Category Archives: Job Hunting

What to do when the head hunter calls….

We have been in a market expansion for a number of years, and millennial’s have been extraordinarily fortunate to have never lived through a major market meltdown, never lived through high double digit interest rates or massive layoffs.

This has brought a level of arrogance which most employers find extraordinary. Candidates are approached for positions and their responses are often arrogant beyond belief, Granted, many are being approached by a panoply of individuals, however, being rude or simply not returning phone calls is NOT the answer. We are ALL being approached, regardless of our level or title, often by rude, low level clerks in agencies who have absolutely no clue about our industry. Yes, being called by an idiotic 19 year old with 3 weeks of work experience is not ideal by any stretch of the imagination, but we are not all created equally. Some of us actually have more industry experience than you have, so being flippant, condescending and downright rude, is not appreciated.

When the market ultimately crashes and thousands lose their cushy jobs with free food and sleep rooms, we will remember those who were mind numbingly rude. Yes, we actually do keep notes, and we actually are known to share.

If you are asked to something by a Senior Head Hunter, from changes on your resume to providing documents, do it immediately. If you are asked a second or third time, you are simply proving that your career advancement is not that important to you. If you say you will call on a particular day, do it, or follow up with a note or call to apologize, and schedule your next call. Life throws us all situations where we are not able to deliver on a promise, but calling to apologize immediately is the best response.

Do NOT tell the Head Hunter you are too busy or worse, too important. They may have the opportunity of a life time, and you just convinced them that you are not the ideal candidate.
The last individual who told me that missed out on an amazing opportunity. The candidate who took the position was promoted after several months and is earning over twice the salary, not to mention extraordinary benefits, than one of the individuals who told me he was a ‘very busy, important man”…..yup, he is still at his old employer earning a fraction of the lucky candidate. Guess he is not so important after all. NO, he will never be called again.

Do NOT tell Senior Head Hunters you know better than them, you would be surprised at the mandates we receive. Some executive somewhere is paying us to find the best. To presume that you know better, is to essentially say that the Senior Executive who gave us the mandate is stupid. Do you really want to do that???

Our Consultancy is actually just that, a High End IT Consultancy, we all have over 25 years of actual IT experience. Some more technical than others. Never did we plan on doing Search, but after being lied to and scammed by several agencies in the past, we ascertained that there HAD to be a better way, our clients agreed. We started in Search with more mandates than we could ever possibly fill.

Just because you feel some sense of importance having received several calls for new positions, do NOT become arrogant. People speak, even competitors. High End Head Hunters also speak with their clients and will give names of individuals to ‘KEEP OFF’.

Our database literally has hundreds of names marked with the notation , KEEP OFF’.

People who were rude, chauvinistic, arrogant, do not return phone calls, did not deliver on promises, have bad references, were fired repeatedly, have fake degrees, fake job titles, have resumes on Linkedin which bear NO resemblance to the 5 we currently have on file, or are on the take.
It is easy to be arrogant when the market is booming, but it always crashes, and many of the rudest people are the ones who call back like they are your ‘NEW BEST FRIEND’ …do you really think we are remotely interested in helping them??? If they are rude to us, just how rude are they within the companies where they work??

If a Senior Head Hunter gives you advice on anything from dressing, etiquette, hygiene, comportment, listen to them. A Senior Executive is paying for their expertise, and you are NOT the only person out there.

For those of us who have survived numerous recessions and even depressions, our clients come to us for a reason, and they are paying for our expertise. We actually do understand the mandate and are seeking the brightest, best out there, and manners figure very loudly into that equation. And YES, we are paying attention. If your behaviour is rude or arrogant, how can we possibly trust you to work within the client environment??
Taking yourself too seriously will have us running to find someone with a sense of humour and humility.
Yes, I absolutely used the word humility. Don’t have any, don’t call us.

Wake up people.
You are just NOT THAT SPECIAL.

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A Crisis of Early Retirements Unfolding…..

Over the last 5 years there has been a silent crisis emerging which is going to seriously effect the future of the High-End IT Community.

Companies are increasingly driven by quarter end results, and many senior executives rarely stay in their seats long enough to consider 2 year plans, much less 5 year plans, so if they have no plans for the future of the companies they are managing, how can their employees possibly envision a future within these same corporations?

