Author Archives: Shawn Herbig

Why Pay Is ALWAYS Too Low And Why It Doesn’t Matter

Date: July 31, 2012 | Shawn Herbig | News | Comments Off on Why Pay Is ALWAYS Too Low And Why It Doesn’t Matter

Your employee engagement surveys have been completed, and the research shows that your employees are dissatisfied with their compensation levels. Should you be worried?

The good news: You’re not alone. Employees are never satisfied with what they’re paid.

The better news: It (typically) doesn’t matter.

If your company compensates its workforce at a rate that’s competitive within both your industry and region, research consistently shows that increasing compensation does little to improve employee satisfaction or performance.

While responses vary from position to position (for example, finance personnel tend to be more realistic when gauging relative compensation levels than line workers), employees usually think they should be paid more than they actually are. Thus, the majority respond negatively when surveyed about their salaries or hourly wages.

Obviously, if an employer chooses to pay below market rates, it risks increased turnover. Good workers will leave, while poor workers stay on. Plus, the talented job candidates needed to spur company growth will likely accept offers from competitors who pay better.

There are companies who choose to pay at the low end of industry pay ranges. These firms typically invest very little in employee training which offsets the cost of high turnover rates. The long-term effectiveness of this approach is debatable.

The goal is to accurately identify industry pay ranges, and set compensation levels within that range. The recommended approach is to research trade association data, instead of web-based data which often doesn’t consider regional and positional factors (such as the cost-of-living and shortages of qualified candidates), or to work with a research company like IQS Research, which often performs this type of industry research for its clients.

An exception to this approach is if your company demands a higher level of commitment from its salaried employees. For example, if your staff is expected to work a minimum of 60 hours per week while staff in comparable firms work 45 hours, salaries should be adjusted upward to reflect the increased workload.

The bottom line is that your compensation packages should be commensurate with the performance you require of each position, and competitive within your industry and region. In short, it should be at a level that attracts and retains the talent your firm needs (no less and no more). But that still doesn’t mean that your employees will give you high marks when they complete your employee engagement survey.

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What Can Research Really Tell You?

Date: July 26, 2012 | Shawn Herbig | News | Comments Off on What Can Research Really Tell You?

Many people don’t believe that marketing research can accurately predict everything about everybody. That’s not only true, it’s very rational.

There’s no disputing the fact that research can’t determine every detail about each individual’s behavior. But, it’s also true that 80% of human behavior is very predictable (including the fact that humans aren’t always rational).

For example, it’s impossible to predict whether or not you’ll be run over a bus as you leave the coffee shop. But, the likelihood of you getting into your car instead of your bike (after you dodge that bus), turning right at the next intersection, and then exceeding the speed limit, is extremely predictable.

That’s because well-crafted research identifies how you (and people like you) think when you make decisions. And, this series of thought patterns reveal with great accuracy how you’ll respond to the various choices you confront in your daily life.

So, is it research or Sherlock Holmes-like deductive reasoning that provides insight into your individual behavior? And, should you be uncomfortable with the precision with which these predictions can be made?

The good news is that “big brother” does not have nefarious intentions for you, or any individual. You can remain happily anonymous as profiles are developed on the shopping patterns of people who purchase the same kinds of merchandise you do.

Marketing research enables retailers to compile data on the preferred shopping experiences of specific demographic groups, then send targeted mailers to those groups which include coupons on the items they desire.

These retailers aren’t interested in who you are — they’re interested in what you want. This data enables them to provide you and your fellow consumers with timely information on how the retailer’s offerings meet your group’s needs.

Granted, the more information they gather on the purchases you make, the more accurate your individual profile becomes (and the more accurate the “Holmesian deductions” about your preferences become).

But, the end result is that the experience you receive from these marketing savvy companies become increasingly reflective of experience you prefer. And, thus, your experience is optimized.

Research helps companies serve you better, and helps you become a more effective and efficient consumer.

It’s elementary, my dear Watson.

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Recognition Can Replace Raises Sometimes

Date: July 24, 2012 | Shawn Herbig | News | Comments Off on Recognition Can Replace Raises Sometimes
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As employers ponder ways to reduce employee turnover and improve employee performance, the question of compensation versus recognition always comes up.

