Friday, 8 February 2013

Salary VS Hourly Demonstrates the Good – or Bad -- in an Employer

As I build a new digital media company from scratch, I do what any of us do – refer to previous experiences to base my decisions on.

Being a new company, we don’t have hefty bank accounts to draw big salaries from. However, thinking back to being an hourly contractor throughout my career, I’d hate to impose that lifestyle on any of my staff.

Hourly employees – be it permanent, contract, full-time or part-time – are all abused by their employer, by the very fact that they are hourly.

Today’s mega snow storm affecting major cities across North America including Toronto, New York, and Boston provides a timely example. Between 25-30cm of snow is expected in total, literally shutting down most of the areas affected. National and local governments and local law enforcement agencies are advising people to stay home – it’s not safe to drive and slippery to walk.

Salaried employees that take the day off as a “snow day” still receive pay for the day. On days like these when I was on staff someplace, I’d look out the window, call my office and advise them I wasn’t coming in because of the weather, and go back to bed for a nice sleep in.

Hourly workers that take the day off as a “snow day” do not receive pay for the day. On days like these, despite all the warnings about going out, I’d actually seriously consider risking getting stuck – or worse – just so that I’d make my hourly pay for that day. I’d get up extra early, hoping that the forecast and the roads would clear enough for me to make a dash for the office.

As with many things in life, the lessons we learn often come from a good thumping of reality. Here’s my thumping which has forever changed my view on hourly wages, and employers that pay any of their people this way.
I was working for a mid-sized financial firm on a term contract – essentially I was on staff, but didn’t get any of the cool benefits of staff, and there was a start and an end date to my employment (the “term” of the contract). My contract was actually ending, and although there was talk of putting me on full-time permanent salaried staff – there always is, but they never do – my contract was ending.

It was the last day of my contract, and although they offered a renewal, the terms of that renewal weren’t very appealing, so my time with this “wonderful” employer was up. I should add that I really enjoyed working at this company, the people were among the nicest, warmest souls I’ve ever encountered. Just their human resources practices weren’t very – well – human.

My last day of work was actually a big day, as a major telephone conference was taking place, and being in the role I was, it was my responsibility to be in the office and facilitate that conference, to ensure it actually took place.
Mother Nature had other plans, and we were hit with a major snow storm, similar to today’s. There always appears to be one big blast of winter early in February and this was it.

All the news shows were warning people to stay home, as the weather was frightful outside.

Although it was my last day, on a contract, I braved the snowy stormy conditions and trudged my way into work.

It wasn’t that bad actually, and I allowed for enough extra travel time by leaving early, that I actually got to work early that day.
The conference call was saved!

But I was almost all alone. Out of about 1,000 people in that office, only about 10 of us actually showed up that snow day.

I was the only one that was on contract. And certainly the only one who’s last day it was.

Everyone on salary enjoyed a day off, while I struggled to make a few hundred dollars – which is peanuts in today’s economy.

The company never even offered a heart-felt thank-you for my efforts. At the end of the day, I turned in my laptop, pass card, and files, grabbed my coat, looked at my office one last time, and left.

Since then, I have always believed – and still do to this day – that any company that really cares about it’s people NEVER, EVER, places anyone on hourly wages.
And although I’m starting a mega company from scratch, I am adamant to NEVER, EVER, place anyone on hourly wages either.

I’d hate to put anyone in my company in a situation where they actually debate risking their health and safety so that they don’t lose hours of pay.

From a money perspective, hourly employees save companies dollars – but it still doesn’t make sense. Because when someone is stressed about getting to or from the office because of circumstances beyond their control, just so that they can put in their hours, and earn enough to pay their bills, they aren’t thinking straight.

And people that aren’t thinking straight make mistakes, develop attitudes and prejudices about their employers, their boss and their colleagues.

And that’s not a healthy nor productive work environment.

And ultimately the work environment is an indicator of how good – or bad – an employer the company really is.

We want to be the best employer period.

We want to treat our people right, from day one.

Does your company treat you right? If anyone is on hourly – the answer is no.

And maybe you should consider a career change to an employer that cares – really cares – about their people?

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