BY ROSE MILLER
There is a great deal of discussion,
posts, blogs and news reports regarding the
proposed wage increases throughout the
country. The news waves have been blowing
up with opinions. There are many arguments
on both sides and no one can have an opinion
without offending someone.
HR professionals are in a unique position
within this discussion because they
represent management while advocating for
employees, as needed. As a business owner,
I understand the business owner’s struggle.
We are a small company and the margins
achieved pay the bills. As with most small
businesses, labor costs are the largest chunk
of the expenses. When this particular cost
goes up, the entire cost of doing business
changes. Everything needs to be examined
and changes must be made to accommodate
the new reality.
As HR professionals, we also can’t ignore
what it takes to make a living wage today. Majority
of business owners think $15 per hour
is an unreasonable minimum wage. However,
my working class parents taught me a great
little formula to go by when I left home. The
formula was to make sure my monthly living
costs did not exceed one week’s pay.
Using this formula, an individual working
full time at $15 per hour would have $600 per
week and their cost of living (apartment,
heat, electricity, internet) would be $600
per month or less. Well today, good luck
So while both sides can make compelling arguments, I believe this disruption raises
many operational and human resources
issues. There are many strategies to review
before simply raising the cost of goods or
services. Companies should examine work
flows and determine realistic expectations
of how work can get done.
Perhaps it’s time to invest in newer, more
streamlined systems. Are there redundancies
that can be eliminated? A recent conversation
with a business owner, Tim said, “Yeah.
We did that a while back.” But we ask, “Have
you done it today?” Data is not static. A new
reality means you probably have different
metrics and needs today.
This disruption requires us to count
the cost of each head, so we need to make
sure every head counts. As the cost of the
workforce increases, there is also a call to
managing people better.
I read an article where someone witnessed
a low wage earner giving terrible customer
service. The argument was: Why pay people
like this more when they obviously don’t
deserve it? The new wage should never be
seen as an entitlement. Rather, make employees earn it.
We have a retail client, who has always
paid his employees $15 per hour. Hiring is
carefully done and the staff is trained to
give above average customer service. Staff
turnover is low and customers comment on
their pleasant shopping experience.
If employers are paying more, their expectations
should similarly increase. Are
managers taught how to get the most productivity
out of themselves and their staff? Does
management have good ways to measure
performance and outcomes?
Wage increases are hard to swallow. It all
comes down to personal philosophy on the
value of people and corporate governance.
There are value statements from either
side. Employees need to make wages they
can live on.
Employers need to expect workers to earn
their wages and have the work done well. HR
firms bring value with tools and methods that
can assist. We can only try to be a step or two
ahead of the next disruption.
Miller is president of Pinnacle Human
Photo Courtesy Pinnacle Human Resources LLC