Salesforce Roundtable: Counter Offers
Lee Durrant: Hello, and welcome to another episode of RODcast with me, Lee Durrant, and my cohost, Teresa Durrant. Today we’re talking to three Salesforce industry legends about the topic of counter-offers. I’m not sure if you’ve ever resigned from a role only to be counter-offered, or perhaps you’ve owned a business, and you have counter-offered someone that’s looked to resign from your business. It’s a hot topic. As of recording this, it’s July 2021, we’re coming out the back of COVID, but it certainly seems to be very rife at the moment in the Salesforce ecosystem. Counter-offers is a hot topic.
I thought it’d be great to get the opinions of Penny Townsend, Vera Loftis, and Ben McCarthy, who’s also known as Salesforce Ben. They’ve all got some great opinions on all sides of counter-offers, whether they have previously been in a situation where they’ve been counter-offered themselves, or in situations where somebody’s resigned from their business, and they have or have not decided to counter-offer them, and how it went. A great podcast to listen to if you’re in that process yourself. Some really good views from the guys. Hope you enjoy.
Lee: Let’s welcome our guests on this podcast today. We have with us, Penny Townsend. Hello, Penny.
Penny Townsend: Hi, Lee. Hi, everyone.
Teresa Durrant: Hello.
Lee: Third time you’ve been with us. Thank you very much. Equally, Vera, it’s your third time, I think, with us on this podcast. Hello to you.
Vera Loftis: Hello. I’m hoping third time’s a charm.
Lee: They’ve always been charming. We’ve got as well, first time with us, but probably his millionth podcast, we’ve got Ben McCarthy, also known as Salesforce Ben. Hi, Ben. How are you doing, mate?
Ben McCarthy: Hello. Yes, very well. Thanks a lot for the invite. Pleasure to be here.
Lee: Thanks for coming on. This is, as I mentioned in the introduction, a particular conversation about counter-offers. I think it’s rife, possibly everywhere, but it’s definitely rife at the moment in the Salesforce market.
I don’t know if you guys are aware of this because I appreciate you’re in the middle of it, but as recruiters, we have noticed because we’re in the middle of COVID still or coming out the end of it, it’s just been absolutely crazy in terms of people wanting to leave for whatever reason. We’ll touch base on that and then basically being counter-offered crazy money to stay where they are. I’ve never known it’s so bad. Maybe it’s a good thing, I don’t know, but that’s why we’re talking. Teresa, looks like you want to say something?
Teresa: No, no, no, I was just going to say, yes, absolutely. We know that there’s a skill shortage at the moment, and perhaps we can touch base on some of those reasons that we think that’s happening aside from, obviously, Brexit having a huge impact on that. Also, I think COVID, where perhaps some skills that were in the UK have now gone back home to various countries across Europe, we’ve found quite a big impact on that. Just to touch base on why we think that this might be quite a big phenomenon at the moment with the counter-offers going on. Perhaps we’ll throw it over to you guys since you’re probably hiring or looking to hire at the moment.
Lee: What do you think? Vera, do you want to go first?
Vera: Yes, happy to.
Lee: What’s your take on possibly why it’s happening?
Vera: It’s one of those things. I think, coming out of lockdown, everybody’s now starting to breathe again, and people are starting to look. People who were probably not super satisfied in their job, that’s probably exacerbated by having to work from home and COVID. Now that it feels like the world is opening up, I think people feel secure enough to start poking their heads up and seeing what is out there.
I think that combined with the fact that, because employers are not back in the office, when you lose people, you are having to interview through virtual or digital means, and there’s this anxiety about people going. You want to hold on to the people that you know until things stabilise. I feel like the insecurity with the employer is probably going to last us longer than the excitement and the will to be looking for the employee. Those timelines, I think, are not matching up anymore.
It used to be a situation where, fine, someone leaves, it’s unfortunate, but I can go out and find someone else. I do think that, as the ecosystem gets more and more incestuous, it’s harder and harder to replace people. I think that’s probably the top of everybody’s mind. I think as much as we’ve been trying to promote self-exploration and training and education during this working from home — I don’t want to say downtime because it’s been the opposite of downtime, but periods of reflection. I still think there hasn’t been a massive push in terms of upskilling the current environment. There is this skills gap that was there ages ago, and now that the market is picking up, people can’t afford to be without resources. They’ve lost a lot of money in the last year.
Consultancies are just now starting to get back into the world of projects kicking off. Now’s when you need people, there’s anxiety that when the money is now coming in, I won’t have the people to actually fulfil it, so I’m going to try my hardest to keep hold of them.
Teresa: Yes. Okay. What about your opinion, Penny and Ben? Do you agree with that, or do you have some different takes on it?
Penny: Yes, I do. I agree very much with what Vera is saying. I think that this is a challenge that’s been on its way for several years, actually. That probably Brexit and COVID have just exacerbated a problem that was already there. When I think back to when I was working in Conga, I felt that there was a big difference between the Salesforce SI space in Paris compared to London.
