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The Counteroffer Conundrum: Why Staying Put May Curtail Your Career

So, you’ve made it through most of the complex steps involved in finding a new role, from designing the ideal legal CV to practicing interview techniques. Finally, all your hard work has paid off, and you’ve received an excellent offer from your new employer.  

But, what happens when you hand over your resignation letter and your current manager provides a counteroffer, asking you to stay?  

Anywhere up to 50% of the employees who choose to resign from a role will receive a counteroffer from their current employer. In other words, they will finally offer you the additional money or benefits they didn’t consider offering you before they realised you wanted to leave. 

In the age of the Great Resignation, when demand for legal talent is higher than ever, your chances of getting a counteroffer are even higher than ever before, as many law firms are battling with retention of their top team members and attracting the best talent on the market at the same time. 

While the promise of extra benefits, money, or extra responsibilities from your existing employer might be tempting, if that’s what you are looking for, accepting a counteroffer could be a bad move for your future career.  

Here are the reasons why you should usually ignore a counteroffer. 

Reasons You Should Consider Saying “No” to a Counteroffer

Counteroffers are becoming more commonplace as leaders struggle to hold onto their top talent in a skills-short environment. Unfortunately, according to statistics, around 80% of the people who accept these offers end up leaving their original employer within six months anyway as the underlying issues as to why there were leaving in the first place still exist.  

Here’s why you should politely but firmly decline a counteroffer.  

1. Counteroffers Don’t Solve Underlying Issues

Deciding to seek a new legal role isn’t something most people will do on a whim. There’s a good chance you’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the pros and cons of leaving your current job and looking for something else before you take the leap. 

When you’re given a counteroffer, it may address one of your problems with your existing role (such as a low salary), but it’s unlikely to tackle every issue that convinced you to leave.  

Ask yourself why you wanted to take this new job in the first place. Is your current role not challenging enough, or are you planning on moving in a new direction with your career? Maybe you don’t like the culture of your existing company. If every issue isn’t resolved by the counteroffer, you should say “no” and continue to move on with your new employment offer.  

2. The Relationship with Your Employer will Change

Employees in the competitive legal sector have every right to seek new roles whenever they choose. However, letting your employer know you’re not happy in your role and actively looking for something else is likely to have an impact on your relationship 

There’s a good chance your employer will have questions about your loyalty after accepting the counteroffer, which means they may not have the same trust in you they had before. Your employer might end up passing you over for promotions because they consider you a flight risk, or they may start looking for other people to fill the gap you’ll leave when you do eventually switch jobs.  

Even if your boss goes in the other direction and starts working harder to keep you happy, there’s likely to be an uncomfortable dynamic in play until you do eventually leave. 

3. You May End Up Standing Still

Career development often involves moving between different roles, exploring new jobs, and taking on new responsibilities over the years. While you can climb the ladder in one law firm and end up with a great career, consistently staying in one place could mean you miss out on opportunities to expand your skills and experience.  

When deciding whether a counteroffer is worth accepting, ask yourself if you’ll still be moving towards your long-term career goals if you say yes and stay put. Compared to the other job you have lined up, can your existing role help you achieve your targets faster? 

A higher salary won’t satisfy you for long if your existing role isn’t pushing you in the right direction. It’s important to keep the end goal in mind with your career and not get clouded by monetary values.  

4. You May Have to Work Harder to Prove Yourself

In a skills-short legal marketplace, employers will often rush to offer extra benefits and increased salaries to avoid the stress of searching for new employees. However, this could mean they start looking for evidence you’re worth the extra investment right away.  

Having extra scrutiny placed on everything you do within the business can be a stressful experience, even if you know you deserve the extra benefits you received.  

In some cases, employees who accept counteroffers find themselves under pressure to perform like a new hire all over again, trying to prove they deserve their new salary and responsibilities. In other cases, you may find that you start receiving responsibilities you didn’t ask for simply because your boss is trying to ensure they’re getting their “money’s worth” from you.  

5. You’ll Always Wonder, “What If?”

Job changes can be stressful and worrying, but they’re also an incredible opportunity to unlock your true potential and advance your career. If you’ve been offered a role at another company, and you’ve said “yes”, there’s clearly something about the new role that appealed to you.  

