Dealing With a Counter Offer

As 2020 draws to an end many of us just cannot wait put this one behind us, huddle up next to family and begin the festivities. *Understatement of the year alert* It’s been a challenging year. As with any economic downturn there have been winners and losers; we’ve seen profits surge in organisations like Harvey Norman, AfterPay and Woolies however working to meet demand has inevitably led to fatigue within employee groups and ‘burnout’ is the latest in a string of emerging issues HR departments are working to resolve. Then there are the losers, Hospitality, Commercial real estate and Aviation. Here we’ve seen large reductions in employee headcount, reduced hours straining household budgets and a number of leadership challenges few felt well equipped for.

The net result in both scenarios has meant an increase in candidate activity, yet unusually we’ve observed an increase in ‘counter offers’ (or buy backs as they are often referred to) across the market.

Mitigating a counter offer has always been a fundamental part of our role in delivering a smooth and controlled recruitment process for our clients. We use our experience to detect the risk of such a scenario early on in the process and work closely with our candidates discussing the many pros and cons.

So none of this is particularly new to us but we have asked ourselves recently, is there something else happening that is leading to a prevalence in counter offers over the past 6 months. The easiest thing to do is blame COVID. In discussing with clients far and wide we found it a rather convenient excuse for all sorts of things; I mean it has caused enough damage so we may as well use it as a scapegoat to our benefit where possible, right? Just joking!

We’ve noticed the market has certainly shifted since COVID hit. Some candidates have a degree of risk aversion it seems. Perhaps a case of ‘better the devil you know’, rather than joining a new employer in an uncertain economic climate. But invariably, any buy-back just papers over the cracks and rarely provides a long-term solution to counter why you were looking in the first place. So for candidates and clients alike, please consider the following when a buy back is on the cards.

Tips for candidates when dealing with buy-backs

1) Be absolutely certain about what you want and challenge yourself with questions.
Think carefully about the reasons why you were looking in the first place and see which are fundamental and which could be easily addressed. Where do you want your career to go and which company can best give you the development you need? Think about why your current company hasn’t been able or willing to meet your needs to date. Will these issues still be there despite the potential new title and pay rise?

2) Get a second opinion from someone you trust.
Find at least one person you trust through your professional network and talk about the offer you have from a new organisation and whatever you are being offered as a counter. You shouldn’t expect them to make the decision for you but talking through it always helps consolidate your thinking. And pick someone whose professional career you respect, not just a friend or family member who will be less familiar with the best career option.

3) Think long-term and don’t get caught up in “Covid-Economy” panic.
Take the opportunity that will be best for you in the foreseeable future and not just right at this moment. Whatever decision you take, you need to communicate it in a way that burns no bridges and also avoids long drawn out negotiations. The market is uncertain at the moment, of course, however no organisation is going to market to hire on a whim! If they are recruiting, then it is genuinely because they are looking for new talent.

Tips for clients when considering a buy-back

1) Be absolutely certain that the counter offer is the best for both parties.
Resignation is a big thing and certainly not a decision one makes overnight. Make sure that if you counter offer an employee upon their resignation, that it will address the core reasons for them leaving. Know that most employees who stay under such circumstances tend to move on within a year or less because their real reasons haven’t changed so it is important to listen carefully and understand their reasons to secure a genuine opportunity to reengage. But sometimes it is honestly better to let them go.

2) Consider the changes that can be made in your team if they stay or if they go, and then act on it.
Review what you have learned from the resignation conversation and look at any issues you may be able to address, and accept when there are ones that you cannot. Whether they decide to stay or go, this is an opportunity to reflect on the team, your leadership style, the structure and the way things get done. Don’t waste it!

3) Put the business and remaining team first. Don’t react to the moment.
Nobody resigns without good reason. Whether you dearly want them to stay or not, carefully consider what the long-term pros and cons are for making that happen. It is easy to get caught up in the emotion of a good team member leaving, but it is rarely personal! Ultimately your priority should shift to the remaining team to make sure they are truly engaged and feeling empowered to do their roles well.

Fortunately, where all of the above is concerned, an experienced recruitment consultant will have all the ‘know how’ to guide you on the process and with decision making. Whether we’re engaged on a paid assignment with you or not, please always feel free to contact one of the team for their advice and support in what is always one of the most important decisions you’re making at the time.