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    競業限制協議正在扼殺創新

    Ellen Rubin 2019年07月01日

    到處可見的競業限制協議形成了避險文化,這給創新帶來了困難。

    圖片來源:Hailshadow via Getty Images

    反對競業限制協議的全國性運動正在不斷壯大。華盛頓州州長、2020年大選候選人杰伊·英斯利在今年5月簽署法令,禁止對年收入低于10萬美元的人使用競業限制協議。6月,馬里蘭州也就針對低薪工作者的競業限制下了禁令。新罕布什爾和佛蒙特等州也在考慮大幅削弱此類協議的約束力。這股潮流甚至影響到了美國國會——三名參議員最近提出了在全國范圍內禁止競業限制的議案。

    可惜,競業限制協議仍然隨處可見。美國財政部的數據顯示,受此類協議約束的美國就業者約有3000萬人,占全部勞動者的五分之一左右。工資越高,簽署競業限制協議的百分比就越大。美國經濟創新研究所2019年的報告指出,在年收入低于4萬美元的就業者中,競業限制協議的覆蓋面約為14%;在年收入超過15萬美元的人中則接近一半。只有加利福尼亞、北達科他和俄克拉荷馬州徹底禁止了這種協議。在近一半的州,被裁員工甚至會因為此類協議而在一年或更長時間里無法重操舊業。

    我長期在馬薩諸塞州的企業技術基礎設施領域中從事創業活動。在這里,州長查理·巴克爾去年簽署了削弱競業限制協議的法令。但對其進行改革還不夠,應該讓這種協議徹底消失。它們有損就業,不利于使用此類協議的公司,而且扼殺了創新。

    成就文化能夠令創新蓬勃發展,在這樣的文化里,人們毫無顧慮,創造力十足。另一方面,競業限制形成的則是避險文化,身處其中的人或許會在恐懼驅使下做出職業抉擇。舉例來說,人們可能會因為擔心要簽競業限制協議而不接受入職邀請,或者公司員工甚至可能不再求職,因為他們擔心自己會被現在的用人單位起訴。

    此外,受到此類協議限制的員工無法在離職后進入初創企業,或在自己的專業領域建立自己的公司。實際上,據經濟創新研究所介紹,在強制使用競業限制協議的州,初創公司都不那么成功,就業者的收入也低于未強制使用此類協議的州(比如加利福尼亞州)。

    如今的上班族流動性很大。美國勞工統計局的數據顯示,48歲以下的嬰兒潮一代平均每人差不多干過12份工作。蓋洛普則發現,五分之一以上的千禧一代去年剛剛跳過槽。競業限制協議有可能把人鎖在某一家公司,這會讓真正的人才望而卻步,公司也將更難招聘到所需人員。1985年密歇根州推翻了競業限制禁令,而2014年的一項研究顯示,隨后密歇根的腦力勞動者就開始流向那些未強制實施競業限制的州。

    雖然用人單位采取競業限制措施的原因多種多樣,比如保護商業機密、維持客戶關系以及留住骨干員工。但實際上,已經有專門的法律來保護知識產權和客戶關系了。比如,用人單位可以讓員工簽署保密協議,以便保護知識產權和商業機密,禁止招徠協議則能夠防止前員工把客戶挖走。競業限制真的沒有必要,它無法提供更多的保障,而且只會削弱就業者在其專業領域保持競爭優勢的能力。

    對通過競業限制來留住骨干員工的公司來說,這些協議妨礙了人員流動,體現的則是不愿意隨時間而做出改變的心態。削弱人員流動性影響的不光是個人的工作前景,它還會壓縮企業的潛在人才庫。就算修改或削弱了競業限制協議,繼續使用此類協議也表明公司對自己在公平環境下留住或爭奪人才的能力感到懷疑。在眼下競爭激烈的就業市場,這樣的公司文化可不好發展。

    從更基本的角度而言,競業限制有損公平。員工有權去尋找讓他們感到滿足,而且最有可能讓他們取得成就的工作。沒有任何拿得出手的理由能夠阻止人們通過專業技能和經驗來養活自己。這在非科技行業中甚至更為明顯——競業限制會讓人們在一年或者更長時間里處于失業狀態,甚至是在其無故被解職的情況下。