Add fuel to this fire with a tendency to do layoffs after 2 bad quarters, and a frightening trend emerges. Furthermore, companies have given an insane amount of power to Human Resources over the last few years, and are allowing twenty-somethings the authority to decide with whom the company does business and who they hire through selective choices. Several Senior Sales Executives have not only resigned, but totally left the industry after being told by some 24 year old with absolutely NO knowledge of the industry and its vagaries, that they are not authorized to use 3rd parties for hiring.

One of my favourite clients comes to mind. A $50 million sales quota, and the inability to source suitable sales resources to fill the numerous positions in Sales and Systems Engineering. An inordinate amount of time spent interviewing totally incompetent candidates sourced by HR in the US, met with numerous requests to use local Search Firms being denied. Montreal is a unique market with 2 languages and 2 cultures. It is impossible for someone in the US to possibly understand this issue. The end result?? One of the most professional, successful Sales Executives I have ever met, took early retirement. He QUIT. PERIOD.

He no longer works. PERIOD.

He felt the stress was overwhelming based upon the demands of the job and his utter lack of support within the Corporation. We are talking about a huge, multi-billion dollar corporation which could seriously afford to use outside assistance, but he was NOT ALLOWED.

Today, he skiis, rides his bike, tends his garden. He sold everything in the city and left.
He retired over 10 years earlier than planned.
This man is seriously connected internationally, the Presidents of many Fortune 100 companies would gladly take his call. He is a joy. He is one of the most motivating executives I have met and worked with. Humble, an extraordinary energy coupled with a sense of humour, and the willingness to take a chance on imagination and drive. He has made the careers of dozens of individuals.
We have LOST him. He is no longer working within our industry.

He alone creates an enormous vacuum in our community, and unfortunately is but one of the dozens of these highly creative, highly connected individuals who have taken their contacts and their imaginations and walked away from an industry which is increasingly having problems sourcing these types of individuals.

It has become a thankless, ruthless industry, dominated by arrogant, incompetent, dishonest people who only seek to line their own pockets with a total regard for the companies which employ them, as well as their employees.

I spoke with another Senior Sales Executive who retired 2 months ago, his comment was that he was downsizing his home and his life to accommodate a very early, unplanned retirement, around 10 years earlier than planned. Why, I asked??

His answer, the level of fraud in the industry has become so commonplace that middle managers are asking out loud what you will give them in exchange for their business.. It is ‘In your face” , blatant fraud. It is not hidden, not discreet, it is simply out there for the world to see.

We hear of individuals in purchasing departments in the IT industry choosing ‘preferred vendors’ based upon what they will receive as compensation. No compensation, no business.

A lovely gentleman I interviewed a couple of years ago, was a Senior VP in a large Consulting Firm, earning a very substantial income. I inquired as to why he was so actively seeking employment, he was certainly employed. He advised me that he was resigning the day he received his commission cheque for the contract he was currently negotiating on behalf of his employer. His comments to me?? I will NOT go to jail for this company.

That was certainly an eye opener.

He was absolutely horrified at the arrangements being negotiated with individuals in the purchasing department of a publicly traded company. We are talking millions of dollars, many, many millions of dollars.
This contract was being drawn up with 2 large companies to provide all resources for a period of 5 years exclusively. PERIOD. No possibility of any other firms selling services unless they passed through one of the 2 ‘preferred vendors’, ostensibly to cut down on the huge number of suppliers and invoices.

Sounds good??!! I find it extraordinary that no one questioned this .

What is being taken out of this equation, is that ALL THE FIRMS being excluded, are potential CUSTOMERS of this firm. An interesting perspective. No one is looking.

Yes, a huge, public company with shareholders, you could be one of them.
Yes, they have a legal responsibility to shareholders.
BUT, and here it is, NO ONE is watching.

The Senior Executives in this corporation are oblivious as to what is going on inside the companies they are supposed to be managing. They are scrambling to meet their quarterly reports, and focused on their end of year bonus’.
The lunatics are truly running the asylum.

From Senior Vice Presidents in Banks to Sales Organizations, to Service Providers, we are losing some of the brightest and the best, and all of them leaving within 5-10 years earlier than planned. This is happening everywhere, I am speaking with executives across North America, and am hearing the same words, almost verbatim.

