Counteroffers Are Not the Best Strategy

Don’t look now but the “talent wars” have already started… and as the economy strengthens, this demand for top performers is predicted to quickly exceed the supply.

NewsTo this point, your company has probably been more focused on dealing with fuel costs and increasing over-the-road capacity than on employee retention, but as the economy continues to rebound, be prepared to see some of your superstars look elsewhere for opportunity.

How do you stop this trickle before it becomes a flood?
One tried and proven strategy to keep valuable employees at their posts is the counteroffer — but before employing this practice, think about the ramifications.

Without a doubt, employees control their destinies more now than ever before, but the other truism within today’s employment paradigm is the absence of loyalty . . . and while leaving one company to join another may not always be easy for the employee, the absence of a key player on your team can create chaos.

Here’s a critical area to think about : Some companies, especially successful and growing carriers, often have the mistaken idea that top talents are just waiting for the opportunity to work for them when, in fact, there are hundreds of companies in the race for their services.

Enter the counteroffer.

Management knows that matching a competitive salary offer, changing job titles and promising challenging new projects are some of the best ways to keep an employee in the ranks. It’s also less expensive than recruiting and replacing a tried-and-proven performer.

However, putting the economics of retention aside for a moment, what does it really mean when a talented employee announces plans for his or her departure?

Just this: When someone wants to head for a competitor’s team, you’ll tend to take it personally. Any time a top employee leaves the fold, questions such as, “Why didn’t I see this coming?” or “What will this do for morale?” can keep you up at night. Making a counteroffer and having it accepted releases you from this teeth-gnashing exercise, but what happens once the employee is safely back in the fold?

First of all, nothing has really changed. Whatever it was that caused that employee to want to jump ship still exists. In my own experience, most employees who accept counteroffers live to regret doing so. Second, it’s only human nature to look at that individual differently. Why? Because they wanted to leave. Now you may view their loyalty as less than 100 percent. Now you’re less likely to trust them. It’s also a good idea to think about the effect of a counteroffer on the rest of the troops. Think they won’t know? Think again . . .there’s no stronger network in any company than the office “grapevine” and it bubbles and gurgles with guesses and gossip, 24 hours a day, seven days a week — including holidays.

Here’s one more “what-if” to think about: If top talents see other top talents leaving your table with a counteroffer in their back pockets, will this tactic be adopted by the entire team? Even if it isn’t, what will you do to re-establish the solidarity of your team after a key player attempts to make a run for it?

It isn’t a stretch to view your position after an accepted counteroffer much like the prison warden who has to shore up security after a successful escape. The bottom line of employing the counteroffer is this: If you’re running a tight ship, treating your employees well and providing a great work environment, making a counteroffer is not something you want to do. Decent and well-run companies don’t make counteroffers. If an employee wants to quit, your best option is to show them the door. In the long run, you’ll avoid collateral damage.

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