Should I stay or should I go? Why counter offers don’t stop employees from leaving.

Should I stay or should I go? Why counter offers don’t stop employees from leaving. Image 1
Should I stay or should I go? Why counter offers don’t stop employees from leaving. Image 2

When it comes to employee retention, counter offers have become almost the default reaction to an employee letting their current organisation know they are moving on. 




Because now more than ever, people are evaluating their roles and what they want next in their career - and organisations are putting their best foot forward in order to secure great talent. The knock-on effect is that it makes competition for candidates fiercer, and businesses realise the cost implications (both time and money) of losing, and replacing, an excellent employee can be significant. So making a counter offer seems like the best - and possibly more cost effective - option.


This all sounds like a good tactic for the business, and similarly why wouldn't an employee feel flattered that they are viewed as important enough to fight for - and usually gain a higher salary to boot? The reality, however, paints a different picture, and in this article we start to delve into why counter offers aren’t the win-win situation they’re made out to be.


Why you shouldn't accept a counter offer (employees)

Let’s consider why people look for new job opportunities. In some instances it’s financial and the ability to make more money or a better salary package elsewhere. In other cases, it might be the work environment, hours, culture, wanting new challenges or career progression, and with the rise in remote working, even the commute can play a part. 

If you’re in a position where you’ve dipped your toes in the employment market, been offered a great new role/opportunity, and then been made a counter offer by your current employer, what should you do?


Here are some of the things to consider before accepting, and why it might be better not to:

  • In most cases nothing is likely to change other than your salary. Whilst more money is great, if there were any non-monetary issues in your current role, is a counter offer going to change or resolve those?
  • Your potential new employer has realised your value and wants to give you a new opportunity. If you were interested enough to apply for the position and get to this point in the hiring process, it probably suggests you’re looking for something different and have already made up your mind
  • The fact that your current employer now knows you were considering leaving may make them question your loyalty, even if you do stay on. What does that look like for your future progression in the organisation?


Why organisations don’t benefit from making a counter offer

Whilst retaining a high-performing employee would be the preferred outcome for organisations; minimising the cost associated with recruiting, keeping top talent in-house, not having any potential downtime until the role is filled etc, in the long-run a counter offer may not play out as hoped. In fact, it is often only a band-aid solution as many employees who accept a counter offer will be back out in the market looking for another opportunity within 6-12 months.

Several other factors that employers should take into consideration before making a counter offer include: 

  • In reference to above, will this only be a short term solution? Are you likely to be having a similar conversation again because your employee’s initial reasons for leaving haven't changed and they’re back in the job market - is this an acceptable outcome and/or risk you’re willing to take?
  • Further, do you really want to hold onto this particular employee, or is it purely a cost saving exercise? If it’s the former, as there will be people that you’d really hate to lose, are you willing to look at the aspects other than salary that made them look to leave, and attempt to do something about them?
  • Could this counter offer be seen as setting a precedent with other employees?
  • Would it potentially position you better with future candidates if you’re known as a company that supports people’s career directions, even if that takes them elsewhere later down the track?


What should organisations do instead?

Instead of relying on a reactive measure such as a counter offer, organisations may do better to take a broader look at reasons their staff are looking to leave in the first place, and get on the front foot by addressing those instead. 


Things that might assist in retaining your employees include:

  • Firstly, aligning salaries to market conditions/expectations. 
  • In addition to salary, look at what benefits employees actually value as part of their package (company swag/merch is great, but a t-shirt is unlikely to keep a great employee)
  • Communication. Be open and transparent with both teams and individual staff. Regular, useful catch ups, listening to any concerns (and responding) and general communication keeps people engaged.
  • Clear and robust performance reviews. More than just a tick-the-box every 12 months exercise, employees should be aware of what they are measured against and outcomes (pay reviews, bonuses etc), and the opportunity and safety to have regular two-way feedback
  • Professional development. This could include developing career roadmaps with staff and showing employees that you are committed to their training/development opportunities. 


It goes without saying that regardless of whether a counter offer is accepted or declined, it is important that both parties remain professional and respectful. It’s a small world, especially in niche markets such as Cyber Security, and there’s no point burning bridges at either end. Employees need to consider what is in their best interests both personally and for their future career, and employers can use the opportunity to review ways in which to stay competitive in the market for current and future team members. 


If you’d like any more information about recruiting or retaining top cyber security talent, or if you’re looking for your next cyber security role, get in touch with the Decipher Bureau team. With offices across Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, and an experienced team around the world, we’d love to help you out.