In Paris, there were a lot more evenly sized boutique firms, where junior people could learn their skills and grow through their careers. If we look at the UK, especially over the last 18 months, there’s been so much consolidation of firms that there aren’t enough places for people to learn skills and grow.
I really appreciate Ben’s take on this, but I think a lot of the most experienced people then end up going out either contracting on their own or starting up maybe their own company, either as an SI or as an app partner. That effectively takes them out of the game as mentors and teachers for younger people in the industry. That just exacerbates the skills gap that was already present, I think.
Lee: Yes, Ben, do you have a take on it?
Ben: Yes, I completely agree with Vera and Penny. Obviously, I used to run Empower, so I’ve got knowledge of the SI world from then, but I do speak to quite a lot of SI’s, mostly in the small and medium-sized area. I think a lot of people struggled a lot throughout the past 12 months during COVID, but it has picked up so much.
I know quite a lot of consultancies have got some really big deals now. Then these smaller consultancies, you’ve got a few individuals, which are really key. If these individuals want to go, then it can really cripple the consultancy and cripple some of the deals they’ve been working on. I think that’s one of the reasons that it’s probably counter-offers, I suppose, are rife, but I also think there are so many good opportunities in the ecosystem at the moment.
Some of the ISVs that are floating around, the amount of investment going to these ISVs is crazy at the moment. I know a lot of people that are moving to these ISVs are also moving to end-users like unicorns that are using Salesforce now. It’s a very different world working for an end-user, maybe possibly lower stress, but still working on quite a lot of Salesforce products and learning quite a lot. I think there’s probably a few reasons, but that’s my take on it.
Lee: Yes. Sounds about right. I think it would be interesting to now talk about whether you guys have ever been involved, and I’m sure you have. You’ve all been an employee, but also as someone who has hired people. Do any of you have a particular scenario when you’ve either been counter-offered as a person looking to leave or, on the flip side, the person that has decided, I don’t want to lose this person, I’m going to obviously counter-offer them and how that went? Vera, are you ready to say something?
Vera: Yes. I always love a good story. I’ll go with a personal experience first. Just to put it out there, I’m against counter-offers, but you’re not going to hear that in any of my stories, so just to be clear. I was at a stage in my career where I was looking for a pretty dramatic change. As you do, you start looking around, and then you think, “Oh, something quite interesting has come up”. I wasn’t in a place where I hated my job. I loved the organisation. I just needed a change. Part of that actually was… This was back in my early consulting days while I was on the road constantly. I was travelling 48 weeks a year. It was both a lifestyle thing and just a career progression component. I got an offer, went to my boss at the time and said, “I’m leaving”. It was one of those situations. I think that as people start to evaluate leaving an organisation, you have to mentally make some hard decisions there. You shouldn’t be playing with fire in terms of negotiating, like, “I’m going to go out and get more money so that I can get a counter-offer.” That’s when this all gets very dangerous.
I had the true intent of going to this other organisation, and it was that time actually that Bluewolf came back and said, “We’ve got this amazing job”. It’s what moved me to London, but they’re like, “We’ve got this amazing role, we were going to put you up for it anyway, but we weren’t sure with what was happening when the timing was”.
It was one of those opportunities that was net new. It wasn’t anything that I had considered. If I had thought Bluewolf had a role for me that I really wanted, I would have just asked for it, but I didn’t know this existed. Equally, I think they were truthful in the fact that they would have presented it had the timing been right, but now it accelerated things.
It was one of those moments where I didn’t actually want to leave the organisation. I just wanted a change, and this was a dramatic change that was going to move me across the world. It was going to give me a brand new role, and it felt right to stay. Equally, I think if I had been in a position where mentally I had fallen out of love with the organisation or Salesforce or consulting or any of those things, I should have left.
I think it depends really on your motivation. I’m sure everybody will share stories, but I just don’t think money needs to play a role in it; it shouldn’t. You need to be leaving for all the right reasons. Had they come back and just said, “Keep doing your same role, but for double the money”, I think I would have still left. I think it’s the fundamental reason of why you left in the first place and can the organisation solve that with something that you, as an employee, didn’t know existed, which is often difficult and impossible in some situations.
Teresa: Okay. I suppose the fact that you mentioned if it had been about money, I suppose, what would have been the option for you then? Would you have gone to your employer first and spoken to them about the pay increases?
Vera: Yes. To me, and I’ve had a lot of employees over the years come to me and say, “Look, I’m in a situation where I need more money. I’m going to be completely honest.” I can remember somebody having a baby and being like, “It’s really tight at home.” That’s the best-case scenario, I think, both for the employer and the employee because then you can have a transparent conversation. Then you can say, “Okay, you tell me honestly what it’s going to take. What do you need? I will go round the houses and figure it out honestly if I can make that work and what extra responsibilities we’re going to give you and how we’ll craft the package to work for everybody.”
