There are different policies in every company about employee resignations. Some companies refuse to try to keep the employee no matter how valuable they are to the company. Other companies are willing to counter offer to try to lure the employee back. When they do, it's usually salary, title and career opportunities that are the bargaining chips used. And sometimes there's incentive and equity eligibility added to the mix.
The thing is, it's not unusual for an employee who's taken a counteroffer to turn around and leave within the next six months anyway, even when you've met all of their demands. In some states, you can attach an employment agreement to the deal that will commit the employee to the company for a time frame. But instead of going to these somewhat combative lengths, wouldn't it be better if you could use predictors to know beforehand whether or not the counteroffer was a good move?
If you're in an organization where things can go into overtime, you know how much effort and good will can be put into these negotiations with the intention of supporting the eager manager as well as the wandering employee. With all the work and money involved -- let alone the messages sent to all the other employees -- wouldn't you want to feel more certain that you're making a plausible investment in the future of the company?
If you're answer is "Yes," then you may want to track some research on voluntary turnover that has recently publicized by Tim Gardner, a Utah State University associate professor and his research colleagues, Professor Steve Hanks of Utah State University and Chad H. Van Iddekinge, a Florida State University associate professor. If their work continues to advance in the same vein, you will have behavioral indicators for those who would be a good investment in these situations and those who would not.
The researchers provide these examples of "subtle but consistent behavioral changes people often make in the one to two months before they leave their job."
- They offered fewer constructive contributions in meetings.
- They were more reluctant to commit to long-term projects.
- They become more reserved and quiet.
- They became less interested in advancing in the organization.
- They were less interested in pleasing their boss than before.
- They avoided social interactions with their boss and other members of management.
- They suggested fewer new ideas or innovative approaches.
- They began doing the minimum amount of work needed and no longer went beyond the call of duty.
- They were less interested in participating in training and development programs.
- Their work productivity went down.
It's not just one or two of these behaviors. The researchers say that employees who demonstrate at least six of these behaviors are about 80% likely to leave the organization.
What does this have to do with the fruitfulness of your compensation negotiations with employees? Turn the coin around.
I'd suggest using these measures to assess the likelihood that a counteroffer would be worthwhile. Think twice when managers have observed six or more of these behaviors in the employee, because we have good indication (through these research findings) that he or she has already gone to a level of disengagement that would be hard to repair, no matter what you and the manager can cook up.
Margaret O'Hanlon is founder and Principal of re:Think Consulting. She'll join Ann Bares and Dan Walter of the Compensation Cafe to speak the unspoken -- Everything You Do (in Compensation) Is Communication -- in an upcoming book. Margaret brings deep expertise in compensation, career development and communications to the dialog at the Café. Before founding re:Think Consulting, she was a Principal with Towers Watson. Margaret earned her M.S. and Ed.S. in Instructional Technology at Indiana University, Bloomington. Creative writing is one of her outside passions, along with Masters Swimming.