Having just finished reading an interesting article on Forbes.com (Employees that stay in companies longer than 2 years get paid 50% less) I’m torn about the data. Not because I don’t believe that the data is not accurate (it definitely is) but because I believe the issue is very complicated and that each situation is very unique for both the Employee and the Employer. Now let’s try to co-create a solution.
Having been in the Online industry for 17 years now I know that the ability to earn higher Salaries is always available elsewhere and in quite a few cases it makes absolute sense to move on to a new Career opportunity just to increase your compensation package. Looking back, it’s a long way since my first job after grabbing my Marketing diploma – a whopping $20,000 Salary plus commissions.
Sometimes I could barely afford to buy Gas to get to work – but I’ll state that with a grain of salt considering I still lived at home and spent every dime on going out like a typical guy in his early 20’s.
Years later after entering the Online community the Salaries zoomed up quickly (especially after moving to a new Employer who had an open need in a tight labor market). With the right work situation and by bringing in the right collection of clients you got into some pretty funky money levels by taking advantage of new opportunities. For me it all came down to the timing and the motivation of why it was the right time to move on. Sometimes it was the market bubble bursting, other times it was working for Yahoo! Trust me on this one, that purple chair is very dysfunctional.
Moving on to new positions made total sense financially but sometimes a move wasn’t motivated by money. The position that I took on after Yahoo was actually for slightly less money. It all boils down to how much you love working somewhere.
Looking at your job, if you have a boulder of positive reasons of why you work there then carry on and enjoy yourself. If that boulder has been chipped down to a pebble then you need to look for a new boulder and find your passion again. This is why the timing of when to make a career advancement move is complicated for Employees. You have to figure out what is best for you and make strategic moves when the time is right.
EMPLOYERS POINT OF VIEW
To be successful, Employers have to do many things right but one of them is establish a pay structure for all departments. Why?
to be financially responsible
to ensure that people with similar skills don’t have a huge difference in their pay packages.
Unfortunately that pay structure and formality is a double edge sword because over time that guideline turns into a hard compensation wall and limits creativity and revenue growth is lost. How? By not being able to attract an exceptional candidate (who is making more than the typical internal pay range) or by being able to retain a valued contributor who is either asking for promotion and/or increased pay to match what they are being offered on the market.
If they don’t get promoted, get increased pay or recognized in some fashion for the value that they deliver to the organization then they typically leave. For Employers it’s a tough spot as they don’t want to break the bank on the Salary side but also don’t want to lose valued Employees or become a stepping stone/training ground for their competitors. The cost of re-training someone alone and losing revenue momentum is painful and the cost is a lot more than the raise would have cost the Employer.
INDUSTRY INSIDER’S RECOMMENDATION
My recommendation is be prepared to pay competitive Salaries (they don’t have to be market leading but they have to be competitive) with exceptional performance based incentives and a career road map. Internal promotions are a great way to keep employees engaged while allowing Employers to make significant changes to their pay package.
If there is nowhere to promote them to then put the focus on providing them with more opportunities to take on responsibility, change their title to showcase seniority and allow them to earn more via commissions (increased percentages or double dipping). That will answer their needs for respect, mental stimulation and increased overall compensation if they drive profit.
Not being prepared to change on the Human Resources side is one of the major reasons why companies remain stagnant or lose ground. The first handful of months will be pain free but as an Employee’s tenure grows so does their likelihood to leave.
For Candidates, while on one hand it’s been proven that annual Salary increases barely beat out the inflation rate (3% compared to 2.1%) – I recommend that Candidates focus on one thing before deciding to test the market:
Prove your worth.
If you can create a track record of success then you will give yourself the opportunity to earn substantial commissions and performance bonuses WHILE providing you the opportunity to get promoted, trigger compensation enhancement conversations or test the competitive waters.
For the record, the time for those compensation enhancement conversations is not in the first 6-9 months at your current Employer.