It means that the problem is solvable. I think if people try to get clever and say, “Oh, I’ll go get a new job for more money and then I’ll come back and say, oh, look at this new job I’ve gotten”. You’ve mentally gone outside of the organisation. I’m never going to get that back from you. There’s an element of once you start looking around, I think you disconnect emotionally, which is part of an issue which you genuinely want to say. As an employer, it backs me into a corner. I don’t like that. If you need more money, come and talk to me. Don’t tell me I have to pay you more money and hold me for ransom. As an employer, I actually won’t do it.
Teresa: That’s a good point.
Lee: That’s very good. Ben, did you have a point on that as well? Have you ever been in that situation yourself?
Ben: Yes. When I was at Empower, we counter-offered a few people. I agree with Vera. I don’t necessarily believe in counter-offers because I never really think it’s just about money. The kind of culture we had, it was open and transparent. If people did need more money, they would come and talk to their manager or me generally. There were a few examples, but to be honest, we mainly made them out of desperation. We were a small organisation, always very, very tight with resources.
The counter-offer would be made, but it’d be made a bit– we wouldn’t feel great about it because, at the same time, we would know this person probably isn’t really, truly happy. If they are going out there and looking for another role, but we do need to keep that person. I think a couple of them got accepted, or maybe one counter-offer got accepted, but a couple of them didn’t.
At the same time, you’re thinking, “Okay, well, should we go out and start preparing to look for another individual, even if this person has accepted?” Because you know, they might have accepted now for the money, but there’s probably some underlying issues, which means they will be looking to leave at some point.
Lee: Yes. Penny, I know, obviously, with your experience, you must have either been counter-offered as an individual or possibly offered a counter-offer, although I’m not sure if you have, but what’s your take on that?
Penny: Yes. I don’t really go for that at all. I’ve got a very zero-tolerance policy on that. I would neither make one nor ever accept one, and actually when I’ve resigned a job, I’ve tried to do so in a way to not solicit a counter-offer because, yes, I’ve got quite strong feelings about them. I think that it’s a huge mistake for both parties. If somebody’s got to the point where they’ve resigned, then they didn’t feel they could talk to you about money, and so if you’re an employer, and you want to have that conversation with them then, really, it’s too late. There’s a problem in the relationship that meant that they couldn’t talk to you about money.
I hope everybody that I work with would feel that they could talk to me about money if that was their main issue at work and why they were thinking of looking elsewhere, and so for me, I wouldn’t make a counter-offer because I would think there’s something else going on here, something else is wrong, it’s not really about the money. Similarly, for me, when I’ve been looking for a job and/or I’ve been approached for a job, and it’s been more money, then that would never be enough just on its own, that there has to be more to it than that, or I would talk to work about it, so, yes, for me, I don’t buy into the whole counter-offers space.
Teresa: That’s really interesting. I suppose a question probably to throw out then is, what could employers do to, I suppose, in a way enable employees to be able to bring that topic up because like you said, Penny, if people can’t feel like they can approach their line manager or their boss or whoever it is that they’re reporting into, what could companies do to ensure that employees have a safe place where they can actually have that conversation? Because, ultimately, it saves people a lot of pain if they could just literally sit down with their boss and say, hey, look, I need money, or I need to challenge or whatever it is they need within their career.
Penny: Yes. That’s what makes me wonder whether there’s more to it than that, especially in such a busy jobs environment like we’re in at the moment in Salesforce. I don’t know about Vera and Ben, but certainly for me, when I’m interviewing people, rarely does money come up as a topic. Everybody knows it’s very competitive financially; we’re having to up our game on what we spend on hiring people, but what folks are looking for is, who am I going to learn from in this job? What are the new exciting opportunities that I’m only going to get here? What’s my work-life balance going to be? What’s your hybrid working look like?
Those are the hot topics from the folks that I’m interviewing, rather than just what’s the number? What can you pay me? That means it’s not really about the money, but in terms of if you’re talking about how you manage people really, people should be able to go to HR if they feel like they’re being underpaid, or you need to create a culture where the relationship between everyone and their manager is such that people feel okay talking about that stuff.
That is all related, though, to our squeeze on people. We’re promoting people into management roles maybe earlier than they’re ready sometimes because we’re struggling to fill vacancies in the Salesforce space, and that whole thing feeds into it itself, so you end up with people learning on the job a little bit, and maybe they’re not always getting it right.
Teresa: Yes, interesting.
Lee: It leads into the next question on the list we have here. We focused a lot on money so far, but motivation, in our experience, can sometimes be, I feel I need to be doing something different, or my career isn’t progressing at this particular company, and then, when they come to resign, magically, some opportunity pops its head up that they didn’t know about. Do you think that’s something people think about when they’re looking to leave, that they should really think about their motivation rather than it just being money?
I know that this is a topic that, as recruiters where we’re talking to people all the time – why are you on the market? Is it fixable? I think what we’re hearing so far is that people really should be speaking to their bosses if there’s an issue that can be fixed before they go out to the market. I don’t know if that’s a fair point, Teresa because obviously, you’re in recruitment as well.