We are losing knowledge. We are losing energy. We are losing drive, contacts, history. we are losing it all.

Multiply this behaviour and see an absolutely terrifying trend emerging.

What will we have left??!

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Millennials and The Job Market

We hear endlessly how the baby boomers are holding on to their jobs longer and longer and depriving the Millennials from employment opportunities.
This, of course, is utter nonsense. The baby boomers have a business knowledge which no 30 old can even comprehend.

You only have to go to any mall and see the infinite number of ‘help wanted’ signs in their windows, as well as the complaints from small business owners that no one wants to start at the bottom anymore.

Ask most baby boomers how they got their start and you will hear about people holding down 2 – 3 crappy jobs while going to University at night to get a degree. I am one of those.
Did most of us have a career plan ? For the most part, we didn’t even know what that was. Did we have a plan? Some people had a ‘life’ plan, but beyond that, most people had absolutely no idea what they wanted to do in life. However, by working in numerous industries, at one point something jumps out. Many of us continue to work nights and weekends to service clients. The business world does not shut down after 5 pm.

Some of the complaints we hear are due to sheer laziness, others do have merit.
Companies no longer hire dozens of students straight out of University and train them like they did in the past.It is costly, time consuming, and today’s youth do not exhibit the loyalty traits of the past.

But, how is it that the children of first generation immigrants find jobs, buy homes and drive nice cars?? Simple. Because they will do ANYTHING to earn money. No job is too menial, they will hold down 2-3 awful jobs to finance their education and they save, save, save. They don’t expect to wear designer clothes and drink expensive coffees. They often wear hand-me-downs and bring food from home. Some of the stories I have heard over the years about what people went through to come to Canada are extraordinary. From prison camps to just about everything in between. I know many Vietnamese boat people.
These people work hard and NEVER complain. Being in Canada is everything to them.

So, some words of advice in your job hunt:

If you score a job interview,

don’t expect instant gratification. You cannot expect to graduate with no work experience and earn $60,000 or more, furthermore, you are not the only applicant.
* Nothing is worse than interviewing someone who thinks they are too good for the job. You have to START somewhere.

* Your Mother may think you are beautiful, brilliant and special, the rest of us think you are arrogant, self centered and lazy.

* Up-talking and interrupting the interviewer is a guaranteed way to ensure you are NOT hired.

* You have no business experience, yet you sit in the interview voicing opinions on how YOU think the Company could be run better. Really???!!

* If you are even remotely serious about your career, DO NOT tell me about your children or plans to have 5 of them.

* I do NOT care if you think you are green. You are not.

* Having absolutely NO experience of any kind on your resume whether volunteering, or anything else, tells us are extremely lazy and not even remotely ambitious.

* If you turn up for a meeting and are not well dressed, your hair is uncombed or greasy, your hands and nails are dirty, your shoes are unpolished, clothes are not washed or ironed, you do
Not shake hands, do not wait for permission to sit down, do not establish eye contact with the interviewer, and speak to them as if they are stupid, it is over before it has started.

* do NOT tell us how your last boss was stupid. Maybe he was by hiring you.

* If there are no super jobs where you live, don’t complain, MOVE, many of us did.

* Don’t sit in my office and tell me how jealous you are that I get to work in splendid surroundings. I worked 70-90 hour weeks for many years, and continue to do so.

* Just because you actually turned up for the interview does not ensure you will get the job.

* no one cares how busy you are, be on time, or just slightly early. That does NOT mean one hour early. That is rude.

* Playing with your mobile phone, or answering calls during the interview, as if your phone is more important, tells the rest of us you are not even remotely interested, or remotely polite.

* The inability to ask questions regarding either the job, the company or the interviewer does not inspire confidence.

* Telling the interviewer about your vacation plans will ensure that you will be permanently on vacation.

* Do not post a fake resume or fake University degree. Most of us can see past it, and do not want to employ frauds.

* Many companies want to ‘try and buy’ be open to trying a new approach.

* Unless you have a PhD in Astrophysics and speak 5 languages, be realistic about your employment options and salary requirements.

* Don’t tell me you are in a hurry, you are important or you are busy. I will gladly hurry you OUT.

