Will a counter offer keep your best employee?
It’s a moment that most senior managers dread, receiving the resignation of a top performing employee. Should you just let them go, or is there a way to keep them (and their expertise) at the company? The answer can be a bit grey, because it depends on multiple factors. But one thing that should remain front of mind is that it’s not always about money. Understanding why they’re leaving or what they’re going to is key to making a successful counter offer.
The full picture
The problem with resignations is that it’s really difficult to obtain the real reasons for leaving. In general nobody wants to leave on a bad footing or give negative feedback on work colleagues. So instead of clearly stating that they’re leaving because they can’t stand their team or manager, they’d rather talk about how it’s an offer that they can’t refuse. This implies that it is about money and at first glance it may seem like a counter offer is an easy solution to keeping them. But the reality is that if it is about the people rather than the money, then even if they do accept a counter offer, there’s a high probability they will still leave within a few months – because the real reason they want to leave has not been resolved.
It could be that they weren’t unhappy about the company or their role, but genuinely got offered an opportunity that was too good to decline. This could be to work with new technology, or head up an innovation team. Anyone focused on career progression – which top performing employees usually are – would see the value in an opportunity like this. In this case it’s not about money, it’s about career progression. It may be tempting to make grand promises that they can implement the new technology within the company or take the lead on innovation, but what is the reality of that happening? Does the company have the budget for the technology or expertise? Does it have the flexibility to be able to move people around departments? And does it have the projects on which to implement the new technology? This is the reality against which making a counter offer must be weighed.
No company wants to lose their best employees, but a counter offer isn’t always the best way to keep them. Sometimes it could be better to let them go but maintain a strong working relationship. You never know what future business opportunities may arise from them in their new role.