Teresa: Yes, absolutely. I suppose I also do some career coaching and stuff like that as well. Quite often, it really is understanding people’s motivations because it isn’t about the money. In some respects, if people are making a knee-jerk reaction to counter-offers, particularly in a market where we’ve heard several thousands of pounds have been thrown at people in some instances, almost like double their current salary – the problem then is it can stunt their career growth because they end up being overpaid for the role that they’re in.
In a few months’ time, when they are genuinely looking for a new opportunity because they want to grow their skills and abilities in that, they find themselves priced out of the market because there are other employers who just say on paper, they’re not worth what they’re looking for as a salary. We talk to people all the time about, you really, really have to understand your motivations because if you get it wrong at this part of your career, you could actually pay for it for several years. What are your thoughts around that?
Ben: I definitely can see it from both ways, actually. I think some people that I’ve seen or CVs that I’ve seen and salaries that I’ve seen are just so inflated. I think that probably is the counter-offer culture as well as people jumping ship just for money. I’ve also seen it the other way where junior-ish salesforce people, one, two years, three years, are being vastly underpaid.
I think they’re being so underpaid that they just don’t feel that they have a future with that company. Maybe they don’t like the culture because most people at that company are being quite low paid. We hired a few people that were in the 20s and gave them salaries of 40s that had maybe three years of Salesforce experience. I think that is quite rife in the market, and it does happen quite a lot. I think it happens both ways as well.
Teresa: Yes, absolutely.
Lee: I’m curious to ask, Ben, when you said earlier that you guys have counter-offered people in Empower. Just out of interest, what happened to those people that accepted and stayed? No names mentioned, obviously.
Ben: I think this individual is still there, actually. I left back in September, so I’m not completely up to date. I think that individual is still there but possibly a bit rocky. I’m not too sure. The other ones didn’t get accepted because – if I were them, I wouldn’t have accepted those counter-offers. We offered them because we felt like we had to, and we would have been a bit screwed if they did leave, so it was worth the shot, but if I were in their position, I definitely wouldn’t have taken the counter-offer.
Teresa: I appreciate your honesty on that.
Lee: Perhaps, Penny, you can answer this one first. Do you think people will treat you differently? If they, and we touched on this already, if they resign, you counter-offer them, they stay. I appreciate that this isn’t a situation that’s actually happened, but I’m interested to get your take on it. Do you then, as the employer, possibly treat them a little differently every time they’re sick, or they have a holiday? The trust is gone a little bit. Even though it might not be a conscious thing, do you subconsciously just think, “Oh, they’re off today again”. Do you know what I mean? Do you think that happens?
Penny: I think there is a risk of that culture happening, which is one of the reasons why I definitely wouldn’t give people counter-offers like that, but I think the other thing that we sometimes see is people who haven’t gone out and found a new job but are maybe saying, “I am going to go and look for something else unless I get promoted or unless you pay me more.” Sometimes those are people who aren’t performing at the level where you want to promote them yet.
A principle I have as a leader is to be fairly even in people’s pay. I wouldn’t want people on a similar level to have big differentials between their pay. I’m not going to respond to that always, but then those people that do those threatening sorts of behaviours, I think, can create a bit of that culture. Definitely, it’s another reason not to do it.
I also wouldn’t be creating a job to get someone to stay because, then again, I think that’s very counter-cultural. If you’re going to create a new role, I think you create it, you advertise it internally, you have the best candidate go into that job. It’s a bit of the, not negotiating with terrorists, somebody that’s trying to hold you to ransom unless it’s a particular skill that you want them to be showing in their job that you don’t really want to be rewarding that behaviour. I don’t think.
Teresa: Okay. Vera, you look like you’re wanting to say something there, lots of nodding, very vigorously.
Vera: It’s just because Penny’s too nice. I agree. Penny would not hold it against people, probably. I, on the other hand, I have, and I would. To Penny’s point, I completely agree. I don’t really give counter-offers historically. I don’t believe in them because I think that mentally once somebody has decided to leave, they actually should go. I think you’re probably better off with them realising the grass isn’t always greener and coming back, which I think is a better success story than keeping somebody through a counter-offer.
That being said, we have had a couple of situations where someone put us in a situation where we desperately needed them on a project. It was a very specific skill set, and we did counter, and they accepted. I think as a human, there’s always a part of you that holds that over them, and I think not necessarily being worried about them going out and interviewing again, but I think when you think about loyalty which is not necessarily important to every employer, but it is to me.
When you think about weighing people up and who’s going to get this next bonus, who’s going to get this next incentive, this next promotion. It has to play in the back of your mind, whether we do it subconsciously or not.
Theresa: At the end of the day, we are all humans and whilst we talk about the company wanting to keep hold of that skillset, ultimately, you’re still a person, and if you’ve invested time as a manager into trying to upskill them and help them in their career, I suppose in a way, it can feel like a personal attack because it feels like they’re rejecting you. That’s quite an interesting point that people really need to consider; at the other end of this employment relationship, there is still a person that they’re interacting with.
People can feel all sorts of feelings as an employee, perhaps being rebuffed over a pay increase, but also as an employer, when you’re thinking, hang on a second, I’ve given you so much time and effort, and suddenly that loyalty doesn’t mean anything. It’s quite interesting.
