A Saturday editorial in The New York Times was titled, "More Assaults on Fair Pay." They were taking a position on pay for publicly financed projects, but opinions rarely keep themselves within easily defined borders. Their position: "The state wage laws set a floor, making up for the bargaining power that workers lack. On taxpayer-supported projects, the appropriate floor is the prevailing wage paid in the area for that kind of job."
Why am I bringing this up? To point out the editorial board chose the title, "More Assaults . . ." and to say to you, again, that employee pay -- in addition to executive pay -- is a trending media topic. Which could mean that at some point in the future, your company's practices could be the topic of public conversation.
Now, I know that this week's topic was publicly financed hourly wages and it gave the paper a chance to stick it to the politicians (and back the unions), but The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Forbes.com have written not only about the living wage and minimum wage, but also about salaries in the last two years. And they will continue to. There's no reason for them to put down their pencils when the following is news:
"The effort to repeal prevailing wage laws sends the message that workers are making too much; they clearly aren't."
Let me be clear. I don't think anyone should tell you what you should pay your employees. What I am saying is that between social pressures and the corporatization of our culture, we are moving into a time when talking about your employees' salaries in a news feature will be no biggie, and no big surprise.
What's got me going? A couple of things. I just read a really interesting article on medical costs and the "avalanche of unnecessary medical care" in The New Yorker. In it, the writer highlighted 'a program that Walmart had launched for employees undergoing spine, heart or transplant procedures. Employees would have no out-of-pocket costs at all if they got the procedure at one of six chosen "centers of excellence" . . .'
Here we have the suprising but telling example. The merits of an employer's benefits program is being discussed publicly. Walmart, no doubt, is basking in the positive publicity. And, to tell the truth, their benefit program is not as surprising a topic as it would have been five years ago, since everyone has read so much about benefit practices during the introduction of the Affordable Care Act.
Think about it. The Walmart, Googles, Costcos and Apples of the world talk publicly and regularly about their employees and their work life. Start-ups do it all the time, too. Both ends are going to meet in the middle at some point, and your company could easily find itself in the table of contents, too.
In my last blog, I fooled around with the idea of salary ranges and the "rigamarole" involved with building them. One of the comments I got on the article was, "Virtually all of our paradigms and methodologies were invented in the 1950s and 1960s." Boy that got me thinking, as our employee pay practices truly haven't evolved very much since I started wearing jeans.
But what we do have is a discipline. One that's followed by most companies, so they can pretty much be believed when they tell you that you're being paid at a rate that is higher than 50% of the other pay rates in the marketplace for the job. If you are systematic in your compensation practices, that's a big plus for your side and one that should stand up well to public scrutiny.
So, the whole "rigamarole" of building salary ranges and salary structures is more than a mathematical exercise after all. And, if someone turned on a microphone to interview you, you could talk about the meaning of compensation in your company and your talent market, not just the numbers.
Want to step away from Excel and into the real world? Learn how to increase your influence through more than numbers in the popular eBook, Everything You Do (in Compensation) Is Communication. You'll find it @ www.everythingiscommunication.com. Margaret O'Hanlon, CCP collaborated with Ann Bares and Dan Walter to create this DIY guide to compensation leadership. Margaret is founder and Principal of re:Think Consulting. She brings deep expertise in compensation, career development and communications to the dialog at the Café. Before founding re:Think Consulting, Margaret was a Principal at Towers Watson.