* Do NOT name drop. EVER. I don’t care how important you think you are or who you may have seen from a distance. Unless you are interviewing for a Senior Marketing Role or that of a
Government Lobbyist, it is of no interest whatsoever.
A Variety of part-time jobs, spoken languages, travel, University Degrees, and even a PhD are wonderful. Add to that a willingness to travel and learn, and take whatever is thrown at you, will
Guarantee success. Also, remember it is a big world out there with a lot of competition. The world does not stop doing business after 5 pm. Nor does your work day.

If you don’t want Companies to take advantage of you, don’t try and take advantage of them. Salaries, benefits and perks must be earned.
There are endless opportunities out there, it is a big world. Open your eyes, consider the options, EVERYWHERE, and go for it.
You might be surprised.

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Hiring in the New World!

Due to the nature of our business, everyday someone calls me and complains about the lack of courtesy shown by large corporations towards potential employees.
People send resumes through job sites and never ever hear anything from the company again.

The problem with this, is that often these are the same companies selling to the very people they are ignoring. Whether a financial institution, clothing retailer or grocery chain, the lack of response can often result in the individual taking their business elsewhere, and telling their friends, which results in hundreds of thousands of dollars of lost revenue, simply because no one considered following up with a response.

The rhetoric that there are too many candidates and not enough time is not valid. A simple, polite form letter is at least a beginning.

Some large corporations have such outrageous hiring practices that they have rendered themselves impenetrable, the employees hiding behind their ludicrous policies in some cases are arrogant beyond belief, on one hand publicly decrying the difficulty in recruiting new talent while all the while putting up huge barriers. Massive arrogant, unimaginative HR departments who hide behind policies and voicemail. The instigators hiding behind meetings, outrageous rules, systematically blocking out new ideas and small creative companies who could bring them the imagination required to help compete in a fast paced global economy.

Having only ‘preferred vendors’ who meet ridiculous criteria, often set out by the vendors themselves to limit the entry of new players onto the field. Smaller players who are creative and have a different approach are not even reviewed, which is outrageous. Many use software packages to receive and filter resumes based on ‘key words’, but that eliminates all those who did not know what the critical ‘key word’ was. Someone may have extraordinary experience and imagination, but as they are missing 2-3 keywords on a resume, they are overlooked.
This is people being evaluated, not widgets. Understandably, if it is a technical widget which must be exact to the millimeter, that is one thing, but humans with varied knowledge, educations, experience and life history cannot be evaluated this way. Using software to go through resumes is insanity. Part-time employment, awards, international travel or experience, a variety of spoken languages, hobbies are not evaluated. The ability to learn is not. Like many things, if you have experience in a variety of industries, learning a new one is not a big stretch. Someone who has worked in complicated manufacturing can easily understand banking or retail, it is simply a matter of learning a new vocabulary and applying the ability to learn.

The other problem with these huge HR departments is that recruiters are trying to work cross industry. A 24 year old clerk with no business industry experience is simply not qualified to interview engineers, accountants, lawyers and IT professionals. Each of these specialties seek different skill sets, and only someone from the industry can understand the differences.
The example I have been using of late is the new replacement of the Champlain Bridge. There will be a requirement for a multitude of engineers, Structural Engineers, Seismic Engineers, Oceanic Engineers, Engineers specialized in Cement, Steel, Load Bearing and Balancing, and more. These people MUST be interviewed by their peers, not a 24 year old with no experience in the industry.

We need to put the hiring back in the hands of the Managers, so potential candidates can be evaluated and hired by their peers. Likewise doing references, as HR or a background checking company will NEVER get the type of references someone will acquire by going through the back door. The best references are NOT official. They are off the record.

Creative, competent, motivated people are the key to a successful company.

Proper hiring can be time consuming, expensive, but can make or break a company’s success. The knowledge base of every company walks out the door at night, and hopefully returns the next day. Without the people, there is no company. People need to be hired and managed with respect and decency, not treated with contempt.

Preferred vendors, price wars on recruiters and consulting firms, job boards, on-line job boards are not the best way to seek out the brightest and the best, they are the way to seek the mediocre, and the job hoppers. The best people are usually not seeking employment and need to be sought out and wooed. They must NOT be treated like a commodity.