Penny: I think, for me, if someone offered me extra money to stay, I think my reaction would be, well, how long exactly have you been underpaying me?
Vera: Where did you find this money? In the sofa?
Penny: Exactly. Like when do we backdate that to? Definitely, one of the reasons that I don’t offer it, because if I was to think that somebody is working above and beyond what I’m paying them, I’d like to think that I’m on top of that and the decent thing to do as a leader and manager is to address that and not wait for that person to quit. I think that’s where this whole counter-offer thing undermines the relationship both ways. Like to Vera’s point about, you knew some trust in that person because you question their motivations. Similarly for the employee, they should also be losing confidence in their leadership about how they’re going about managing the whole salary situation.
Teresa: That was definitely Ben’s point. I totally agree with that. Just out of interest on that subject, what could employers be doing a bit more to address that pay differential when it comes to underpaying people?
Ben: I think you’ve got to be proactive to some extent. Quite a lot of people we hired were fairly junior. When I say junior, I mean like three years, so like mid-level, and a lot of these people were vastly underpaid. I think if those employers were a bit more proactive, it could have kept them because I think money was the main motivation just because it was such a vast difference. You’re talking like mid-twenties to mid-forties, a 20K increase. I think even if you do have a nice culture and you think everyone is giving you feedback, some people are uncomfortable talking about salary.
We had a transparent salary policy at Empower, and people were expected to enter a salary process, which is quite interesting. That was the culture, but people were still a little bit uncomfortable about doing that themselves. I really think the employer has to have a handle on it and what people are being paid and what is fair.
Lee: There’s also the third party in this equation as well, we think, and I’m not just talking about recruiters, obviously we’re here doing some work, and it’s very frustrating for us when counter-offers are accepted. I’m sure all three of you maybe have interviewed people and taken time out of your busy days to do that and possibly have your teams do that to then offer them a job and to then find out they’ve resigned and stayed where they were.
How does that feel, and what do you think the wider ecosystem thinks of people that have done that? When they inevitably come back on the market again? Have you ever seen a CV and gone well, about six months ago, I did offer them, and they stayed where they were. I’m not going to talk to them again. You’re nodding, Vera, so I’ll go to you again.
Vera: Yes, happy to. You bring up a good point, Lee, because I think outside of everything, we all have to remind ourselves that this is a really small ecosystem, and it is fairly incestuous. The decisions that you make, whether it is taking a counter-offer, taking a new job, all of those are reflected in your place in this ecosystem. People talk. It might not necessarily be you wanting to go back to that same organisation that you accepted and then didn’t join; it potentially could be a different organisation.
I think there’s a very small group of people at the top, and you wouldn’t want to taint your reputation. I think part of that is down to how you handle the situation. To your point, am I pulling out of the offer immediately? Am I supposed to turn up on Monday, and I don’t show? What’s my articulation of why and how and when? Assuming somebody is reasonable and is willing to have a conversation and has some really good reasons for staying and they’re an adult about it, I think it’s fine.
I think part of the issue, though, is, in most cases, I don’t blame it on you guys, you recruiters, that dialogue doesn’t exist. You just hear from the recruiter, “Oh, they’re going to stay”. You’re like, “That guy’s an asshole”. There’s no dialogue around why and how it impacts your business.
If I plan to hire you and plan to put you on a project, and now I’m delayed on that project because I don’t have the resource, that puts me in quite a difficult position with that client. It also gives me a bench of people that I wasn’t expecting. It’s costing me money every day. I do think that, as the folks in the ecosystem, we need to be conscious of how our actions impact individuals and businesses and just be conscious that you’ve got to make the right decision for you. In some cases, very extreme versions, accepting the counter-offer might be right, but you just have to manage that carefully and be as transparent as possible.
Teresa: I think that’s a really good point actually, because obviously, we’re talking from a recruitment angle here, but the fact that you say to act like an adult around it, at the end of the day, if there are good reasons for staying, then fantastic it’s good to have that conversation. However, in our experience, what tends to happen is we get an email or a text message, never to actually be able to have a conversation with that candidate about it. It’s difficult because we want to give the feedback for the client because it could be something they could improve in their interview process to address certain questions at that part of the stage.
Of course, we don’t get that opportunity to have that discussion because, like Lee says, you end up getting ghosted, and that’s not good because as a recruiter, you become reluctant about potentially putting that candidate forward for more roles because you’re thinking, well, are they going to do it again? They could be missing out on fabulous opportunities. Rightly so as an employer, you’re thinking, well, why did that person go off the radar? What did I do wrong? What could I do better?
Obviously, all the time that was invested in because you guys are busy, recruitment’s just a part of what you do. To take yourself off a project to be interviewing people, you don’t get that time back. It’s the way you handle it that’s more important.
Lee: Ben, do you have any info on that or Penny, sorry, you just come off from mute there.
