I received a call this week from a friend-of-a-friend....

My friend is a famous search engine copywriter, and the friend she referred to me is a smart, friendly, business-oriented 29-year-old internet marketer with an unblemished 8-year track record of success with the same Fortune 500 direct-to-consumer company.  Four of those years were in web development.  Within the last four years, she has single-handedly built her employer's organic SEO programs with amazing success.  Her resume is a work of art.

Anyway, this young lady (let's call her "Susan") is looking for new opportunities.

Here's why:  Eight years ago, Susan signed on with her company for an annual salary of $60K plus a $2500 discretionary bonus.  Despite several promotions, "company policy" has held Susan to cost of living increases at 6% per annum, while the discretionary bonus has never changed.  Today she makes $95K + a $2500 bonus.  Her performance reviews have been nothing less than exemplary.

So last week Susan gets reviewed, and -- as usual -- her boss raved about her performance.  All of her KPI's are through the roof.  Yet when Susan mentioned to her boss that people with her background are making $150K base + bonus on the agency side of the SEO business and $125K base + bonus on the client side, her boss said ...

"Susan, if you can get that kind of money elsewhere, go for it. Your employee status allows me to pay you $95K + a cost of living increase. Take it or leave it."

Less than an hour later, Susan was on the phone with me.

Note to HR Managers:  Your employees do not operate in a vacuum.  They know what the market is for their skillset.  In particular, SEO programs are very profitable for both agencies and clients.  Simply put, there is a ton of money washing around in the SEO space.  Most top-flight SEO consultants are being billed out at $150/hour -- and everyone knows it.

The best way to keep your recruiting costs low is to not lose good people.

Susan's defection is totally unnecessary.  She's trained.  She has solid intercompany relationships. She's well-respected by her peers outside of the company.  And her desk is very cash-flow positive. Replacing Susan will be a costly hassle if the company does it without my help.  And if the company does it with my help, I'll charge them 20-25% of the replacement's base salary -- which will likely be $125K + bonus.  The total cost to clean up this mess with be $60-70K.

The worst thing a company can do is to motivate their stars to look around.  Trust me, if I get an unsolicited call from one of your A-players, I will remind them that you don't appreciate them.  That's my job:  I'm a management recruiter, and I'm pretty good at it.

And if you want your company to go from Good to Great, for each employee under review ask "Would I hire this person again?"  If the answer is yes, then keep in mind the total cost to replace that person and assign their bonus accordingly.

In the meantime, if you are a corporate recruiter who's looking for a highly-skilled organic SEO program manager (single, no kids, easy relocation), call me at (678) 795-0900.

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Harry Joiner is an executive recruiter specializing in integrated marketing and "new media." He has been featured in MarketingSherpa's Great Minds in Marketing series and received coverage in the Wall Street Journal's Career Journal Online. According to Viral Garden's weekly rankings, Harry's weblog MarketingHeadhunter.com is one of the top 25 marketing weblogs in the world.