Maybe you loved the idea of working remotely in the legal environment and don’t have an opportunity to do that at your new job. Perhaps you were interested in focusing on a slightly different part of your industry in a different role and that desire will always be there if you stay in your current role. 

Although you’ll have the comfort of not having to get used to a new workplace and meet new people, you’ll also be left constantly wondering what would have happened if you had followed through and moved into the new job.  

Know How to Handle a Counteroffer

It’s worth preparing for a counteroffer in advance when you approach your manager with your resignation letter. Think about how you will reject the offer politely and firmly, and what important factors might convince you to give your old job a second chance.  

Working with a specialist legal recruitment team to find the ideal new role will help to ensure you don’t have any doubts about moving into your new position.   

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from Partners to Legal Executives, Solicitors to Paralegals and Legal IT personnel to Practice Managers. 

Whether you are building your legal team or are looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here. 

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Posted By

Lynn Sedgwick

Managing Director

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Your Legal Employee is Leaving – Should You Make a Counteroffer?

  • August 10, 2019

As a legal professional, you know it’s a reality that employees come and go over the years. Sometimes that’s a good thing for everyone concerned, and some you will be sad to see leave.

So, if your talented and likeable Senior Conveyancing Solicitor comes to tell you they are leaving to go and work for a competitor, what’s your first reaction? Do you panic and wrack your brains for a motive to make them stay?Do you think “Oh well, we had a good run” and wave them goodbye?

Do you want to keep them, and should you even try?

If that individual is a great team-player, motivated, hard to replace (or expensive), planning a move to one of your biggest competitors and is currently working on a time-sensitive caseload, you will be tempted to offer them the moon to stay.

Additionally, the true cost of losing an employee can be prohibitive – hiring fees, recruiting time, onboarding and training – not to mention the nose-dive in morale for other employees who see a valued and talented colleague walking out of the door.

But a word of warning. Think twice before making a counteroffer as there are pros and cons to consider.

Why Employees Leave

Avoid the temptation to go in with a financial incentive to stay straight away. Research states that the individual will leave anyway within six to 24 months of your counteroffer.

Surprised?

The fact is that it’s rarely a salary issue that sees employees leave to take up another job offer. So, an offer of increased salary isn’t going to cut it long-term.

The main reasons people leave their current workplace include the following:

Lack of career progression. If an employee feels they have climbed as far up the career ladder as they can with your law firm, they are going to start casting their net elsewhere to discover better opportunities.

Poor management. People don’t quit their job; they quit their boss. And it’s true in many cases. Poor management practice can do a lot of damage – decimating and demoralising a workplace – often unnoticed by senior staff until it’s too late.

Unsatisfactory working environment. A workplace that doesn’t encourage ‘out of the box’ thinking or is inflexible with its staff is not going to be successful. Individuals need to feel valued and respected. They need to look forward to coming to work and enjoy their job. That way, they will have the drive and motivation to boost not only their own career but the firm’s fortunes too.

Desire for more challenging work. The employee may be bored in their work. Perhaps your Portal Fee Earner has been hoping for promotion to Team Leader for some time but hasn’t been successful. Or your Conveyancing Solicitor has been dealing with the same clients doing similar work for several years and yearns for a new challenge.

Either way, if your employee isn’t stretched or challenged in their job, they become disinterested. Then disinterest quickly transforms into boredom, and they start looking for something else to extend their capabilities.

Opportunity to join a high-profile law firm. Blinded by the dazzle of a top law firm, an employee might feel the urge to leave just to be part of a well-known firm. While it’s hard to argue with this one, they (and you) should be warned of the possible pitfalls. Does the company have a good reputation? Does it have a high staff turnover?

Better work-life balance. Some things money just can’t buy, and this is one of them.

Burn out is common amongst legal professionals. It’s challenging to juggle the needs of a busy job with home life, and inevitably, many employees look towards leaving a position to try to claw back some time for themselves and their family.

Asking the Right Questions

I would propose that initially, asking a few questions can give you a good indication of why your employee is thinking of leaving. You could open with a general “So, what’s got you thinking of leaving” or “Do you want to discuss it?”

Not everyone will want to talk about why they’re leaving a job – it might be personal. I read an article recently in Harvard Business Review in which Brian Kropp, head of CEB’s HR practice said, “The big realisation is that it’s not just what happens at work—it’s what happens in someone’s personal life that determines when he or she decides to look for a new job.”

