Keeping a Good Employee

I just found out through the grapevine that one of our employees is close to getting a job offer from a competitor and may be leaving. We don't want to lose this one and he doesn't know that we know about this. What do people think about trying to head this off with more money or a bonus or something before the employee gets the offer? Any other suggestions?


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  • I don't think you start off right away with offering more money or a bonus.  I would bring the employee into your office and first of all find out if the rumor is true.  Then I would try to find out what the real reason is that he is looking elsewhere.  Maybe it isn't about money.  It could be that he isn't challenged in the position, or has some great ideas that he hasn't been able to share and possibly get implemented.   Maybe he thinks he should have gotten a promotion that someone else got.  There could be lots of other reasons outside of money.  Once you get your answer to the question then decide how to handle. 

  • Great advice ITHR . . . the reason an employee leaves often has nothing to do with money. We should also avoid the trend that employees catch on to that in order to get a raise, an employee has to threaten to leave. If the employer is proactive in rewarding employees with raises and bonuses and ties those wage increases to performance, then pay should not be the issue.
  • Years ago, I worked for a small family-owned company. The owner/president felt that all employees were paid fairly and had benefits comparable to other similar businesses. So if anyone was looking for another job, he felt there must be other reasons why he or she wasn't happy, and he would never make a counteroffer (or even try to talk the person out of leaving), although many of us tried to get him to do this on one particular occassion. 

    But you know, there was very little turnover at this company because of the company culture.  I only left because my husband got a job and we had to move.

    BTW-a famous author typed a classic novel during working hours at this company. He only left after the novel hit it big, although his subsequent books never had the popularity of the first.

  • I have to agree with the others. Often it is not about money but about promoting or environment, etc.  We used to laugh at one of the largest HR consulting firms in the world that the easiest way to get a promotion was to move to a different consulting firm and then come back in a couple of years. Those coming back always came in ahead of those who had stayed.

    Usually by the time an employer finds out that an employee is possibly leaving, whatever the issue, the employee has already in their mind said "goodbye".  They've already had a chance to work through any loyalty issues, etc.  Even if you counteroffer, it brings a distrust on the part of the employer that the person won't leave the next time a recruiter calls them.  And it brings a distrust amongst coworkers and the feeling that you just have to threaten to leave to get whatever you want at the current company.  And it undermines compensation programs, promotion programs, etc.

    As far as I know, the HR consulting firm never counteroffered outside of initial negotiations (before the employee ever worked for them).

     Luckily you are at an early stage.  I would talk to him immediately to see if you can get some feedback. If not to keep this employee, then to retain other good employees in the future.

  • If your pay is competitive, it's probably not about the money.  If your pay is sub-par, it might be about the money or there may be a strong money component.  Similarly, if the competition is paying above market, it may be about the money even if what you are paying is "fine" in a market sense.

    Because I don't know how you know what you know, I can't say whether or not it would be wise or appropriate for you to meet privately and ask if the rumor is true.  However, even if it were acceptable to do so, I'm not sure I'd take that strategy initially, simply to preserve the information asymmetry so you don't potentially, accidentally lead the person into taking a very aggressive negotiation stance since they may already have a good job offer on the table.  Instead, you may just want to do a typical environmental analysis and talk to several people and find out what they want.  Challenge?  Money?  New technology to learn?  If you can find out what it is and are able to offer it to him, he may not go.  If he wasn't going in the first place, you've strengthened your retention program, possibly even without much in the way of any costs.

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