Penny: I would say that we definitely see that with people, and we’ve had a couple in the last year or so that had accepted a job offer, had quite long notice periods to serve, and towards the end of their notice period, changed their mind and that is really pretty difficult for us. If you’re hiring a key role like Vera said, you’ve planned work around this person joining you, and then they let you down; that’s tough because you guys know how long it takes to find these people for these big roles.
Oftentimes, it’s not just that they stay where they are, there’s a real gazumping culture happening at the moment, and I don’t know if Ben and Vera are seeing this, but I’ll be maybe looking for candidates even for mid-level consultant role, and I’ll get sent a candidate and seriously before I even interview them, the recruiter is letting me know that they’ve already had an offer that’s 20 grand more than their current salary from some other company.
If I like them when I interview them, we have to move really, really quickly, and I think that pace, because of the skill shortage, is probably the biggest challenge of people just staying in multiple processes even after they’ve accepted an offer and then making their decision once they’ve got multiple offers on the table. I’m seeing that quite a bit at the moment.
Lee: You mentioned about the notice period as well, and, Ben, I will get you to jump in, in a second. Some advice we always try and offer our clients is if you do offer a candidate and they have a three month notice period which is quite common in Salesforce, to stay in touch as much as possible without stalking them over that three month period, and we try to do it, don’t we? You do feel like ringing them again to make sure they’re okay, but they can go very cold.
Three months is a long time, and they’ve already resigned. They scroll through LinkedIn, see if anything else pops up. It’s difficult to try and keep that contact for those three months without seeming like you’re being a bit needy, but if you have any tips on that – but I’ll come back to that in a second. Ben, did you have another point to make on that subject?
Ben: No. I completely agree with what Vera and Penny said. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt sometimes, but I think it is hard if people mess you around. I think you can usually see if someone really has messed around, or maybe they have made the decision which is just better for them in their career, but sometimes that is hard to judge.
Lee: Okay, we touched on this earlier on. I think it was Ben that brought it up. When an employer usually counter-offers a person, do we think it’s mainly because it’s easier to do that than it is to let them go and try and replace them? What do we think is going on more often than not out there in your experience or just generally?
Vera: I’m happy to take that, Lee. I think yes, that’s probably the case because I don’t know – again, I will leave it to Penny to answer for herself – but I know she’d be much nicer in this situation than I would be. Somebody comes to me completely cold and says to me they’re going to resign for more money. My initial instinct is, yes, all right, and then the business side of you takes over to say, okay, actually, this is quite a new skillset. We do need this person, and they’re in the middle of the project, all the rational things that then lead you down the path of potentially offering a counter-offer.
I think that initial gut reaction is, I’m pissed, but I now know I need you. If it was entirely up to me, I’d probably just let you go because, again, we haven’t had a conversation; you didn’t give me any heads up that we were even down this route, but it’s much harder to replace you, and there is constant staff in place.
Part of the challenge with managing a services business is you’re juggling projects and people, and those things never line up in the way that you want them to. You’re constantly under it trying to make the resources and the timelines work, and I think that in most cases, it’s easier to just keep them or, and I think this is a little bit of the negative side coming out. As an employer, you’re thinking, okay, I’m going to counter you now and then eventually, I’m going to find a way to get you out of the business anyway, because I don’t like how this was handled, but I know I need you now. And so there’s a little bit of a possibility that I’m saving face and trying to keep myself out of trouble here and then architecting the timeline myself.
Penny: That’s interesting.
Vera: Which is a really cynical way to look at it, but again, human nature.
Lee: Yes, would you agree with that, Ben?
Ben: I think it was what I was talking about earlier with when we did counter people and one accepted, but others didn’t, it still should you be in the background looking for someone anyway, because this person’s clearly not happy, but we do need them? Which was the underlying tone, I guess, of that whole process when that did happen.
Penny: I was just going to say, Teresa, I think I agree with Vera. It’s a cynical situation because, ultimately, it’s a business decision to take. It’s cheaper to pay this person more today than it is to replace them. I wouldn’t do that, though, because I would be concerned about the ripples in the culture that it causes, and I don’t want to encourage that behaviour. I would rather bite the bullet and take the risk of the extra costs of backfilling that role for the benefits that it gives of hoping that other people won’t try that on because I want to reward behaviours that I want to see in the team.
I would rather proactively give somebody a pay rise who’s exhibiting the behaviours that I value than responding to that kind of thing because, Vera’s absolutely right; that is just a temporary fix, that is not a permanent solution to the problem.
Theresa: A finger in the dyke episode, isn’t it?
Lee: You just actually answered the next question, which I’m still going to say anyway, but these are the ramifications of if you offer someone a counter-offer and they stay, they’re going to talk to their colleagues, of course they are, so what message does that send to the colleagues as well? What do you think of that? Ben, do you want to go first on that one?
Ben: I don’t think it’s great. I mentioned earlier; we had an open salary – basically, it was a spreadsheet at Empower so everyone could see everyone else’s salaries, which was pretty interesting. But this obviously, it was okay, I think when we were smaller, and the salaries were a bit more under control, everyone was paid fairly. But as you start needing to hire, you need people for projects, so you start paying maybe more than what they’re worth, and word gets around if people get counter-offered, I think that can taint the culture.