Asking questions may help you gauge what the problem was that’s got them to the point where they are genuinely planning to pick up their things and go.

The best-case scenario of discussing it is that you will find out there’s a specific reason that you have the power to address and retain your employee.

The worse case is that you will have learned what was wrong and can put it right for future employees.

Either way, you will have addressed the issue and done as much as you could.

Making Your Counteroffer

If you want to make a counteroffer, first ask the employee these two questions:

Do they enjoy working with your law firm? Can they see themselves having a future with you?

If the answer to these questions is yes, then it’s worth making a counteroffer.

Start with non-financial incentives to stay. We already know they don’t work. Instead, consider these alternatives:

• Improve your workplace culture to allow diversity and inclusion to flourish.

• Explore flexible working hours. It’s worth considering offering flexitime to employees who feel stressed.

• Offer other options, such as working from home. Employers who are more fluid in their approach to alternative working arrangements will be more respected by their teams and see better staff retention.

• Give them a role that plays to strengths. Is there an opportunity to move the employee into a position that better suits their skillset and ability? Is there a project/case they could lead on which would challenge them?

• Consider mentoring opportunities – a great mentor can provide invaluable insight, support and guidance to an employee who is struggling with their career.

• Address management issues. There’s no excuse for poor behaviour in the workplace. Bullying, harassment or just downright rude bosses need to be dealt with before you lose your staff.

• Consider employing extra staff to relieve the workload. If it’s an issue of workload overwhelm, it might be worth considering getting additional staff. This could be on a temporary or permanent basis but would ease the pressure on your current employees and enable them to be more productive, less frazzled and less likely to be off work due to stress.

• Have a clear progression pathway. Everyone wants to feel they can achieve their ambitions at work and progress. It’s part of life’s journey.

• Have an employee development plan that shows a clear training, development and progression route for each employee. This will give individuals something to aim for and ensure they are more likely to stay and grow with your law firm.
Remember – for all the above, real action is needed for your counteroffer to be successful.

Potential Pitfalls of a Counteroffer

The ‘cons’ of your counteroffer also need consideration. Things to think about include:

• Will offering a salary increase create imbalance across the team?
• Will other team members pressure for a salary rise when word gets out – and if so, can you manage expectations?
• Will you get a reputation in the market for overpaying that could lead to unsuitable candidates clamouring to join your law firm for the wrong reasons?
• Can you afford an increased financial offer?
• Will the employee take advantage of you? Will they continue performing at previous levels or become complacent, even arrogant, because they got their own way?

Moving Forward

Whatever the outcome, you may want to consider ways to improve staff retention going forward; improving company culture, opening lines of communication to provide transparency and most importantly, valuing your employees.

Moving On?

If your employee is still inclined to leave despite all reasonable negotiation, it’s probably best to agree to part ways and wish them well.

Remember, life is about change. If it’s time for them to move on, let them resign gracefully. Don’t be tempted to behave childishly – that will only get the rest of your team thinking about starting their own covert job hunt.

Instead, throw a party and thank them for their contribution.  That’s the best way to build trust and successfully manage your legal team.

Next Steps

If you’re reading this article because you are looking at ways to improve staff retention, or you want to build your legal team, call one of the Clayton Legal team on 01772 259 121 and let’s have a conversation to explore your options.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help.  Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

If you would like to know more about recruiting trends in the legal sector this year, download our latest guide here.

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How to make an irresistible offer to legal candidates

  • August 9, 2018

You want to be sure that your offer is irresistible enough to candidates that they bite, first time. So how can you do it? It’s not all about money. In fact, our recent legal salary survey showed that two-thirds (66%) of respondents offer flexible working – second only to the more traditional pension contribution.

This guide gives you the lowdown on how to handle the offer stage and ensure your firm employs the best talent.

Communication

A phone call will give you another chance to speak with the candidate and allows you to make an initial verbal offer. Gauge their response; if they’re cagey it could be a sign they have eggs in other baskets. If they seem pleased and verbally accept you can feel reassured that it’s the right time to make a written offer.

