Editor's Blog


Five O'clock Knock

January 16, 2012


Ah, the end of the workday and time to settle back in my office chair. I can finally spend time getting caught up on paperwork and preparing for the day ahead. Instead of having people knocking at my door all day long and saying, “Got a minute?” I’d be out of crisis mode and problem solving. At least, that was the plan.

But invariably at 5 o’clock a staff member would be knocking on the doorframe - I had an open door policy - asking me the inevitable question, “Got a minute?”

Based on the time of the day and the pressure in their voice, I already knew that I was about to be taken hostage. What did they want a minute of my time to talk about after the official end of their workday? Well, at that time of day, it was to either let me know they had another job offer or to ask me for a raise so they could stay.

What time of year did the 5 o’clock knock happen most? You guessed it…our busiest times. I was now forced into playing defense and trying to talk the employee into not jumping ship so I’d have to sweeten the deal to keep them. Most often that meant overpaying them to keep them onboard. And when this would occur I would feel like a hostage. I hated feeling like a hostage but at that point in my business career I didn’t know how to be proactive. So, I caved more times than not.

Sound familiar?

Once an employee knows they can hold you hostage they will be back again. Frankly, I was angry at them. But over time, I came to realize it wasn’t their fault. I had never defined how someone moves ahead and makes more money at our company. I had never even considered what it was like for them to have to come and ask me for a raise.

When I pulled myself away from the anger and saw it from their perspective, I realized this arbitrary process of getting a raise was bad for me and bad for them. That’s when I decided to create a fairer system, which was based on objective demonstrated performance tied to Salary Levels that matched our Organizational Chart.

It defined in writing for all to know how you moved up the ladder and how you could make more money. Later on, the extra sweetener was the opportunity to sell more things and make more money. Having Salary Levels even helped me hire better.

Now, I could sit with in a hiring interview with a new candidate and share with them where they could go in the future and how they could make more money with us. It was the first time I didn’t let these potential staff members force me into overpaying them at the expense of my own staff.

The hiring conversation became more like, “We don’t know where to place you along our Salary Levels, so over the next 90 days we will be doing both in-house testing and real-world testing to see where you fit. Know that this system will ultimately let you make more money as you demonstrate you’re worth it. We will even help you get better because it’s in everyone’s best interest. You will never need to guess or hope a raise is coming…you’ll know!”

Know your policies and procedures

Give your employees a system that addresses their "WIIFMs."

Remember, good policies and procedures known by everyone will also help people be effective at your company and demonstrate they’re worthy of more compensation. Good policies and procedures are designed to empower people to handle what comes up 80% of the time successfully.

Think positively about your staff and yes, even learn how to love them…then…create a fair set of rules to play by. Make sure they get a voice in how you do your work, as well. This is what builds buy-in and longevity at your company. Ultimately, everyone will win.

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