Should you counter offer staff who have decided to leave?

Sep 18, 2019

At first it appears to be a no brainer to counter offer a person who is considered to be a valuable asset, especially if this individual will be hard to replace or is working on a time sensitive project. After all, training a new employee to do the same job will on average end up costing more than half of the current worker’s salary.

On second thoughts, however, you have to consider the fact that the person who has decided to leave has probably thought about this decision for quite a long time, unless there are extenuating circumstances. There were probably some clues over the past few months. Did the person ask for a raise, only to be told to wait until after the annual performance review? Was he or she denied the chance to work from home a couple of days each week? Was his or her request for a change in responsibilities turned down? Was the promotion given to someone else?

The first thing you will want to know is the reason your employee has decided to leave. You then need to be realistic about whether you want to do anything about it. Despite the fact that 55% of respondents in the 2019 PeopleSource Tipping Point survey indicated that they would accept a counter offer, history tells us that if the person sees no future with the company or does not even like the business, it’s only a matter of time before they leave anyway.

If you decide to meet or even exceed the employee’s expectations in order to encourage them to stay, it’s important to consider that this course of action may create issues of its own. As the rumour mill gathers momentum, other valuable employees may decide to ‘jump on the bandwagon’, or perhaps you find it impossible to forgive the person whom you may see as betraying your trust, which in turn may create a toxic atmosphere around the office.

Even if the employee does choose to accept your counter offer, research has shown that the chances of them leaving within the next year are as high as ninety percent. Instead, you may find it more beneficial to negotiate an arrangement whereby the current employee stays on long enough to get a new recruit up to speed on the job. Of course, this arrangement is not always feasible, as it depends on cooperation from the prospective employer.

All things considered, in a robust job market your employees have significantly more options and once the decision to move on is made, successful counter offer stories are rare. Meeting individual employee demands often means walking a fine line between temporarily keeping your best people and destabilising the entire work environment.

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