If you’ve got a team of smart, talented people the chances are that at some time the team leader is going to get a call from the dreaded head-hunters, which means that you should always be suspecting a team move is just around the corner.
How you respond when a competitor is courting one of your teams is up to you but you need to be able to assess the situation and decide if your team is considering the offer or just bluffing.
Whatever you do remember, don’t just charge in with a counter offer! Consider everything that you might need to do to prevent or delay your people from going over to the other side.
There are many reasons why you do not want to see a top team snapped up by a rival. Revenue is the most obvious, or rather loss of it. If your team is on a wanted list it’s not likely to be because of their good looks! Then there is the cost of replacing a team and don’t forget there is the likelihood that your ex-team will take your ideas to your competitor. So, what do you do?
Businesses have long used post-termination restrictions, PTRs, as a way of keeping employees from leaving and the head-hunters at bay but these only have a limited effect.
In our experience employees are more receptive to considering a move around the time of their annual review or maybe, if you are in the insurance world, premium renewal time.
You should be on the lookout for other kinds of signals too, trigger events such as bonuses not as big as expected or having a project postponed.
Be on the lookout for team lunches, conferences and gossip. Remember it’s hard to keep these things quiet and the chances are they’ve already told some outside of the team what is going on.
Team moves often involve rejection, one member of the team not being wanted by the new employer. That rejected individual may well be your best source of information so look for a general change in mood or behaviour.
When you learn that one of your most valuable employees is considering leaving and taking most of the team along too, you need to be proactive in trying to prevent it from happening.
Start with a frank conversation. Your aim is to find out if there might be a simple way to turn the situation around.
You need a clear understanding of what factors have brought the situation about. It’s not always about money, perhaps the team is seeking a new challenge.
On the surface, a counteroffer seems like the obvious way to make the them leader stay and, with them, the whole team but counteroffers can be counterproductive.
If someone has made the decision to quit, it may be because they were just unhappy. A counteroffer just says you’re willing to pay to keep an unhappy worker.
Boosting one employee’s salary is going to create problems for you with the rest of the team, if you boost one salary you are going to have to boost them all and probably give in to some other demands along the way.
If the departure of a team leader is imminent get ready for the domino effect. You may not want to, but now is the time to have a chat with your lawyers. Make sure it is a specialist, with a track record in this kind of work. Lawyers love the thought of the “super sexy” High court work, but many are simply not up to it.
Injunctions are tough and you are going to need a shrewd operator who has a dedicated team around them.
It’s impossible to continually treat desirable employees like they’re going to leave, but identifying the people who you would rather not lose is not a bad strategy,
Do your research and then use that feedback to create reasons why people might be looking elsewhere.
Keep it in perspective
Managers often judge their own performance on their ability to inspire loyalty in their team members which makes the resignation of a star employee and possibly a whole team feel like a real kick in the teeth.
It would be easy to overreact and do the wrong thing like badmouthing the opposition or the resigning employee but don’t do that, it will only undermine your own credibility.
Turnover is inevitable and you need to be able to live with it.