We need to counter offer...

We need to counter offer...

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The number of times this phrase has been uttered across professional services this year is staggering, and is only likely to multiply as the fight for talent heats up in the current post-recessionary market. 

"Fight" may seem like a dramatic word to use here, but with demand far outweighing supply and professional services firms looking to expand their marketing teams, and in particular their business development offering,  this is probably the most apt term to use.

The counter offer, however, is not an effective means of securing the services of your most talented individuals.  For starters, it is a reactive response and the employee concerned has already started packing his/her bags before you have realised there is an issue. Firms and individuals have been able to be somewhat complacent in recent years as new opportunities were few and far between during the recession.  Now, the landscape is very different.

The reason why people change jobs can be split into 2 main categories:

  • Push factors – the reasons they leave

  • Pull factors – the reasons  they join somewhere else

Employers have greater control over the push factors and need to be aware of what these are.  Although there are many potential reasons why an employee may want to leave a company; in most cases, if your employees are truly happy in their job, their heads will not be turned by new opportunities. 

Here are some good starting points managers should follow to keep your team members engaged and ultimately working for you.

1. Build trust with your team

Discovering which issues could potentially cause people to move on is not always an easy task, and it is only through truly understanding your team that you will be able to work at keeping them happy and securing their services long term.  What is it that motivates them? Are they mainly motivated by money, career progression or strong working relationships?  To truly understand your employees, you need to build trust with your team.  Unfortunately this will not happen overnight, work at it though as the results are worth it. Open communication is key; you also need to question and listen to what they are saying. 

By building up trust, you won’t necessarily be able to resolve all the issues you come up against.    Nevertheless, it goes a long way.  

2. Ask questions regularly 

Questioning seems a basic communications skill, yet many do it badly.  Even those who are good at it can be guilty of only paying it a fraction of the attention it deserves due to time or other pressures.  Following up with questions proves you are listening and the more you open up the discussion the more you will learn; the more you will know about the individual, the more you can work out what will keep them motivated and what will keep them in your firm.  Motivators change over time, so don’t think that by asking once, you will know the answer forever more.  A lot of the time money is given in response but by drilling down you will find that it is merely a superficial answer.

3. Hold regular reviews

It is not within the scope of this piece to start talking about Maslow. I don’t really know what self-actualisation is and definitely don’t know how to get there (from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs).  However people will want things from you (and the firm) that you stand a chance of providing if you know what they actually are.  360 reviews and staff development plans are great tools to help understand the needs of your team if you build trust and take feedback seriously.

4. Follow up and take action

When you know what your team members need and are happy that their requests are reasonable, it is crucial that you follow up and take action.  For many managers the next step will be to present this to your management/board to see what is possible and what is realistic from their perspective.  Sometimes you will have to accept that they might not be receptive to making changes to really motivate your team.  If this is the case, you need to argue your case and work on changing their hearts and minds to ultimately get what your team need or at least reach a compromise. 

The last thing you want to do is present them with an “I told you so…” when the resignations happen and the counter offer does not work…

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