Hang out long enough as a manager of people and one thing’s for sure—someone on your team is going to quit or resign to take another job.
The reaction you have to that resignation is directly related to how valuable the employee is to your team and company. For most of us, losing an average or below-average employee feels like an opportunity to find a replacement who can perform at a higher level. That’s the easy part of turnover.
The harder part of voluntary turnover is when a high-performing employee gives you his/her notice. The alarm bells go off—we’re losing someone very valuable! In many cases, your first instinct is going to be to do what it takes to provide a counter offer to that employee for more money to convince them to stay.
Are counter offers the right strategy in that situation? The answer isn’t simple—it’s complicated. While counter offers to high performers are routine/automatic in many companies, it’s not clear that countering even your highest performing employee is a great long-term strategy.
Be careful what you wish for (in this case, an employee who’s already decided to leave reverses course and stays)—you might get it.
I like to run the following exercise with managers of people when talking about broad compensation theory and exploring the topic of counter offers. Take a look and we’ll talk afterwards:
EXERCISE – Who’s The Most Likely to Receive a Counter Offer at Your Company?
We’re listing 5 positions that commonly exist in corporate America below. In the space below, rank order the positions from 1 to 5, with 1 being most likely to receive a counter offer when they resign and 5 being least likely to receive a counter offer when they resign. Tell us why you ranked each position the way you did
Assume the individuals in each position are high performers.
Positions: Marketing Manager, Sales Executive, Software Developer, Financial Analyst, Project Manager
So what you ask? Why would I want to run this type of exercise in any training related to managers of people?
It’s called dialog/conversation. When you try to train managers of people about what’s in their best interest – in this case about counter-offers as part of a longer conversation about compensation – there are multiple approaches you can take.
You can tell them what to do. That’s an approach most companies take.
Or you can ask them to tell you what they would do. Then use the group power to critique the approach and broaden the way they think through feedback from their peers.
You and I know the reality. Whether to counter or not is really a complex algorithm of about 20 factors. This same list of positions would spawn a different ordering not only for each manager who responds, but each company will have different priorities based on the core business, leadership preferences, etc.
But the exercise isn’t really about what’s right and wrong. It’s more about getting the managers to talk about what they see. And the one they list as most critical to counter offer is likely closest to their functional area and business.
If you can train, you understand your job is to use the collective horsepower in the room to be the trainers rather than you having the answer.
The reality is there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to who is most critical to counter-offer. But hearing other perspectives related to what their peers would do is sure to cause growth, perspective and dare I say, maturity when it comes to an individual’s perspectives on how to manage.
Oh, and the project manager is the last one that you should ever give a counter-offer to.
FOT Note: This rant is brought to you by the good folks at Meridian, who like us enough to be an annual sponsor at FOT for all content in our learning and development track (and don’t expect that we run any of this by them ahead of time). They’re also up for having fun to the extent that they’re sponsoring the Learning and Development Hangout Series. Check it out!
Kris Dunn is a Partner and CHRO at Kinetix, a national RPO firm for growth companies headquartered in Atlanta. He’s also the founder Fistful of Talent (founded in 2008) and The HR Capitalist (2007) – and has written over 70 feature columns at Workforce Management magazine. Prior to his investment at Kinetix, Kris served in HR leadership roles at DAXKO, Charter and Cingular. In his spare time, KD hits the road as a speaker and gives the world what it needs – pop culture references linked to Human Capital street smarts.