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Should I stay or should I go?

06/08/2014

It is the ultimate working dilemma: you line up a change of job, only for your existing employer to make a lucrative counter-offer. But is it all it's cracked up to be?

In the past few years, many people in all kinds of jobs have had good reason to stay put and simply be glad that they were not joining the massed ranks of those heading to the job centre. The recession may not have pushed up unemployment past the three million mark as some expected, but it has certainly left many wary about their future.

However, the past couple of years have seen a major upturn in the UK jobs market. But while that has happened, the actual level of pay growth has remained anaemic. For instance, according to the Office for National Statistics, average pay in the three months from February to April rose just 0.9 per cent from the same period in 2013 if bonuses are excluded, or 0.7 per cent if bonuses are factored in.

Show me the money

That can make it very tempting for professionals to seek a job elsewhere with more money on offer. After all, some may feel that, whatever sacrifices had to be accepted during the financial crisis, they are not truly valued if a decent pay rise is not forthcoming afterwards.

All that may seem to make the choice simple, with people leaving for pastures new if they can. However, that point may be the moment when employers provide counter-offers. All of a sudden, new money that was not there in the past has become available and people who are just about to clear their desks are being told how valuable they are.

This can leave a big dilemma. To stay or go? If the pay being offered by the existing employer is as much or more than the other company, it may seem desperately tempting to stick around. After all, the grass may not be greener on the other side.

Think twice

However, for marketers we would suggest thinking twice before taking up an apparently generous offer to stay. The reality is that most people who are lured into staying by more pay will still end up moving on within a year.

That may suggest a few things. One of them is that if it takes you being ready to hand in your notice and take your talents elsewhere to persuade your employer to act to keep you, it is worth asking why that is. Have they been taking you for granted? If so, they may do so again. Furthermore, everyone needs to look at their own motivations too. Is it just about the money, or is it about other aspects of the job?

Tips for employers

Businesses taking on new staff will also need to think a lot about these situations. Your new recruit may indeed receive a counter offer and it is not worth worrying about. After all, better that than their existing employer having no qualms about letting them leave. You can always push the boat out further and top the counter offer, particularly as a sign that their old employer wants to keep them proves they are worth it.

And if you are an existing employer, it might be worth making sure your staff are well rewarded before they look for pastures new - or you may lose them before long, even if they do take your last-ditch offer to stay.

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