Do You Need to Raise Your Wages?

Steve Boese had a great blog post recently titled “CHART OF THE DAY: Your semi-regular labor market update”. In it, Steve shares charts that show the unemployment rate dropping below 4% for the first time since 2000 and the average time to fill for positions continuing to trend upward.  It’s a great post, read it.  If you’re a business owner, HR pro, recruiter or anyone that remotely has a pulse on hiring, it gives credence to the pain you are probably already feeling.

Where can we find good people to fill positions?  Heck, I had someone tell me the other day, “I don’t know where I am going to find the bodies?” Forget great or good employees. This guy just wanted people that have a pulse!

Of all the information in Steve’s post, I found the following quote most relevant:

There is more to this story, and I need to take some time to look at what is happening with wage data, labor force participation, and the openings and quits rates, but these two charts and their data are both pretty revealing.

By the number of calls we have been getting recently for compensation studies and an increased rate of participation in the ones we typically conduct, I will tell you wage rates are being considered as a part of this equation, and I think they should be.

In general, wages have not risen in comparison to cost of living and especially productivity.  Many people will argue that this is contributing to the erosion of the middle class and the widening of the gap between the have and have nots.  Some will even say this wage problem will cause our next economic and social collapse.  You can read more about this and find more resources related to this topic here: Economic Policy Institute: The Productivity- Pay Gap.

This isn’t a post to exert a specific economic philosophy, but a post for business leaders to consider how much pain can you bear?  The definition of insanity is doing the same thing you’ve always done- i.e.- paying the same thing you paid during the recession, which is now ten years ago- and expecting a different result.

You can change a lot of things when it comes to increasing your competitiveness for people, but one of the most cut and dry things you can do is raise your wages.

If you’re struggling with this:

  1. Get market data and see where you fall on the wage spectrum by geographic location, job title and other relevant criteria.
  2.  Based on your comparison:
    1. If you are leading the market, you shouldn’t be feeling as much pain as others. If you are, you need to examine what is causing this.  An employee engagement survey may be a good place to start.
    2. If you are meeting the market, can you afford to move your wages and/or other direct and indirect compensation offerings up a notch to attract the best active and entice some passive job seekers? If you are in this bucket, I would suggest looking at a variable wage component like a bonus structure to move your packages up a notch and tie it to business outcomes.  Do an analysis of what an increase in varying degrees would cost you relative to what turnover and positions going unfilled for a long time costs you.  If you want to talk details about how to quantify what turnover and unfilled positions are costing you, email me.
    3. If you are lagging the market, can you afford not to move your wages up?   Whereas in the matching the market scenario, variable compensation like a bonus structure may be the best way to get competitive, if you’re lagging the market in base wages, something like this probably isn’t going to help you all that much.   Again, do an analysis of what an increase in varying degrees would cost you relative to what turnover and positions going unfilled for a long time costs you.  Again, if you want to talk details about how to quantify what turnover and unfilled positions are costing you, email me.

There are micro and macro forces that impact your ability to hire and retain people just like there are macro and micro forces at work in whether or not your business is and can remain profitable.

With the market (aka the macro) strong in economic indicators leading to what should be increased profits for most, it is imperative to examine where you are in wages relative to that macro picture. It will help you make wise decisions that will sustain your profitability through the talent you recruit and retain.

Are you lagging, meeting or leading the market in wages?

 

Like this post? You might also enjoy:

The Conundrum of Incentive Pay

What You Pay Does Matter

Mary Ila Ward

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