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How to manage counter-offers

16 Jul 2018

It might sound flattering, but there's more to a counter-offer than meets the eye...

Making the decision to move onto a new job can be a fraught one. You’ve gone through the recruitment process, you’ve sat in several interviews, and, one day, your Consultant tells you that you’ve managed to secure your dream job. You might think that the worst is over, but there’s one thing that you might not have considered before handing in your notice: the counter-offer.

Though more of us than ever are willing to move jobs and change careers, that doesn’t mean employers are happy about it. In a market where the war for talent is dominating the General Insurance, Financial Services and Legal sectors, and inter-company poaching is rife, employers are increasingly turning to counter-offers in an attempt to convince their errant staff to stay.

If you tender your resignation, there’s a strong chance that you’ll be offered a generous pay rise in order to stay. But should you take it? 

Here’s what you need to know.

Don’t commit straight away

Though your employers will likely be keen to get an answer from you as soon as possible, there’s no pressure to give your answer right away. One common tactic to persuade you to stay will be to usher you into a meeting room and try to sway you with talk about the future of the business, the part that you’ll play in creating a better future, and- above all- talk of a pay rise. They know that once they get a verbal commitment to staying, you’ll be much more likely to follow through and commit to the counter offer rather than leaving- indeed, 57% of employees accept the counter offers made to them, despite the fact that 50% are back on the market within 2 months. 

Take care not to do this. Instead, thank them for their time, and for the offer, and say that you need a few days to think about it. Then go to your Recruitment Consultant and work on a strategy that will best suit you.  

What was your original reason for leaving?

As with deciding to leave a job, accepting a counter-offer is not a step to be taken lightly. Take your time: for many people, the best advice to take is to think about the reason that you wanted to leave your job in the first place. After all, the only incentive that your employer can offer you is more money, but only 19% leave their job because of a low salary. In fact, 24% of staff leave because of a poor cultural fit, and 33% don’t feel like their current role is giving them the opportunities that they want. 

Accepting a pay rise, therefore, won’t solve your original problem. More money and the promise of change won’t improve the team dynamic, your relationship with your manager or the opportunities for career progression. Indeed, this and broken promises made during the counter offer process account for the fact that more than 60% of UK-based employees who decide to stay will end up leaving their organisation within six months anyway, rising to 90% within 12 months.

Think about the consequences


Indeed, accepting a counter-offer can have unintended ramifications for your career- especially in an industry where building a good reputation is key to attracting business and forging strong client relationships. By rejecting the company who have offered you a job in favour of a counter-offer, you risk damaging your relationship with them, and with the businesses and clients that they work with. As a result, when the time comes to start job-hunting again, you might find certain opportunities- and roles- harder to access.

It’s also worth considering the career risks this spells within the company that you stay at. Though you’ll have gained a pay rise from the counter-offer, your boss will expect you to work for it, and you’ll have earned a reputation within the office as somebody whose loyalty is suspect. As a result, when it comes to promotions, you may be passed over in favour of a more dedicated colleague.

What are your employer’s motives?

Though it’s very flattering to be given a counter-offer- and senior staff will likely pour their resources into convincing you to stay- it’s also worth considering your employer’s motives in keeping you on. Replacing staff costs UK businesses £4.1bn every year: for many firms, it will be an expensive and time-consuming process to find a qualified professional to replace you, especially in competitive industries like Insurance, Law and Financial Services. In addition, businesses want to prevent their best talent being poached by other firms; as a result, giving you a pay rise will cost less in both time and money than it will to find a new hire. Their sudden attention isn’t about them wanting to keep you, as much as it as about saving hassle, so don’t be swayed by their talk of your importance.

Talk to your Recruitment Consultant

Before you make any decisions, it’s important that you get an objective opinion on what to do. For this reason, you need to go and talk to your Recruitment Consultant as soon as possible. Consultants are experienced in handling counter-offers, and in advising you on how to proceed with them: after all, for them it’s just a normal part of the job. They’re a specialist in the market, and they know the process inside out, so don’t be embarrassed to talk about it; the more honest you are about it, the more they can genuinely advise you to do what’s best for you.

They’re also vitally important when it comes to keeping a link open between you and your prospective new employers. In the time that it takes you to decide whether or not to accept that counter-offer, that company may have already been waiting two or three weeks for you to hand in your notice. If not managed correctly, they may withdraw their offer; a Recruitment Consultant is the person who will keep your options open for as long as possible and manage your relationship.  

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