    終究有更好的方法來留住員工,比如讓他們可以妥善平衡工作和生活的關系、給予強有力的指導、提供職業咨詢以及讓他們獲得職業發展機會,而不是借助這些既打擊員工積極性又限制企業創新能力的協議。(財富中文網)

    艾倫·魯賓是數據存儲服務公司ClearSky Data的首席執行官及聯合創始人。

    譯者:Charlie

    審校:夏林

    There’s a growing national movement against noncompete agreements. Jay Inslee, governor of Washington and 2020 presidential candidate, signed a law in May barring noncompetes for anyone who makes less than $100,000 annually, and in June, Maryland banned them for low-wage workers. Additional states, including New Hampshire and Vermont, are considering bills that would significantly weaken these contracts, and the momentum even extends to Capitol Hill, where three senators recently introduced a bill that would ban noncompetes nationwide.

    Unfortunately, noncompete agreements are still pervasive. About 30 million U.S. workers, or roughly one in five, are bound by them, according to the U.S. Treasury. And as the salary scale climbs, so does the percentage of those who have signed one. Noncompetes cover about 14% of workers making less than $40,000 and nearly 50% of those making more than $150,000, says a 2019 report from the Economic Innovation Institute. Only California, North Dakota, and Oklahoma forbid enforcing them altogether, and in nearly half of the states, these agreements can prevent even laid-off employees from working in their industry for a year or more.

    In Massachusetts, where I’ve been a longtime entrepreneur in the enterprise technology infrastructure industry, Governor Charlie Baker signed a law last year that weakened noncompete agreements. But reforming noncompetes is not enough—these agreements should be eliminated altogether. Noncompetes harm employees, damage the companies who require them, and stifle innovation.

    Innovation thrives in a culture of achievement, when people are free to be bold and creative. Noncompetes, on the other hand, create a culture of risk aversion where people may make career decisions based on fear. For example, candidates might not take a job offer due to concerns about signing a noncompete, or employees may not even apply for other positions, because they worry their current employer could file suit against them.

    Moreover, employees restrained by these agreements can’t leave to join a startup or create their own company in their area of expertise. In fact, according to the Economic Innovation Institute, in states where noncompetes are enforced, startups are less successful, and employees earn lower wages than in states (like California) where they aren’t enforced.

    Today’s employees are highly mobile. Baby boomers, under the age of 48, held nearly 12 different jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Gallup found that more than one-fifth of Millennials changed jobs just in the last year. Noncompete agreements threaten to lock people into a single company, which can drive talent away, and make it harder to hire the people it needs. When Michigan reversed its ban on noncompetes in 1985, a 2014 study found that the state subsequently suffered a “brain drain” of knowledge workers to states that didn’t enforce them.

    While employers use noncompetes for a variety of reasons—to safeguard trade secrets, protect customer relationships, and retain key employees—in truth, there are already separate laws safeguarding intellectual property and customer relationships. Employers, for instance, can have employees sign nondisclosure agreements to protect IP and trade secrets, while nonsolicitation agreements can prevent former employees from poaching customers. A noncompete is simply unnecessary—it doesn’t provide extra protection, it just hampers an employee’s ability to maintain a competitive edge in their field.

    As for retaining key employees through noncompetes, those employers who stymie employee mobility with these contracts demonstrate an unwillingness to change with the times. Reduced mobility for workers doesn’t just shrink workers’ job prospects; it also reduces an employer’s potential talent pool. And even when noncompetes are modified or weakened, companies that retain them show that they doubt their ability to retain or compete for talent on a level playing field. That’s not a corporate culture that will fare well in today’s highly competitive job market.

    More fundamentally, noncompetes obstruct fairness. Employees should have the right to find work that’s fulfilling and affords them the greatest opportunity to achieve. There’s no good reason to prevent someone from earning a living by using their industry-specific skills and experience. This is even more apparent in sectors outside of technology, where noncompetes can put people out of work for a year or more, even if they are let go without cause.

    Ultimately, there are better ways to retain a company’s workforce—such as providing a good work-life balance, strong mentorship programs, career counseling, and opportunities for professional development—without resorting to contracts that both demotivate employees and limit an organization’s ability to innovate.

    Ellen Rubin is CEO and co-founder of ClearSky Data.

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