If you haven’t seen it, there’s an interesting article in The New York Times titled, “Generation Grumpy: Why You May Be Unhappy if You’re Around 50”. The article talks about how people usually become more mellow with age BUT not the current group of middle aged Americans (aka the “Grumpy Middle”).
My take from the article is that this group of people missed out on their peak income earning years because of economic downturns like the Great Recession and the growing wealth gap.
While we continue to say that money isn’t a primary motivator when it comes to work, I do believe not being paid a competitive wage can be a deterrence to engagement or contribute to disengagement. Employees need to feel they’re being paid enough. That doesn’t mean they won’t turn down a pay increase if you offer it. But they do need to feel that they are being paid fairly.
Which leads me to the title of The New York Times article. I thought the label Generation Grumpy was interesting. If you look up grumpy in the dictionary, it says the word means “sulky”. Synonyms include curmudgeon and cantankerous. I’d argue that being a curmudgeon isn’t the same as being disengaged. And that, if employees aren’t being paid internally fair and externally competitive, it could lead to disengagement. They may be grumpy too…but that’s another story.
Organizations focused recruiting, engaging, and retaining employees need to examine their compensation and benefits programs. I once worked for an organization that promised employees that we would do benchmarking annually to make sure our pay practices were in line with the market. We also told employees that just because we did a benchmarking study, it didn’t automatically mean that pay grades were going to change. But we were committed to understanding what was happening and if adjustments needed to be made, we would do it.
It would be a huge waste of organizational resources to:
- Hire a new employee only to have them leave in the first year because of pay. The company has invested thousands of dollars sourcing, interviewing, selecting, and onboarding. It makes good business sense to pay employees what they’re worth.
- Lose a long-term employee for a better benefits package. Employees have years of knowledge and experience that brings huge value to the company. It would be detrimental to lose all of that because of a change in health care benefits or lack of flexible scheduling.
I understand that organizations have obligations to stakeholders and the bottom-line. But the people that help the organization reach their bottom-line goals are employees. And they need to be taken care of. That includes pay, benefits, and perks. It also means making sure company policies don’t create disengagement. So, if you haven’t done any competitive research lately about what’s happening in the market place, now might be the time. Especially before budget season…
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby at the 34th Street Graffiti Wall in Gainesville, FL13