Then comes the rhetoric on salary scales. Once again the so called research by HR and specialized firms does not take into account all the possibilities for compensation, as well as the fact that not everyone is motivated by same thing. The one of a kind skill must be compensated as such, and not put into the category of people with ‘x’ years of experience and a specific education.

Currently there is a huge demand for people with ANALYTICS experience, and we actually have interviewed many people with those skills. Someone with NO university education and 20 years of IT experience in 3 companies is NOT the same as someone with a PhD in Physics and Mathematics with 10 years of experience working with advanced technology and having been educated in 3 countries at the best universities in the world, speaking 3 languages and extensive experience developing algorithms to solve a variety of problems.

Trying to suggest that the PhD only has a few years of experience and planning to compensate him based upon years of experience is ludicrous and frankly insulting. The company with the imagination to pay him the REAL market value for his skills will hire a genius, and there are companies out there who will do just that. New York and California corporations are hiring these individuals for $500,000 plus incentives. Offering them $90,000 is simply insulting and ignorant, and will ensure that they will stay for a short while and then be gone, the knowledge along with them.
Our Company is a small independent Consultancy working with Fortune 100 and 1000 clients internationally, as well as funky start-ups. Salary scales range from $100 – 500,000. We meet people from all over the world with extraordinary backgrounds and life experiences, which give them a view on the world and best practices from afar.
For example, we are currently working with one individual with extensive experience in Banking and Mobile applications to seek a position within a Financial Institution in Hong Kong. He is not Asian.

Often we find ourselves seeking individuals with ‘tough skills’. These are people who are highly valued and can bring enormous success to the right company. Why would we want to put them in a corporation obsessed with salary scales based on ridiculous criteria like age and number of years of experience?? A company which does not value imagination or a cross section of types of experience will only seek to pigeonhole people and the bright ones will not thrive, they will leave.

Companies need to recognize that 10 people with 5 years of experience and a Bachelor’s degree are not great criteria for establishing worth.
Have they travelled? Worked abroad? Speak other languages? Held part-time employment? Have super hobbies?
Someone who has worked in a small start-up where people worked on average 50-60 hours a week and had to get involved in just about everything imaginable in order for the company to survive, is not the same as someone who worked 35 hours a week in a huge corporation on one system. So how can a large company even begin to suggest that they should be paid the same?

Whether seeking individuals for permanent or Consulting mandates, all the above criteria MUST be evaluated.

Huge multi-national Consultancies are putting very junior associates on assignments for exorbitant hourly rates into companies to give advice which is frightening. Knowing how to ask questions and write a massive report but having absolutely NO industry experience is not a guarantee for success.

A much smaller more nimble firm will have the freedom to seek out the expert with industry experience who may not be the best at writing comprehensive pretty reports, but will certainly understand the issues and can formulate ideas which make sense in the global marketplace of today, and for a fraction of the cost.

How do you want to write your legacy?? Genius like Steve Jobs who totally thought outside the box and hired some of the brightest people imaginable with totally different skill sets, and paid them a fortune, or someone who hid in their office and followed the rules??

Up to you.

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Job Posting Boards – Candidate Perspective

Remember what your mother always told you? You get what you pay for……this advice is particularly applicable in the use of job boards.

All the so-called experts are expounding on how fantastic and easy it is to get a job through the internet, and they all have examples of friends who have successfully found a job that way. The big question is, do you want a job or a career?

Unfortunately, a lot of people are swayed by articles they read In newspapers, and believe everything they read. One must remember that newspapers are in business to make money, and not everything that is reported is fact, nor are a lot of the journalists particularly adept at research. They tend to give their opinions, however narrow, and that is where this is going.

We know one very nice gentleman who has now been unemployed for a year…why you ask? Certainly not due to his lack of technical skills, but unfortunately because he was naïve and posted his resume on half a dozen job boards. You ask, what is wrong with that?  Well, unfortunately, once you publicly post your resume online, anyone has the option of taking it and doing with it as they so desire, which means that if 5 personnel agencies take it and send it out to whomever they wish for whatever position they wish, you have no legal recourse. His problem? Several copies of his resume were sent to the same companies for all different positions at all levels of salary…..he looks like he is desperate and incompetent, although he neither the one who approved the submission of his resumes to these companies nor the positions for which he was submitted. Yes, that does defy reason, but, under the law, by placing his resume in public domain without limitation, this is the type of problem people encounter.

