How to make a successful counteroffer that makes an employee stay

When one of your best employees has gotten an offer from another company, they might let you know that they're considering it or planning to accept it. If so, you're left in a delicate situation. To keep this person, you'll probably need to improve their job benefits. How you respond and negotiate will help determine whether your employee sticks around. Here's a guide to learn how to make a successful counteroffer, one that makes employees stay and keeps your team stable.

How to start a counteroffer conversation

When someone is ready to move to another company, which company it is won't matter as much as what you can do for the employee. Here's how to start a counteroffer conversation with a ready-to-quit employee so you can deliver an effective counteroffer:

Start a dialogue somewhere private

The best way to get in front of the issue is to either see them immediately and discuss your offer or ask to set a time and place that works for them. Something remote, such as a video call, is fine, but try to get a meeting before the person makes a decision.

If the employee isn't set on leaving and there's still time, it's better to have a one-on-one exchange to discuss any grievances, concerns, or other things the employee would like to tell you. Once you've listened, you can assure them of their value to the company and ask if more benefits or accommodations would change their mind. This approach helps show that you're invested in keeping them on the team.

Ask about their motivations

Sometimes people have new life changes that require them to get a job that pays more or is more convenient. Some people progress to a certain point in one job before making a planned move to a different one. When someone is leaving for reasons like this rather than any direct shortcoming or issue working for your company, you can still try to match the job situation this person wants.

Keep it low pressure

Having to leave a place of work can be emotional. Always allow the employee to speak and express their reasons for wanting to pursue another job. Explain that your intention is to provide a safe and welcoming workplace and ask if you can have some time to put together a counteroffer. Discuss a time frame, such as 24 hours or by the end of the week, where the employee will wait to hear from you before making a final decision.

Emphasize accountability

Let this employee understand that any mistakes on your part that made them consider leaving aren't their fault. Apologize if necessary and explain why things are how they are, without minimizing or distracting from their grievances.

Make the offer

When it seems like the employee has nothing else to say, it's time to respond with a direct counteroffer. The more accurately this offer reflects the employee's issues, the better. For example, after a long conversation about leaving a company over being given too few hours, a counteroffer that only raises their pay but gives them just as many hours to work won't solve the issue.

If they say no, ask what would be better

It's not revolutionary, but many bosses forget to just ask what their employees would want in a counteroffer. Some people might be unsure of how to respond, so a direct method like that shouldn't be used all the time. But if you hear something like, "I'm sorry, that just wouldn't be enough for me," stay calm and dig a little deeper to find the right benefits.

Close the meeting on some kind of agreement

If they don't agree to stay, try to get them to at least hear one more counteroffer over the phone later. Follow up with them in a few days with your adjusted counteroffer.

Make plans in case they say no

It's quite common for employees to accept a counteroffer from their original employer only to leave soon after anyway, especially if they find another appealing offer. Usually, this kind of employee has decided to leave no matter what. However, if you can offer a convincing improved contract that keeps them on for even six more months, that's enough time to look into a potential replacement in case they still don't last.

While convincing a great employee to stay is usually worth some adjustments, you should also make sure your company can afford it. Having to let someone move on can be a sad but inevitable part of running a business, so if keeping someone would put your company in too difficult of a position, you'll have to cordially help them move on and wish them the best.

Types of counteroffers

When an employee you value gets a job offer at another company, it's important to consider what to offer them to convince them to stay. Salary increases are by far the most popular benefit for employees. However, you may be able to find a combination of increased salary and other benefits to make your employee happy. Here are a few benefits you could add aside from a direct salary increase:


After facing a sudden short-term expense, like a car accident, an employee might feel inspired to get a better long-term job with more financial stability. Offering a bonus can show you don't mind helping them get through this challenge. For employees who feel the time has come to move on, providing a larger bonus than before might be enough to convince them to stay.

"Salary increases are by far the most popular benefit for employees."

Paid time off

Some people value vacation time even more than a direct raise, and compensation alleviates any possible stress from enjoying the time. Employee stress is high across the world, and lack of sleep is one of the biggest stressors. Vacation time may be great, but if you want to show you care, you could also offer more sick days or personal days that don't affect vacation time eligibility.

Parent and maternity benefits

From migrant worker families making an effective start in their new country to older parents in need of fertility assistance, every family faces unique challenges. Whether it's lactation assistance, child care, or time off for family events, there are plenty of directions you could go to make things better for working parents. If this employee is supporting a family, you could ask them what would help and pitch ideas from there.

Remote work options

Although remote work is on the rise, some people might not think to ask for it. If your employee is concerned with things like their commute and responsibilities at home, offering remote work responsibilities that would let them stay home some days would be an exciting prospect. A lot of positions today involve work that could be done almost entirely at home, and the switch often saves a company money in office space and expenses.

Job sharing

Job sharing is a convenient option for some families with hectic schedules, such as a husband and wife sharing duties at the same job. If it seems feasible, you can create a plan to allow the two to share the job. There are a few reasons why job sharing would be viable, but one of the most common is an employee's family member struggling to find work. In that case, job sharing can help alleviate the pressure on their household, and it doesn't have to be permanent.

Keep your employees around by listening and offering their preferred benefits

When someone says that they're ready to move on from your company, you may be able to get them to stay with increased compensation and non-monetary benefits. Other times, the issues might be more specific. Ensuring that the team member is heard and that you're interested in making things better, especially when the issues might be shared by others, will help you maintain a productive, happy workplace.


More tips for happy employees and hiring:

See how CareerBuilder managed hiring campaigns can help you win at hiring.

Learn the best practices for onboarding remote workers.

Alternatively, check out some other benefits to attract candidates when you can't offer remote work.

Make your workplace more supportive with these progressive employer policies for working parents.

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