Countering Counter Offers – An Employers Guide

Posted by Lawrence Bond January 25, 2020

To grasp the reality of counter offers, let’s first picture this scenario. Just when you think that you’ve found the ideal new employee, you offer them the job, they accept and everyone’s happy. You reject your other candidates, liaise with I.T., HR, colleagues etc and set everything up for your newest gem and then you get the dreaded call. Their existing boss has persuaded them to change their mind and they’re no longer joining!

The Problem
‘Counter Offers’ are more prevalent now than ever as employers attempt to retain knowledge within their business as well as trying to avoid the financial and time implications of replacing a leaver.

A little bit like a relationship (so I’m told!!), the existing employer has talked their long-standing partner into giving it another go and promised change!

If this has happened to you and you’re the new employer, you may think that there’s not a lot you could have done.

Countering the counter offer!

Here are quite a few ideas, some more subtle than others, that you can consider adding into your process in order to minimise the success of a counter-offer with your next recruit. Over my 20 years in recruitment, I have tried all of the ideas below and whilst this isn’t an exact science, they increase the chances of capitalising on all the hard work it took to get to offer stage.

Firstly, bear in mind that if an employer feels that their leaver is worth keeping, it is often because they have worked with them for years and they know them well. They’ll know what makes that individual tick, their interests, likes, dislikes etc. This places the current employer in a strong position.

Whilst the existing boss has the candidate in their business for the duration of their notice period and therefore has the ability to tug on their emotional heartstrings every day, you need to realise that, despite the relationship your new recruit has with their boss, there were clearly factors that caused them to seek a move.

If you are particularly keen on a candidate, make an effort to get to know them well during the interview and offer process. That will place you in a far better position to win the all-important tug of war.

Timing: Whilst agencies discuss counter offers when registering new applicants, it’s not very ‘real’ to the candidate at that point and it’s only when an offer is made, that a great deal of care, attention and some forethought is often needed.

Relaying offers: Therefore care should be taken when you relay the offer. Do you currently relay offers over the phone or face to face?

Even if you recruit through an agency, you can still relay offers directly and a good consultancy will advise and guide you through the process.

By sitting with a new recruit to discuss their job offer, making them feel comfortable, really talking through how you plan to address the reasons for leaving their current role, introducing them to their new team, showing them their desk etc, you make their new role far more real and harder to turn away from.

You may even talk through how their current employer is likely to react, what they might miss about their current business and how this could be used to try and retain them. Depending on their answer, this may give you ideas for your business (e.g. if they say they’ll miss the coffee machine, go and buy one and send them a pic!).

If you have the chance to involve the ‘newbie’ in going out with key personnel or colleagues, it creates a huge amount of added ‘buy-in’ that you may need when they’re back with their current boss. If you have events, whether social or professional, involve the new star too.

Small touches can be powerful – Send a good luck card and think about a welcome gift – we do this and something landing on your candidates doorstep works wonders. If you find out that they love a certain drink, maybe send a bottle too as it shows you listen too. Alternatively, if you know their interests and can give something relevant, that can be really powerful.

Engage – Don’t forget to connect with your new recruit via LinkedIn and if you have a strong Company social media presence, ensure the new employee is encouraged to follow, join and feel part of it.

Celebrate success – I ALWAYS ask candidates what they’re going to do to celebrate their new role – Once they’ve celebrated with a meal out, a bottle of wine etc, they’re often confirming to themselves that they’ve made a positive decision to accept your role. This all helps you!

Put yourself in that candidate’s position. Is it a bit harder to go back on your acceptance at that point?

There are lots of other ideas, processes and methods that will aide your staff attraction (& retention) and once you’ve created the ‘buy-in’ to overcome counter offers from existing employers, you also need to ensure agencies don’t turn your new employees head either!

Protect your new asset – Always ask your new recruit to remove their CV from the online portals and try to keep in regular contact.

When a candidate has a one month notice period, we make some form of contact every 48 hours. It may be the card, an email, a call, a LinkedIn connection/message, a lunch etc. It all helps the ‘control’ process which may take time, however in the battle to attract top talent, it’s a small price to pay and it shows a genuine commitment to your new recruit.

Your challenge: The challenge for you is then to maintain that employee engagement!

What next?
If you want more ideas, advice or help on a specific scenario, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We have a wealth of experience in the staffing sector and know that providing advice (which is free!), builds trust. Try us!

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