Pre-Counteroffers: Why All of Your Top Employees Should Be Getting Them

By Lisa Frank

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There is no doubt about it. The job is market healthier than it’s been in years and hiring is HOT!

According to MarketWatch’s Jeffry Bartash’s report earlier this year, “The U.S. economy has slowed down by almost every measure except for perhaps the most crucial one: jobs.”

But while your company is out there, hyper-focused on scouting and recruiting fresh, new, top talent, are you overlooking the players you already have on the team?

Of course you are, until they come to you to give their two-weeks notice. Then you start scrambling to give them whatever they want…more money, title promotion, flex/work-from home days, more vacation, new boss.  Whatever it is, you need to give it to them because you can’t live without them – they’re loyal, key-players!

And then you realize, you are too little, too late.

Most savvy candidates are fully-aware of the no-no’s of accepting counteroffers. Just plug the term into any search engine and you’ll find a plethora of articles, posts and resources advising against them.

Perhaps you should’ve given them a pre-counteroffer when you had the chance.  

Yep, that’s right.  An “I’m a step ahead of your future offer” move that’s so great, they wouldn’t need to entertain the idea of leaving in the first place.  For example…did you put them on a path to reach their career goals, address to their wants/needs during their last review, or present creative ways to keep them challenged, interested and enthusiastic? Did you truly reward them for their excellent work and loyalty to the company? Did you invest in them, proactively?

If you have been resting on your laurels with your current fantastic team and assuming (maybe hoping) that they’ll just stay forever because they are loyal, appear happy, or seem to be making “enough” money, think again. It might be time to take a new tactic.

Don’t wait for them to come to you with a resignation letter.  Get out in front of it.

  • Listen: Talk with your employees.  No, not at them, with them. And not just during “review” time.  Check-in to see how things are going, or if there are things you can do to make their employee experience better. Are they getting what they need/want?  Do they have concerns or issues that you can work to alleviate? Do they need more/different mentorship or direction? Do theywant to work on new projects? Do they just want to be heard? Their issues, requests or concerns might be small and easy to fix to you, but to them they might be the motivators for a new job. Even tiny tweaks go a long way!
  • Watch, Recognize, Reward: Notice the employees who are putting in the long hours. Acknowledge small success AND big wins. Say thank you. Order in lunch. Give spot bonuses. Offer a spontaneous day-off after a big project.  Give well-deserved promotions and healthy salary increases before they are requested. Keep investing in them, and they will invest in you.
  • Evolve: Money and title aren’t everything. Today, benefits and company culture weigh just as heavily when people decide where they want to spend their many working (and waking) hours. Do you offer flex schedules? Are you all work and no play? Do you respect boundaries during non-working hours? Do you encourage your employees to actually take their allotted vacation time?  Do you have open, collaborative, work environments? Stay on top of the ever-changing work culture trends, and implement a few when you can.  Your employees will appreciate your efforts in supporting their quest for work-life balance, and your best employees will be that much more productive.

Frankly Speaking: Don’t wait until it’s too late. Of course, we can’t always prevent our employees from moving on and taking new opportunities.  In fact, sometimes we aren’t equipped to offer what they need to excel, catapult forward, or feel fulfilled on their own paths. But, by staying ahead of the game and being more in-tune with their needs and interests, we can, at the very least, give it our best shot.

Lisa Frank is the CEO of LBF Recruitment Strategies, an executive search & career coaching firm. As a recruiter, connector and coach she offers a relatable and "Frank" approach to all aspects of life. Through her blog, Frankly Speaking Lisa shares her insights, guidance and outrageous (but true) stories about career and life topics with plenty of humor, humanness and candor. Follow Lisa on LinkedIn or Twitter (@LisaBFrank) or visit


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