Recently I read about the owner of a landscaping company who was lamenting the difficulty of holding onto employees. He even had some who had quit via text message, leaving him in the lurch, or in his case, mulch. I've never gotten a quit-text--in fact, I barely text at all. But anyone who loses an employee in such a perfunctory way should consider looking in the mirror before pointing the finger. Every business owner has heard, "You get what you pay for." What part of that expression is so hard to understand?
Two of the world's largest companies recently succumbed to pressure to do the right thing and raised their hourly wages, though not as much as many people think they should. Walmart's move affected more than a million workers; the company touted it as "one of the largest single-day private-sector pay increases ever." McDonald's pay hike applied only to employees at the 1,500 U.S. restaurants the company owns, not the 12,500 run by franchisees, though many of them felt pressured to go along.
The dollar-or-so hourly increases were publicized as a big deal, and now the companies say they're beginning to see results. In a press release, Walmart U.S. COO Judith McKenna enthused: "We're seeing strong increases in both customer experience and associate engagement scores. Five straight quarters of positive comps in our U.S. business is just one example of how helping our associates grow and succeed helps the company do the same." And a report out this week on Fortune.com came with the headline: "McDonald's Says Its Wage Hikes Are Improving Service."
Amazing, right? Who could have imagined that by paying employees more, companies might actually get something in return?
It never fails to astound me how so many employers think they should be able to find loyal, conscientious employees without exhibiting the same traits themselves. As a business owner, that means taking care of employees by offering competitive pay, adequate hours and generous benefits. And, oh yeah, one more thing: the opportunity to advance. Living on a dead-end road may be a good thing, but working at a dead-end job is not.
Our company started out with six employees in 1999. Currently we have close to 850 and continue to add more each month. It's a huge responsibility to oversee so many people, but it's a huge privilege and opportunity, too. The quality of our workforce would be the envy of any company, and the reason is quite simple: we don't treat employees as an expense we're always trying to whittle down, but as an asset. We pay 20 percent more than the national average, give generous year-end bonuses and provide benefits that include an on-site nurse, subsidized healthy meals, extracurricular activities and yes, even ping-pong tables.
We promote our people often--one person who came here as an intern fewer than 10 years ago is now leading a $70 million division, and another who started out as a temp in manufacturing is now in charge of quality control on one of our product lines. And we offer stock appreciation rights, which are a far cry from startups' stock options--employees will never lose money with stock appreciation rights. The result of all this--hold onto your hat--is we get what we pay for, namely loyal and conscientious employees. And when you have better employees, everything works better. It's just common sense.
Heading a successful business--and believe me, it took a lot of time in the trenches to get to this point--is constantly challenging and always interesting. But at the end of the day what brings the greatest satisfaction is not that we're making money, but that by making money we can keep building the business and share its success with more employees.