Speed

Sixty-seven per cent of law firms believe that a legal skills shortage is likely to hamper their growth. In a climate where the demand for legal professionals outstrips supply, you might want to think about making an offer sooner rather than later. Of course, it’s important that you weigh up your options and allow space to think about who is the best fit. Just don’t leave the candidate dangling for too long – they may just be snapped up by a competitor!

Many employers, whether in the legal profession or otherwise, stipulate how long the offer of employment stands for. A week is usual, although you may wish to adjust this as per your firm’s circumstances. If a candidate hasn’t accepted within seven days, it could well signal that they weren’t as bought in as you’d hoped.

Use employer branding to your advantage

Treat your employees – and potential employees – as you would your clients. Demonstrate why it’s so good to work with you and what other staff have gained, both professionally and personally, from working for your firm. Not only will a strong employer brand attract candidates to you, it will help encourage them to accept your offer, and will also help to retain them once they come on board. Our guide offers law firms in-depth insight into employer branding.

Dodge the minefield of counter offers

You’ve found an outstanding candidate, made an offer and are eagerly awaiting them to return their signed contract. What you get in return is a counter offer. Maybe the candidate has had more money offered by their employer, or a competitor. Maybe they’re requesting a more extensive benefits package. Counter offers aren’t the end of the world and can be very revealing about what’s important to and motivates the candidate you’re interested in.

But don’t get drawn into a bidding war. You may win the battle, although candidate indecision raises flags, and begs the question of whether they are playing two parties off for their own gain – in which case they perhaps aren’t the best fit for your practice. A trusted recruitment partner can sift through the candidates to highlight the best fit in terms of motives during the initial screening process, and save you the trouble of a counter offer later on.

Counter offers in the legal profession are an incredibly common occurrence; try as you might – or your recruitment partner for that matter – it’s not always possible to avoid the situation. A combination of factors, such as Brexit and a shortage of skilled legal professionals makes for an uncertain job market. The bad news for employers is that uncertainty breeds caution as legal professionals choose to stick with what they know rather than go out on a limb. On the up side, treat your existing staff well and you may find that an uncertain climate helps you retain talent.

Non-starters

It’s frustrating, although try not to let it faze you and remember that life happens. Give the benefit of the doubt to the candidate and – maddening though it may be – resist the urge to go in guns blazing if someone doesn’t show as there may be a simple explanation. And keep your employer brand in mind: if the candidate has a bad experience they’ll tell their network and that might make recruitment difficult in future.

The best offer

All stages of the recruitment process require careful thought and planning, and none more so than the offer stage. This crucial final hurdle to placing the right candidate decides the success of the whole operation.

If you’re in need of some support in navigating this, download our latest guide – or while at any – stage of your recruitment process why not contact Clayton Legal, either online using our call scheduling service or contact form.

Alternatively, you can phone us on 01772 259 121 – we’d be happy to help you seal the deal with promising candidates.

And if you do find yourself in the position of having to deal with a counter offer, you may find our blog ‘How to handle a counter offer situation’ helpful.

You may also like to download our latest report on trends in law: The 7 critical recruitment trends in law that will impact your talent pipeline in 2019.

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How to handle a counter offer situation

  • July 10, 2018

You’ve found your ideal person for the role: they tick all of the right boxes and you can’t wait to get them on board. But after you’ve offered them the job, they suddenly aren’t sure. Their current employer is equally keen to retain them and has made a counter offer to incentivise them to stay. What should you do next?

Of course, all legal firms want to retain their best talent and a last-ditch attempt to encourage highly in-demand candidates to withdraw their application, is not an uncommon scenario. However, there are several steps that you can take to minimise the risk and ensure the role you are offering, remains a viable option.

Determine why they want to leave

Preparing for a counter offer needs to begin at the very first stage of contact with prospective employees. Asking ‘Why do you want to leave your current job?’ is an important part of understanding the candidate’s motives and aspirations. If their only reason for looking for a new role is to get a pay rise or a little more responsibility, their current employer can easily address this with a counter offer which includes a salary increase or a change of job title. During the interview process, consider which job seekers are interested in the full opportunity that you’re offering.

Cover counter-offers at interview

It’s totally fine to ask a candidate during the interview stage what they would do if their current employer asks them to stay. It may be uncomfortable, but if it is clear at this point that they aren’t totally sure that they really do want to leave, question them further to find out the full picture.

