I quit! Should you ever persuade an employee to stay?

I quit! Should you ever persuade an employee to stay?

Veteran estate agents have lived through the era of ‘board wars’ but now there’s a new battle afoot: we could call it ‘wallet wars’. With experienced talent in high demand, my team is increasingly seeing agency bosses refusing to take a resignation lying down and making a counter-offer to entice top performing staff to stay.

Even when a seemingly sincere estate agent has had several in-depth interviews in which they’ve enthused about the fresh opportunity and entered into lengthy negotiations about their package, they will sometimes pull out at the final hurdle.

Having invested considerable time, energy and skill in seeking out the right candidate and promoting their virtues to the prospective employer, this is obviously bad news for headhunters and recruitment agencies like Rayner Personnel. After all, we only get paid when the placement is made and a successful trial period completed.

Damaging for everyone

Frustrating as it is to see your efforts come to nothing, I don’t expect you to shed any tears for me or my hardworking team. But this behaviour harms all of us. It wastes the prospective employer’s time, destroys the employee’s credibility and reputation (people have long memories when they’ve been messed around) and is massively damaging for the industry as agency owners decide to look outside for talent.

Most importantly, while it may buy the employer some time, convincing a quitter to stay rarely works out long-term. You may harbour resentment about being forced to pay an employee more than you think they’re worth and there will always be that nagging doubt – can I ever fully trust them again? As soon as that employee made the decision to leave they mentally checked out. They may show up for work with their body, but they leave their brain and their heart at home.

I quit! Should you ever persuade an employee to stay?

Workforce researchers call it the “quit and stay” syndrome. Unlike an employee who actually leaves, this group slowly, but surely, puts in less and less effort, yet they stay on the payroll. I suspect the figures are far lower in our target-driven industry, but the data tells us in likelihood a large percentage of your workforce has already quit – they’re just still sitting in your offices. According to Gallup, disengaged employees account for more than 70% of the workforce.

Personally, I would question whether I want an ‘unhappy camper’ representing my brand and looking after my valuable customers. As an employer myself, I only hire people who actively want to be there.

As for the candidate, there was a reason why they were tempted to look around in the first place and those underlying factors – that line manager they didn’t get on with, the lack of career prospects – will still be there if they are persuaded to stay. How committed are they likely to be long-term? My purely anecdotal evidence suggests about six months.

When yet another candidate withdraws at the eleventh hour because their employer has belatedly realised their value and made a counter-offer, a part of me wonders, in our male-dominated industry, how much of this behaviour is driven by sheer competitiveness – with agency bosses acting like two silverbacks asserting their dominance.

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I quit! Should you ever persuade an employee to stay?