Beyond the Price Tag: The Stone Truth About What Really Attracts Top Talent

Are you tired of losing your best employees to competitors? It’s time to rethink the traditional (and unevidenced) notion that “you have to pay market rates to attract good people”. Simply offering more money will likely attract mercenaries rather than loyal and committed employees. So, what can companies do to attract and retain people? Let’s explore the factors that truly matter in building a team of dedicated and passionate people who will help drive your company’s success.

The idea that “you have to pay market rates to attract good people” is widely accepted in the business world. The basic premise of this argument is that in order to attract the best talent, companies must offer competitive compensation packages that reflect the current market rates. This is because highly skilled and qualified individuals are in high demand, and will often receive multiple job offers from different companies. As a result, companies that offer below-market compensation packages are unlikely to attract the most talented candidates.

“If all you have is a hammer…”. Compensation is that hammer.

However the stone truth is that simply paying market rates is totally inadequate to engage and motivate. This is because individuals who are primarily motivated by money are mercenaries – individuals who are willing to work for the highest bidder, without any loyalty or commitment to the company or its values.

In this sense, paying at or above market rates will attract mercenaries rather than truly committed and loyal employees. Mercenaries may be skilled and talented, but will lack the long-term commitment and dedication that companies need to succeed in the longer run. By definition, mercenaries are primarily motivated by financial gain, and will quickly jump ship to another company if they receive a better offer.

Therefore, companies might choose to consider factors besides compensation, such as company culture, opportunities for growth and development, and a strong sense of purpose and mission. By offering a more holistic package that goes beyond mere financial compensation, companies can attract employees who are not just in it for the money, but are engaged with the company’s long-term success. A policy of hiring mercenaries also lowers the workforce’s esprit de corps.

Finally, there’s Deming’s 95:5. Deming’s 95:5 rule states that 95% of productivity in any organisation results from the system or process, while only 5% is down to individual talent. This principle has important implications for the idea of paying market rates. By focusing on the 95%, rather than the 5% represented by individual employees, “best talent” becomes next to irrelevant. Ultimately, the success of a company depends on the strength of the entire organisational system, rather than the individual skills and talents of its employees. Where’s the bigger payback?


Who’s got your back when it comes to remaining relevant in a fast-changing skills market? Who can you rely on to point out new skills that will become vogue in one, five, ten years’ time?

Given the time it takes to develop such skills to the point where they become useful to clients and employers, when do you start ramping up new skills in anticipation of emergent demand for them?

Especially when some new skills area suggests a sea-change from your existing skill set and comfort zone?

Or maybe you’re just accepting of increasing irrelevancy and declining rates of pay?

My Intolerance Of Shit Has Cost Me Several Million Dollars $$$

I’ll admit it. I’m intolerant of shit.

What kinds of shit, you might enquire. Here’s a brief list:

  • Vacillation.
  • Indecision.
  • Wilful ignorance.
  • Nepotism and other cliques.
  • Ineptitude.
  • Dilettantism.
  • Indifference.
  • Exploitation.
  • Naive dialogue (inability to converse).
  • Lack of interaction.
  • Stupidity.
  • …and so on

How Has This Cost Me Millions?

Because the people who pay are full of shit (see above). So I choose to not go anywhere near them. Ever. Which limits my income and revenue opportunities massively, of course.

Does This Bother Me?

Not really. It would bother me big time if money was my driver. But it never has been. I’m motivated by helping people, building interpersonal relationships, community, understanding things, and having a useful life. And there never was much money in any of that.

I’m much happier being poor than spending my life drowning in ordure.

– Bob

How Do You Set Up A Salary Model That Has Everyone’s Approval?

Remuneration policy reflects an organisation’s culture. It’s a calling card for your company and a key element of employer branding. Given current recruiting challenges, it also determines who wants to join or stay with your company.

What Is A Salary Model?

A salary model, or remuneration policy, is a system of guidance that an organisation uses to determine each employee’s remuneration (a.k.a. package). A typical salary model takes into account things like merit, length of employment, and pay compared to similar positions.

Everyone’s Approval?

You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

~ John Lydgate

Salary models are almost always contentious, and the source of frequent fractious arguments and ill-will. Few people favour being treated just like everybody else, seeing themselves as individuals. Yes, fairness has a role to play – humans and capuchins both being acutely attuned to the notion of fairness. But who adjudicates what is fair when it comes to salaries and other remunerations?

At Familiar, and now at TheQuintessentialGroup, we seek to treat people as adults, and encourage adult-to-adult interactions. Accordingly, we believe that only the individual in question is at all placed to decide what is fair, and thus to determine their personal individual salary or other remuneration. Our experiences at Familiar showed this idea as entirely workable, and helped us learn the amazing up-side to such a salary model.

This perspective also aligns with the Antimatter Principle: “Attend to folks’ needs”. Who else but the individual can truly decide what their needs are, salary-wise? Needless to say, the Antimatter Principle stands proud at the heart of TheQuintessentialGroup’s approach to community-building, and to business.

So, for clarity, this salary model states:

Each fellow decides his or her own salary (or other remuneration, depending on engagement model). Each fellow is free to change salary or other remuneration levels as and when – and as often as – they see fit.

Note: This particulalr salary model is the salary model of choice for TheQuintessentialGroup.


One wrinkle that did emerge at Familiar, given the totally alien nature of this salary model, was the difficulty some folks had in deciding on the specifics of their package. We discovered that support and dialogue amongst fellows (along with full transparency for all) helped greatly with resolving this difficulty.

Another, more general wrinkle is the collective assumptions and beliefs of the decision-makers and those that sign off – or don’t – on the salary model. The headline of this post is about winning everyone’s approval. Managers and executives that have a sublimated Theory-X view of the world probably won’t approve of this salary model. Which I find sad, for the people and for the performance of the workforce (and thus, of the organisation).

– Bob


“Has everyone’s approval” seems to me a pretty low bar. I’d prefer to see a salary model that “everyone loves and raves about”. How about you?

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