a very negative approach. For instance, I went to work for a company who had non-compete agreements. These agreements were with the backbone of our company. They could easily quit and go work for several competitors. Over a period of time I saw the agreements were never enforceable.
Why have negative conversations when you make it positive?
We were spending a lot of time and money having the agreements executed by the employees. Most of the time the conversations were very one sided. “To work here you have to sign this.” This was the wrong message to our employees. At the same time we had a lot of turnover and most of them were going to competitors. We were doing a lot of things wrong which was driving our employees away. We tried and stop the flood with the non-compete agreements.
We started taking a good long look at why the employees were leaving. The issue of the non-competes came up and the employees saw them as a negative. We started cleaning up the major issues which were being reported. The employees saw we were listening and taking proactive steps. Some of the employees decided to wait and see before leaving. Our turnover started going down. The morale of the employees started going up and we continued to eliminate more issues.
I knew we turned the corner when some of the employees came to me about some competitors employees.
They wanted to work for us!!
The competitor’s employees had heard about our changes. They also reported their company was also making changes; but not for the better. Their employees reported that every change was for the worse. Good for the organization; but bad for the employees. They were hearing about our changes and liked what was happening.
It was during this time when we decided to eliminate the Non-Compete agreements. We continued to have trouble enforcing them. However the instances where we needed to had dropped dramatically. The employees had every reason to stay and few reasons to leave. The employees also reported they felt more trusted and the tenseness had been eliminated.
Focusing on the positive of eliminating causes of turnover was much more productive then the negative of unenforceable contracts.