Resumes have a funny way of turning up on the desks of  people’s bosses, and the credibility of the individual is lost forever.

Another sad anecdote, someone had their resume turn up in the human resources department where they work, and are required to have Security Clearance as they deal with the military and federal government on sensitive issues. The human resources manager called the individual to her office, and repeatedly asked if the person was happy or looking for new employment, the individual repeatedly said no, he was happy. He was told ‘that is a pity’, when she called security who promptly cancelled his access codes, went through his desk, briefcase and coat, and escorted him to the door under armed guard. In seeking legal advice, he was asked how many times he was asked if he was happy or looking for a new job, when he answered over 5, he was then told that it was legal and he had no legal recourse against the agency who sent his resume unsolicited to his employer. He lost his job, he lost his clearance and was unemployed for a very long time.

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Job Posting Boards – Company perspective

During an economic downturn, companies are constantly seeking new and improved ways to cut costs. However, one must always be careful that you get what you pay for. So, if you are looking for the best possible talent, it will absolutely NOT be found on a
Job board.

Job boards are for entry level positions, and job-hoppers.

Human Resource departments are always seeking out ways to grow their empires and show the executives how valuable they are, and by presumably doing all the recruiting themselves, they can cut out executive recruiters. Which, of course, is a total fallacy.

All of a sudden, human knowledge and experience has been reduced to a few key words. So, according to this, someone with 4 years of experience who never did any part time work,  is of the same value as someone who worked constantly in other endeavors.  Someone with 20 years of extraordinary knowledge and experience is passed over as he does not fit in the category, and may be missing a couple of key words. Semantics.

The other problem with this particular approach, is that what often happens is hat other skill sets are far more important than what was originally described. So unless a resume is written which totally fulfills the exact criteria of the ‘key word’ search, it is not considered at all. The most important issue, is the ability to think clearly and solve problems, and absolutely no computer search program can determine whether or not someone actually knows correct grammar, to speak well, think clearly or make decisions.

We recently ceased doing business with a local software R & D company. The company writes very complex code and develops a product sold internationally. Slightly over  a year ago, they hired a new VP Human Resources, a woman, who, interestingly enough, has no experience in HR, software or business. She was a translator. Very articulate, bright, and self centered, she temporarily occupied an HR position while the incumbent  was on maternity leave. With a new resume stating “Acting VP HR” she applied for new positions and landed this job. She charmed the President of the company who employed her, and Immediately set forth to re-organize the department and fire those who didn’t have the image she wished to present. One of the people had been with the company for years, and was highly competent, however, she is dowdy.
Her next plan was to eliminate all external firms. 

First she insisted that all current vendors reply to a lengthy “Request for Proposal” regardless of their previous successes with the company. This was her way of saying that she would only do business with those she liked, as no one else was aware of her selection criteria. Only a scant 2 months later, she announced that only one firm would be doing business with the company and all others should cease and desist calling any of the executives of the corporation.


One must mention at this point, that the company was growing and looking for over 30 highly technical people with security clearance. Her next step was to post all the positions on job boards on the internet. She fulfilled her goal of receiving many resumes, so many so, that she had to hire 3 more clerks in HR to read and process them. As this took place during a recession, the internet was flooded with people seeking employment. As the clerks were not seasoned IT professionals, they had the hiring managers review and interview dozens of potential candidates as opposed to actually doing their work, which resulted in them working nights and weekends to keep up. They did hire successfully, from her point of view, and due to the economic situation, they offered low salaries which people snapped up. She looked like a genius. All those new hires, no fees to outsiders.

Now, you are probably wondering why I am continuing to discuss this highly successful woman. One year later, over 40% of her new hires had left. After one and one half years, over 50% had left. At the end of year 2, the company was obliged to cancel a $20 million project as it was impossible to complete on time. The company paid severance packages, outplacement, and was put up for sale. Their credibility in the market ruined.

It is not the cost that is important but the quality. The majority of the people hired had only accepted the positions as they needed to pay the rent. They were offended at the low salaries and felt absolutely no loyalty to the company. As soon as something better came along, they resigned and moved on.

The company went from 5% turnover to 50%  staff turnover.

You make the judgment call. 

 

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