Countering the Counteroffer – The challenge facing every Insurer in attracting top talent!

As we move into the post pandemic phase and out of the seemingly endless cycle of lockdown, remote working, home schooling, staycationing and cocooning, many employers feel that as businesses begin to return to some form of normality, they should begin to expand and seek out new talent. The dirty secret is that the really successful firms have continually hired right through lockdown and are now reaping the benefits of being one step ahead of the market. By continually interviewing even when there were no openings, many firms have taken giant strides towards populating their offices with some of the best insurance talent in the market.

With more jobs coming on stream and anecdotal evidence (at best) to suggest that 2021 will be remembered as the year of the great resignation, some might be forgiven for thinking that it’s a candidate driven utopia with the best being able to pick and choose from a veritable smorgasbord of opportunities. Sadly from an insurance perspective, whilst the best talent will always be capable of attracting interest from the market, there isn’t an infinite pool of opportunity for everyone and it would be foolish to think otherwise.

With working from home, most insurance staff have now developed a certain cadence and routine in their working patterns and whilst there is still a latent loyalty to their existing employers that’s evident in the conversations I regularly have with the passive talent pool, there is also an element of curiosity about what might be possible for them elsewhere. That curiosity will always create opportunities for conversations with the right employers. There is however a paradox of choice for candidates in deciding whether the best option is to remain with their existing employers (better the devil you know etc) or to roll the dice with a new employer who may not be as empathetic about the WFH option in the long term. Frankly there are some insurance firms out there right now who are mandating 100% return to the office on a full time basis and whilst there is a certain demographic who aren’t necessarily loving life working from home, they are in the significant minority compared to most and those firms seeking five days a week in the office will face significant challenges retaining their existing staff in my opinion.

One of the trends that’s noticeable with all of the activity in the market recently has been an upsurge in candidates receiving both counteroffers and competing offers when they get to the offer stage of the process. One recent report cited that approximately 55% of candidates reaching offer stage have more than one offer to consider and in a candidate driven market, that’s to be expected. Good candidates will always have more than one option on the table and most employers will expect to have competition to attain their services. What’s blindsiding many clients (and fellow recruiters) is the number of counteroffers being extended as companies desperately cling to their talent, knowing that the cost of replacing is likely to be far higher.

I’m counselling all of my clients currently in the process of hiring to go into every single hiring process, expecting that their chosen candidate will be countered by an existing employer. Savvy employers simply aren’t prepared to let good people walk away without some sort of a tug of war and whenever salary is the main motivator for that candidate making a switch, you can bank on it that there will be some form of counteroffer in the pipeline. There is a tendency with many clients to “hope that it doesn’t happen” but my job is to remove the surprise element and coach them to “expect it to happen”. The counteroffer isn’t a surprise turn of events, it’s simply another step in the process that you have to deal with.

So how do you “counteract the counteroffer”? Simple really, you begin by asking good questions at the beginning, middle and end of your recruitment process. Many of the questions are recyclable and repetitive but should get you quickly to where you need to be in understanding what that candidate’s likely response will be in any counteroffer scenario. Questions like “What’s your motivation for leaving your present role/company?”; “Why should we pick you as our chosen candidate for this opening?”; “What role in your current company would you ideally love to do if it became available?” & “If that role did materialise on foot of this interview process, how would you feel?”. If we offer you this role and having submitted your notice to your employer, your current boss brings you in for “a chat”, how will you handle that conversation?”

These are direct questions, designed to elicit certain responses. My own internal alarm bell rings loudly if the answer provided to the motivation question has anything to do with salary/remuneration. Frankly, if the only motive the candidate sitting in front of you at interview is giving is that they’d like to be earning more, I’ll save you the trouble now and tell you that candidate is probably going to leverage a counteroffer from their current employer. Most won’t heed that signal and that’s not to discredit the many fine people within several organisations that are skilled at interviewing. Put simply when you’ve interviewed as many candidates as I have in the past twenty years, your senses become accustomed to the whims and fancies of each candidate and I’m attuned to listen to the nuance, tone and delivery in each candidates responses.

There is an element of closing the barn door after the horse has bolted if you’re trying to manage any candidate through a counteroffer once their head’s been turned. Usually by that point, it’s already too late. Which is why I prefer to discuss the counteroffer scenario from the first point of contact with any candidate. Prevention is better than cure and by addressing it in a frank and upfront manner, you’ll save yourself a lot of heartache down the line. Prepare for it to happen, have contingencies in place should it happen (Plan B candidates etc), but most importantly have a discussion about it early in the process so that the candidate is mentally prepared for that conversation and not surprised or blindsided when it does happen.

If competing offers or counteroffers have been a challenge for your firm recently, why not reach out to Campbell Rochford today for and frank and honest discussion about how best to tackle this.

Campbell Rochford – Turning Good To Great!

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