Obviously, I’ll let Vera and Penny answer this. I doubt their companies have an open salary process like ours. I think it can cause a lot of gossip with people and generally harm the culture.
Vera: I agree. I think it brings up a good point around just managing the message, because to Penny’s point, people do talk, whether it’s about counter-offers about how much they make, and it becomes clear that there is a divide between people’s worth and people’s paycheque. I think you’ve got to be really diligent about making sure that the folks at the same level are making round about the same money, and to Ben’s point, as you start to hire people for very specific roles or very specific projects, that gets much more difficult to do.
I also think there’s a bit of an onus as an employer to gut-check those things. I can remember we landed a massive deal, and we had to hire like 20 people in the span of two weeks at a point in time, and you did end up overpaying. Then there was a little bit of a period of time that said, were these people worth it? If not, we either need to manage them into other roles, or we need to level up the people around them because it’s not fair. It’s not fair that so and so happened to be in the right place at the right time and getting paid £5,000, £10,000 more than they were worth, and everybody around them is looking at them as the weakest link and going, “Wait a minute, that person makes more money than I do?”
That doesn’t make any sense. I do think you’ve got to be conscious and constantly managing it and being self-aware enough to know people’s value and skillset versus the money you pay them because it’s the number one thing people talk about, someone says, “Crap, why did they get paid so much?”
Teresa: I suppose moving on then, I think probably know what your response, I think I understand what your responses will be. About the original motivation behind looking in the first place, and I know we’ve touched a lot on money because I think that tends to often drive the counter-offer, but how important do you think it is that the individual really should go to their bosses first and talk about their reasons for potentially being on the market and looking around?
Lee: Penny, do you want to go first on that one?
Penny: Yes, sure. I think that’s really important. I mean, at the moment, how realistic that is right now in the Salesforce space, I’m not sure because things are moving so quickly, and people are getting headhunted. New jobs and new types of roles are being created overnight in response to the market need, but I think it depends on the company culture. I think that people should try and talk to their leadership and their team if they’re not getting what they want out of their current role. That should always be your first port of call to see whether those problems can be solved internally.
Sometimes those are just too difficult to talk about, like Vera just mentioned there, about this guy’s the weakest link on the team; why is he getting paid so much? If that guy is also supposed to be the mentor and inspiration to everybody else, then they don’t want to be necessarily throwing him under the bus and criticising him, but if he’s not serving as the person for them to learn from, then that might be a driver to leave, but I think the key thing is for candidates to figure out what their next move is, and why they’re doing it.
I mean, Ben, I think, is probably one of the most strategic people in the space. He’s a great person to advise about making those kind of moves and understanding what your long-term objectives are, and that should be the key.
I think job-hopping just to earn a little bit more is a very, very short term game, and I would warn anybody off doing that because, like Vera said earlier, it’s a small space, and I think that will come back to haunt you.
Teresa: Okay, perhaps we’ll throw that question across to Ben then as the strategic person is what could people be doing to, I suppose, have their little ducks in a row when it comes to their career? What kinds of things could they be doing before they get to the point of having to go out to the market and force the issue with perhaps a resignation or something?
Ben: Yes, and it’s very kind of you to say, Penny, but I suppose I look at my own experiences. Whenever I’ve left a role, it’s usually because I’m not progressing at the rate that I think I should be for the Salesforce ecosystem. I think for candidates, most people, especially people who are very ambitious, should hold themselves to quite a high standard when it comes to progression just because there is so much opportunity out there.
I think it’s an exercise weighing up where you want to be in a number of years’ time and your progression at the moment, your exposure to different products or different types of companies. I learned so much being in a consultancy, but ultimately where I personally want to be sometime in the future is in SI’s.
Working in the ISV community, whether that’s working for another company or founding my own ISV, and that’s what I personally want to do. I think it’s weighing up the whole ecosystem. You’ve got so many different companies; you’ve got end-users, SIs, Salesforce themselves. I’m seeing soo many people going to go to Salesforce for the moment. People from SIs, going to work as solution engineers or accounts executives, absolutely fantastic place to work. I think it’s ensuring you have a good handle on the whole landscape and what each role and each type of company offers.
Teresa: I think so, yes.
Lee: Brilliant. Vera, did you comment on that point?
Vera: No, but I agree with Ben and Penny. I think it’s about looking for your motivation and then weighing up not just the short but long-term what the goals are. I agree with Penny; people should reach out to people in the ecosystem. Everybody phone Ben and ask them for career advice on what their next move should be. Seriously, I think before you go and start looking around because that’s when you get into the danger zone, talk to your employer. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your employer, talk to other people in the ecosystem.
Because I do think sometimes what happens, unfortunately, is people get a little bit discouraged in the role or discouraged in the organisation and make an impulsive move assuming the grass is always greener and then find themselves in an organisation and really hating all the same things or hating different things. I do think the more conversations you can have and the more educated you can make yourself before you go and start actually making any direct moves, the better.
