Terrible HR Tuesday – Counter Offer Part 2

Feeling Bad

By Ben Heine

Last week, I shared the beginning of a counter offer story where the Human Resources director began the offer discussion with crappy (and new) feedback. From there, she offered the counter as though it would be something that any sane employee would accept (like they were doing me a favor). So here’s where the counter gets interesting… When you have a retainable employee, it is critical to understand WHAT would keep them at the company. Some times it’s just money, but most of the time there are several factors why the employee wants to leave – remember, most employees leave their managers, not the company. When the employee tells you what levers need to be pulled to keep them, only counter offer them if you’re able to address them. In this terrible HR example…

When asked why I was leaving, I indicated a few things:

  • I was bored – I needed more interesting and challenging work to do
  • The role I was hired for and was passionate about, was transferred to another person to help their development (and justify their headcount)
  • My salary and grade level were not even close to being equitable for the area
  • I wanted to tackle something new in the role

My take on counter offers is this: if your company is going to provide a counter offer (which again we can debate later), make sure that at a minimum, it addresses the areas that are relevant and applicable to the employee. If you’re not able to pull ALL of the levers to a satisfactory level, DO NOT BOTHER COUNTERING! I know, I know – sometimes using just one lever like throwing money at someone will keep the employee – but it will only be temporary. In the above list, they were only offering me one, potentially two, of the necessary items to keep me engaged. Here is how it was presented to me during the second and third counters:

“We really value you as an employee… we want you to stay. We’re ready to adjust your salary/grade to be equitable – we were already working on this before you came to us, so we can easily push this through. It won’t be quite equitable because you know, we have a max range, but we’ll get you closer. We can’t address the communication piece – but perhaps you can take on creating the strategy for that instead? That’s what we have to offer.”

As you can see, out of the four items, only one thing would be changed – and not necessarily up to standards. I completely understand why, after-all I’m in HR and know the interworkings of things. But these three counter offer discussions, which did not address the full-scope of why I felt it was time to move on, instead left me with a bad taste in my mouth. This counter offer/terrible HR example:

  • Insulted me – a supposed “high performing talent”
  • Showed how “stuck” the department was
  • The lack of HR kn0w-how in difficult situations
  • That the business was willing to address these things with other departments if needed, but not willing to pull the levers for HR (a long-running theme)
  • Reinforced ALL of the reasons why it was time to move on