Get them engaged with their future colleagues

The onboarding process can start from the moment that a candidate accepts your offer and can also be extended to include candidates who are still weighing it up. It’s a good idea to invite them in again to meet with key colleagues, such as line managers, peers and the leadership team. Personal connections can make it easier for people to envision themselves as part of the team.

Keep in touch

When recruits are seeing out their notice periods – which can be as long as three months – their excitement at getting a new job can fade a little. Plus, of course, their current employer still continues to see them each day and may well be doing all that they can to dissuade them from leaving. Be sure to stay in contact with your new hire until they join you on their first day. Invite them to team events, where possible. This will help you keep the momentum going and cement your company in their mind as the place where they can’t wait to be.

Sell your strengths

If you’ve done all of that and a potential new employee still is having a moment of uncertainty about switching jobs, remind them of the opportunities in your organisation. Pinpoint what initially made them apply for a job with you – career progression, improved work/life balance, an appealing organisational culture or more challenge – and reassure them that those benefits exist if they make the move.

Use a recruiter

A good recruiter will ascertain why the applicant is searching for a new role before putting them forward for interview. Often, jobseekers reveal information to recruiters that they don’t at interview and some do say that they are really only looking for a bargaining tool! Recruiters will be well-versed in scenarios where counter-offers emerge and they’ll be able to prepare candidates for the possibility that their current employer may try to dissuade them from leaving.

Know when to walk away

The recruitment process works both ways. Even in a skills-short environment, you still want to attract the right person who has enthusiasm for the job: a candidate that needs endless persuasion to join your organisation is unlikely to be right. So, make your first offer your best one: sell the benefits of your company and role throughout the process and let it be the opportunity of working for you that attracts the right talent – not extra perks added to the salary package in a last minute attempt to get them to choose you.

If you would like specialist advice from experts, get in touch today to find out how we can help you find the right legal talent.

For more advice from the team, check out our other posts

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Should I accept a counter offer?

  • October 31, 2017

You’ve landed yourself a new job, plucked up the courage and handed in your resignation, and you’re busy planning out your career at your new company. Then your employer takes you aside, expresses their reluctance to see you go and offers you more salary and additional benefits. In an environment of skills shortages, counter offers are commonplace, but should you accept it if offered?

Why did you resign in the first place?

 

While the thought of your company really wanting you to stay with them might appear flattering, take a moment to consider why you are in this position in the first place.  You made the decision to apply for new job and it stands to reason that there was a sound reason to do so. Perhaps it was because you felt your achievements weren’t being recognised or that there wasn’t the career progression opportunities available to you. So while it might initially seem fantastic that you have received a counter offer, you decided to leave and regardless of what you have been offered, your reasons for doing so still stand.

A question of loyalty

Another important point to consider is what your resignation tells your employer about your commitment to the company. While you might have been the perfect employee, the moment you hand your resignation in your loyalty will always be in question.  So if you’re considering accepting a counter offer think carefully about how you will be perceived at the company afterwards. While you might think that, by enticing you to stay, your boss obviously deems you too valuable to lose, the fact remains that they will look at you in a different way – it’s purely human nature to do so.  And this can have negative connotations for your future at the business if you do decide to stay put.

Is it just a stop gap?

Another complex issue surrounding counter offers is that you don’t know what it going on behind the scenes and the real reason your employer is asking you to stay.  If your company is experiencing heavy workloads, for example, and doesn’t have ample people waiting in the wings to fill your role, it could very well be that they are viewing the counter offer as a way to plug the gap until a replacement can be found.  And this feeling can be incredibly negative for you and the company – a situation soon arises where your employer is questioning your loyalty to the business and you are consumed with the fear that you might soon be replaced.

Think long and hard before you make the decision

While being offered more money or benefits can initially seem very appealing, our experience shows us that it can lead to a feeling of unease for both employer and employee alike. It’s really important to weigh up the pros and cons before you make a move.  If you decide to proceed with your new job, ensure you thank your boss for the offer and reassure them that you will be committed to your role during your notice period. And if you decide to take up the counter offer, bear in mind that you will probably have to work hard to win back your employer’s trust.

Call the team today for information about how Clayton Legal can assist your firm with recruitment and retention strategies. And for more insights from the team take a look at our other blogs and resources.

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