Broaching the question on hiring a vendor's employee
February 7, 2018 7:08 PM   Subscribe

We have been working with a third party to help my company code our emails - and in particular one of their employee who has been working with us for several years. We are very happy with his work and he works solely on his account but I've been tasked to explore options to bring this function in-house. I'd like us to hire him, but there is of course some sensitivity I'd like to consider. Details below.

This vendor's employee has been with my team through thick and thin over so many evolving changes on our team and business. We pay a pretty large fee for this service, one where I've been tasked to see if we can bring someone (or even two junior people) on-site full time to code. I fear having to start anew with someone new and untrained in our processes but our pain points have been some pretty inflexible timelines, their offices being closed during peak hours of business where we need possible last minute tweaks, and besides our team no one really interacting with this guy - there's a lot of frustration with the lack of accommodation and flexibility.

Although I am not close with him, I do know his wife went through some serious medical issues a while back - but something his employer was super accommodating which makes me hesitant to even ask about this...
I told my director I think he'd be a really great person to bring on as an employee and she asked if I could reach out to him and see if he's interested. But I have some questions....

- Is it appropriate for me to do this or should I ask a higher up to? I'm a Manager, approve the bills from this vendor, and am the main source of contact.
- How should I approach him about this (email, phone, in-person?). We live in the same city but I wonder if it would sound odd if I asked him to lunch when we maybe touchbase in person once a year.
- I plan to start with - we've been very pleased with your work, our business is exploring some options to make our email process more efficient, if the opportunity arose, would you be interested joining our team as a full time employee? And see where that takes it.
- If he absolutely is not, then I'd mention some of the pain points we'd like to work on and that we're exploring options, assuring him we'll work with them thoroughly through it.
- If he is, I'd let my manager know and see if they can propose a plan with leadership.

Does anyone have experience with hiring (or trying to hire) a vendor's employee or is this just a big no-no? I of course would just have the initial conversation but the above plan is all I could think out.
I could really use some etiquette advice, especially since we have such a good partnership with them - but I really work solely with this guy.

Appreciate any ideas you can send my way!
posted by hillabeans to Work & Money (8 answers total)
 
It's not a big deal to ask him directly, but play it quiet (i.e., not through the vendor's email system, not when other vendor employees are around, etc). Usually vendors or contracting companies (I work for one now, have hired them in the past) have a non-compete that says employees can't jump to existing clients for a period of time unless otherwise released. You'll want to ask him what sort of contractual issues may exist on his side, and then if he's ok with it, approach the vendor.

This is definitely something that is done, in fact I have a friend who just made a jump in a similar situation, but you want to make sure he's comfortable with things and that you don't cause any friction for him with his current position.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 7:13 PM on February 7, 2018 [2 favorites]


Should probably review with HR the contract between his and your company, the details are probably spelled out there. Would be embarrassing to find out after the chat that the process had egregious costs.
posted by sammyo at 7:19 PM on February 7, 2018 [7 favorites]


Just to answer more directly:

- Is it appropriate for me to do this or should I ask a higher up to? I'm a Manager, approve the bills from this vendor, and am the main source of contact. If you're the main source of contact, that totally works.
- How should I approach him about this (email, phone, in-person?). We live in the same city but I wonder if it would sound odd if I asked him to lunch when we maybe touchbase in person once a year. In person is best, phone call is ok. If he's given you his personal cell phone number, you could call him after hours. If not, maybe next time you talk, just end the call by asking him to give you a call after he heads out for the day so you can "run something by him".
- I plan to start with - we've been very pleased with your work, our business is exploring some options to make our email process more efficient, if the opportunity arose, would you be interested joining our team as a full time employee? And see where that takes it. This sounds a little...non-concrete. Don't waste his time if it's still up in the air.


On preview, yes, make sure you know what cards you're holding. I figured there might be some sort of buy out on his end, but I forgot that you'll have a contract with the vendor as well. Know what it says.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 7:22 PM on February 7, 2018 [2 favorites]


I am so thankful I have this forum, this is great advice!
I will track down the MSA agreement and see if I can get some advice from HR / our legal council first.
My main concern is trying not to "spook" him (since he works solely on our account) or his vendor so I probably have to think out how I approach this conversation with more details.
posted by hillabeans at 7:54 PM on February 7, 2018 [1 favorite]


If you want to do this on the up and up I would talk to HR about it. You may not even be allowed to approach him. Maybe the vendor would be open to it, especially if they have a relationship with your company in other areas. I'm not sure how iron clad non-competes are. It's pretty hard to legally restrict someone from getting a job in their industry. I've never been asked about them during interviews and bounced around from one similar company to the next for a while. I've also been told multiple times at a job that I would be signing a non-compete at some point which never (thankfully) materialized. Be aware that if you talk with HR this may be a conversation where you need to read between the lines to get the gist of what they're recommending (e.g. "we cannot recommend you approach this person without our knowledge to make them aware of this opening, but if they were to somehow submit for the job then we would have to consider them of course...").
posted by xammerboy at 8:02 PM on February 7, 2018 [3 favorites]


Consider if you put him in a diffficult position or cause him worry by revealing that you, a lucrative client, are on the way out. I would need to tell my boss and I would worry about the loss of the client I was mainly tied to, and seemingly happy with, etc.
posted by Iteki at 9:50 PM on February 7, 2018 [1 favorite]


You could also ask on Ask A Manager. If you don't have enough lead time to wait and see if your question gets in the queue for Alison to answer, Friday is the open thread and you could get some great feedback from the commentariat. It's like AskMe but all about work.
posted by matildaben at 9:56 PM on February 7, 2018


Keep in mind also that if you are the employee's only account, the vendor may or may not immediately have someplace else to deploy the employee. This means, in turn, that even if your agreement provides for some sort of "buy-out", the vendor may be more negotiable than what the contract calls for.

Don't try to play this card too soon, however.
posted by John Borrowman at 1:30 PM on February 8, 2018


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