Ben: I’d normally say speaking to a recruiter would be a good thing, but maybe not in this case.
Vera: Disaster, or you’re going to convince everybody to leave.
Lee: To stay there, yes. Because you know, you do, don’t you, if you’re a recruiter, you’re looking at the list of vacancies you’re working on, and that’s not going to fix it necessarily, but we try to say to people, go to your boss first. If the reason you’re telling us we believe is fixable internally, go and do that. I don’t imagine every other recruiter does it, and I’m not saying we’re perfect. Of course, we want to place people; that’s what we exist for, but I do get that sometimes recruiters would create the role they think the person wants and possibly isn’t right for them.
Yes, having a mentor like Ben, like Penny, like you, Vera, would be great for these people. Do we have any further thoughts? I can’t believe it’s been an hour already, nearly. I say it every time.
Ben: That’s gone very quickly.
Lee: It has because it’s just one subject. Do each of you want a little final thought on this? Maybe a simple bit of advice for either somebody who’s looking to offer a counter-offer or the person who’s about to resign and possibly get a counter-offer, which is happening virtually every time at the moment. If you feel that you’ve said enough and then fine, but by all means, jump in and give us a little roundup. If you like.
Penny: My advice for candidates, Lee, is to really own your own decision-making and take personal responsibility for what you’re doing. I think sometimes candidates become too passive, and that’s where counter-offers tend to go. It becomes easy to go with whoever’s pushing them the strongest to accept something. Ben and I were talking a minute ago about being more strategic – that is about owning what you want and your direction and making it happen and also being realistic about what you can get.
There are loads of candidates I meet going from company to company to look for a role, and they want this job where they’re going to be a consultant, but only bill two days a week where they’re going to have the world’s number one CTA there to teach them. Sit next to them and teach them everything they’ve ever learned. Because the market is competitive, I think that drives some lack of realism from people and what they’re after. I think everybody in the space needs to take personal responsibility for that. Candidates, be realistic in what you want and clear in what you want. Managers, don’t offer stuff that doesn’t exist. That would be my main thing.
Teresa: Wise words.
Lee: Ben, did you have any final thoughts?
Ben: Yes, I think from employers, obviously, counter-offers are ideal, and I think if this chat’s been anything to go by, it’s a resounding ‘no’ when it comes to counter-offers, but sometimes they are required. I think more importantly is to understand why people are leaving the organisation.
Salesforce’s hyper-competitive candidates can go anywhere they want. I think something we really tried to do is really focus on our culture, really work on having a culture of feedback and really understanding people’s motivations to go elsewhere or why people aren’t working for the company and getting a handle on that really should help with employee retention, which should ultimately turn into growth for the company as well.
Teresa: Yes, absolutely. I think just because you can go anywhere you want, that shouldn’t be the case that you should go anywhere you want. You really need to think about what the next steps in your career want to be.
Ben: Yes, definitely.
Teresa: Yes, absolutely. Vera?
Vera: Yes, I think I would just echo everybody else’s point. I think my big piece of advice would be don’t follow the money, because I do think oftentimes, especially in the Salesforce ecosystem where you do get people jumping from consultancy to consultancy just for that little bit more, I think a lot of those people find themselves in a situation where you’re not really fulfilled, and we spend so much of our day at work.
I just think, if COVID has taught us anything, it’s that we should be looking for our personal purpose, our organisation’s purpose. There are things beyond the paycheck. So yes, try to dig deep and figure out what your motivation is. Where do you want to go? Is this a stepping stone on a greater career journey, or is this just a shiny offer that somebody has put in front of you? Try to be a little more strategic with your thinking in terms of weighing out the pros and cons in these situations.
Teresa: Absolutely. Thank you.
Lee: Brilliant. I think this is really going to help people. Thank you all very much for your input. We want to get it out there for you. Great to hear from you all. Thank you as well, Theresa.
Teresa: Thank you.
Lee: Thank you, Ben. Nice to see you and hear you. Vera, as well. Penny and Ben, that was fantastic. Thank you very much. We’ll see you all soon.
Teresa: Yes, thanks.
Ben: Great. Thanks a lot, guys.
Vera: Thanks, guys.
Lee: A big thank you to Penny Townsend, Vera Loftis, Ben McCarthy, and also to Theresa Durrant for their input there into the subject of counter-offers in the Salesforce Industry. I really hope it helps if you’re in that position yourself. Hope it helped to give you a bit of an idea of whether you’re making the right decision or not and whether the decision you make is the right one for your career long term.
As always, if you’d like to comment on the podcast and what your thoughts are, if you have any thoughts yourself on the subject of counter-offers, please do let us know. Also, thank you to the guys. If you want to connect to any of the people on the podcast today, they’re all on LinkedIn. They’re all quite active on LinkedIn, so you should be able to find them on there. They’re very open to connecting and mentoring people. Do reach out. If it’s a bit cold, just mention the podcast, and I’m sure that they’ll accept you. Until next time, hope you enjoyed it, and we’ll see you in the next episode.