YOUR best employees are most at risk of being poached by competitors under the new rules of the modernising economy.
That's because changes in the workplace, growth of technology and the rise of social media now allow employers to cultivate relationships with prospective employees - even while they're on your payroll.
The preference to recruit employed candidates, rather than those out of work, highlights the risk of a raid on your company's talent pool.
A few years ago, mobile phone maker Sony Ericsson instructed its talent recruiters to rule out the unemployed. In a recent poll, more than 90 per cent of senior human resources executives in the US regard "recruiting passive candidates as central" to their strategy.
In this climate, so-called "passive" candidates can be reached through "social-recruiting," or contacting them on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
"Companies will never be able to control the social media networking that's becoming so prominent out there in the marketplace," said Sydney-based recruiter Michael McGrath, of Tonic Executive Search.
This competition for talent is another element of structural changes in the Australian economy, severely challenging long-held notions of how businesses hire staff.
Mr McGrath noted the rise of ''more focused and powerful networking tools'' to help candidates and employers use social media.
"The rise of social media and other new sources of potential candidates are driving a shift towards more direct sourcing and recruiters expanding their search beyond active candidates to include 'passive' candidates - those professionals not currently looking for their next career opportunity," according to social media company LinkedIn. It has just launched a tool that allows companies to more powerfully target ''passive'' candidates.
Talent Pipeline gives recruiters the ability to upload all of their leads acquired through business cards, emails, or resumes and compare them to existing profiles with the site, which can then be tracked. It also allows companies large and small to hunt for new talent to "evaluate and build relationships with leads, based on the insights provided by the LinkedIn profile" .
This means looking at shared connections, activities of the users, shared groups and recommendations on the social media site, the company said.
"The best talent sources are already employed and successful," said Steve Barham, senior director for the company's Asia Pacific hiring solutions division. The application ''helps recruiters convert their leads into up-to-date insight,'' he said.
For Australian companies struggling with a new digital and more globally focused economy, the ability for recruitment to go on under the nose of management reflects the latest challenge.
Mr McGrath said this new competitive environment in which employee loyalty must be balanced against the continual opportunity on tap would also change employers' relationships with their most talented staff.
"It really just reinforces the point that companies need to make sure they're doing the best by their employees and creating a great work environment and the opportunities to succeed and develop their careers."