Pre-Counteroffers: Why All of Your Best Employees Should Be Getting Them

There is no doubt about it. The job is market healthier than it’s been in years and hiring is HOT. You are likely feeling the pressure to wine, dine, and roll out the red carpet for the best talent you can find out there.

But while your company is out there, hyper-focused on scouting and recruiting fresh, new, top talent, are you overlooking the players you already have on the team?

You very well might be, until your “most loyal” employee catches you off guard with her two-week’s notice. Then you start scrambling to give her whatever she wants…more money, title promotion, flex/work-from home days, more vacation, a new boss, a new client. Whatever it is, you need to give it to her because you can’t live without her – she’s a reliable key-player!

And then you realize, you are too little, too late.

Most savvy candidates are fully aware of the no-no’s of accepting counteroffers. Just plug the term into any search engine and you’ll find a plethora of articles, posts and resources advising against them.

Perhaps you should’ve given her a pre-counteroffer when you had the chance.  

Yep, that’s right.  An “I’m a step ahead of your future offer” move that’s so great, they wouldn’t need to entertain the idea of leaving in the first place.  For example…did you put them on a path to reach their career goals, discuss their wants/needs during their last review, or present creative ways to keep them challenged, interested and enthusiastic? Did you truly reward them for their excellent work and loyalty to the company? Did you invest in them, proactively?

According to Gallup, only 33% of employees are engaged in their work, and more than half of all employees (51%) “are actively looking for a new job or watching for openings”

If you have been resting on your laurels with your current fantastic team and assuming (or hoping) that they’ll just stay forever because they are loyal, appear to be happy, or are compensated “well enough,” think again. It might be time to reassess your retention strategies.

Don’t wait for them to come to you with a resignation letter.  Get out in front of it.

  • Listen: Talk with your employees.  No, not at them, with them. And not just during “review” time.  Check-in to see how things are going, or if there are things you can do to make their employee experience better. Are they getting what they need/want?  Do they have concerns or issues that you can work to alleviate? Do they need more/different mentorship or direction? Do they want to work on new projects? Do they just want to be heard? Their issues, requests or concerns might be small and easy to fix to you, but to them they might be the motivators for a new job or new company. Even tiny tweaks go a long way!
  • Watch, Recognize, Reward: Notice the employees who are putting in the long hours. Acknowledge small success AND big wins. Say thank you. Order in lunch. Give spot bonuses. Offer a spontaneous day-off after a big project.  Give well-deserved promotions and healthy salary increases before they are requested. Keep investing in them, and they will invest in you.
  • Evolve: Money and title aren’t everything. Today, benefits and company culture weigh just as heavily when people decide where they want to spend their many working (and waking) hours. Do you offer flex schedules? Are you all work and no play? Do you respect boundaries during non-working hours? Do you encourage your employees to actually take their allotted vacation time? Do you have open, collaborative, work environments? Does purpose or meaning have a place in the work they are doing? Stay on top of the ever-changing work culture trends, and implement a few when you can.  Your employees will appreciate your efforts, and your best employees will be that much more invested and productive.

Frankly Speaking: Don’t wait until it’s too late. Of course, we can’t always prevent employees from moving on and taking new opportunities. Sometimes we just aren’t equipped to offer them what they need to excel, catapult forward, or to feel fulfilled on their own paths. But, by staying ahead of the game and being more supportive of and in-tune with their needs and interests, we can, at the very least, give it our best shot.

updated from 2015

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