How to save your talent from lower paying jobs

Congratulations! You’ve made your first (sale) hire.

You pitched them on the team, the company, and their future potential impact and career trajectory. You worked hard to get them an offer they would accept. 

Now, sell them again.

Sell them again, when the first recruiter to reach out to them comes knocking.

Sell them again, when they receive an offer for less than they’re currently making.

People leave companies for less money, all the time.

This is the beauty and the curse of the various elements that go into a job offer; base, bonus, equity and benefits. 

Someone’s perception of value can easily be shaped with multiple variables at play. 


What it looks like when people leave for less pay.

Some time ago, when I worked for a big public technology company, the issue of employees leaving for lower paying start-up jobs by accident was widespread. 

It was so widespread that every manager in the company had to attend mandatory trainings, plural, with pre-work and pop quizzes to ensure that they understood just how well their people were paid. 

This was the result of countless exit surveys that showed people believed they were leaving for better paying jobs. They weren’t. They were under the false impression that a higher base pay plus hard to value employee stock options was a raise. 

Every manager was on high alert to ensure that they could explain each person’s “total rewards.” This was the first time I heard the phrase, but of course, not the last.

This is the same company that (years ago) faced extensive poaching from a hot social media company, and simply raised every single person’s salary by 10%.

And here they were at square one again.

But this happens from startup-to-startup too.

I also experienced this firsthand when working at a startup some years ago. 

One of our most senior engineers had an offer to join another company, and believed that they were being offered a lot more equity. 

They were being offered more options, that was true. 

But the valuation and upside of that company wasn’t anywhere close to ours. It was apples to oranges.

So one of our founders hand-built a model to explain the value of this engineer's recent refresh grant and their unvested options.

But, it was too late. 

The engineer was convinced he could get a better package elsewhere and jumped. 


If people don’t understand total rewards, you won’t know in time.

Of course, in an ideal world, your folks will come to you when that recruiter first pings them. 

But that’s a very ideal world.

The best companies continuously sell their employees before they need to be sold.

They proactively walk their employees through their trajectory and the company’s upside.

They make sure they understand that Total Rewards is more than just what shows up on a W-2.

Even if a new round of fundraising, or a refresh program is on the horizon, you’re working on defense as soon as they have that other offer in hand. It’s a fight to save them and you won’t always win.

If it can happen to managers at big, public tech companies, it can happen to you.

So, as Jack Donaghy Blake would say, “Always. Be. Closing.” Even when you don’t know you need to.

(Oh, and we can help with that.)