top of page
  • Writer's pictureColin Christensen

A Paycheque is Not A Retention Strategy

Have you ever heard someone say

"I pay them, shouldn't that be enough?!"

This is still the mentality of some, if you can believe it. Mind you, if you are reading this, you are most likely not the target of my rant.

This style of leadership is dead. At least in the sense that it doesn't work anymore. Here in Alberta we have a shortage of people to do the work. Thinking that merely paying them, even ludicrous amounts of money, and hoping this will keep them coming to work for you is not only naive, it is likely going to kill your business.

I hear of non-starts all the time. This is the phenomena where you hire someone, they sign papers and, even at times get a hiring bonus, yet don't show up to work the first day because they got a job somewhere else.

The bad news is, if this is happening, you are not hiring the right people. You are better off not having them on your team, and consider that hiring bonus a fine to you for thinking that it would work.

Although this is something that happens more in trades and the oil and gas industry, I have seen it happen in Information Technology and other fields where workers are scarce.

Money is a poor motivator. Those who are motivated by money will leave your company for a measly increase. It's a losing battle. You must have more to offer than a paycheque if you want to keep your people.

Just to let it sink in a little deeper, here is what comes with this dictatorship mentality.

I don't know anyone who wants these results from their people.

The chief problems with this type of leadership are that great people leave because they are frustrated, and the bad employees run rampant because they are rewarded for being the squeaky wheel. It is a little like a legal system that protects the lowest common denominator, where things like a bag of pistachios carry an allergy warning that says "contains pistachios" or hot coffee that has to say "caution, contents hot".

Eventually you will lose all your best people and it becomes the wild west where anything goes. The stupid and insecure will be all who remain. Not the type of team you're looking for, I am sure.

The good news: you can choose to build an environment that ensures you end up with only the lowest common denominator, or one that displaces these Darwinian souls and attracts those actually able to survive and thrive on their own.

A few important steps to reverse unhealthy hiring:

  1. Slow down your hiring process. Don't fool yourself that there aren't enough people out there and you need to react in desperation. Only hire the right fit for your culture. Even better, only hire for the culture you want. Do keep in mind you had better be preaching the culture and enforcing it on the inside or you will have these new-found great candidates bounce right out the back door because promises weren't backed up.

  2. To that point, understand what you offer that is great for the right people and focus on that. You will eventually start to attract the right people. Every company has something special. Is it that you are small and the people will get to learn a lot? Or, that you are big and can afford great benefit packages? A place to start is to talk with the people on your team who you want to duplicate and understand why they like working for you.

  3. If the problem is you can't find enough people for the work you offer, start looking to competitors for the great people. If you feel like you can only find the dregs of society applying for your roles, you may need to actively recruit from other companies. My free ebook has some tips for why this is not only ethical but healthy for the industry.

  4. The biggest way to solve retention problems is get to know your people and start treating them like integral parts of your team (if not your family). These people will do the work you need done and will interface with your clients, treat them well and they will treat you well. The days of hiring cogs are over. If you want them to stay, find out what they really want (outside of money) and start meeting that need. You will be surprised at the turn around.

Hopefully this starts the journey of turning your team around and clearing out the riff-raff so you can start getting the people you want on your team. Hire the right person the first time.


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page