Upper management is rarely receptive to raising salary levels but also questions whether an “Employee of the Month” program would truly be effective. Surely, recognition can’t replace pay raises, can it?

Yes, sometimes..or at least they can be complementary.

Employees — like all complex human beings — are motivated by both extrinsic and intrinsic factors. Among the external, tangible factors, compensation levels are certainly important. But, we humans also have a strong internal need to have our efforts recognized by both our superiors and our peers.

Social beings don’t live on bread alone.

Companies who excel in employee engagement understand this dynamic, and strive for a 50/50 balance between these extrinsic and intrinsic factors. Salaries and wages should be set at levels that are competitive within the industry and region, and commensurate with the effort being required. If this is not done attrition is likely to ensue and it will make talent attraction very difficult.

In addition, a variety of programs should be established that not only recognize, but honor the innovation and effectiveness of individual employees. These can include awards given at monthly meetings and annual conferences, and publicized throughout the organization via newsletters and emails.

The key is not to have these honors bestowed in a vacuum. The more widely these achievements are recognized, the deeper the satisfaction is felt (and the more the company benefits from the resulting motivation — from both the honoree and his or her peers who crave similar recognition).

A wonderful example is a CPA firm which regularly awards beautifully crafted lapel pins in attractive jewelry boxes to employees who go “above and beyond” their individual responsibilities. The pins are rarely worn by the recipients, but are proudly displayed in their boxes in the employees’ cubicles.

Such tangible badges of honor continually stroke the achievers’ egos, reinforce the benefits derived from a job well done, and improve employee motivation and retention.

So, while recognition programs may not replace pay raises, they augment compensation packages in a way that addresses both the extrinsic and intrinsic needs of the workforce.

That’s a small price to pay for improved morale, increased productivity and reduced turnover.

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Scientific Research Vs Town Hall Forums In City Research

Date: July 17, 2012 | Shawn Herbig | News | Comments Off on Scientific Research Vs Town Hall Forums In City Research

When confronted with a major civic issue, what’s the best way for a city manager or mayor to determine the “will of the people”?

With the best of intentions, most leaders set up a series of town hall meetings to give concerned citizens an opportunity of express their opinions.

Democracy at its finest … right?

Perhaps. But it’s hardly unbiased data collection at its finest. And it rarely represents the opinions of the typical resident of your community.

Town Hall forums are usually attended by a small number of highly energized people who are often directly involved with the issue being considered, but whose opinions rarely represent those of the majority.

It’s a mistake to base public policy solely on the input of these passionate forum participants simply because they “care the most.” Responsible city officials need to understand not only the agendas of those citizens shouting from their soapboxes, but the concerns of the citizenry at large (which often varies significantly from the “squeaky wheels”).

That’s where scientific research comes in. Surveys subjected to the rigors of random sampling and validity checking assure that the opinions gathered are proportionally representative of all groups within the community. Therefore, the results can’t be manipulated by highly-organized special interest groups.

IQS Research recommends a mixed mode approach that includes a combination of town hall forums and scientifically administered telephone and online surveys. The forums give activists their cherished and important opportunity to vent, while surveys afford all groups within the community an equal chance to be heard.

While more challenging in this age of the mobile phone, telephone surveys remain very effective (land lines do still exist and cell phone directories are available; you can even do mobile surveys). There are also logistical challenges to online surveys, which is why it is critical to enlist the services of a reputable marketing research firm.

Door-to-door and intercept surveys (stopping people on the street) aren’t typically recommended for a variety of reasons. And, direct mail surveys are rarely used due to their high, relative cost.

Every effort should be made to ensure that important civic decisions represent the best interests of the majority of the citizens affected. And, the only way to determine the concerns of everyone within the community is through scientific research.

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Apathy vs Hate In City Research

Date: July 12, 2012 | Shawn Herbig | News | Comments Off on Apathy vs Hate In City Research

Let’s suppose you’re a city manager responsible for serving residents and companies in your beloved hometown. These folks are the lifeblood of any community, and it’s your job to keep them happy.

Yet, all they hear about is how terrible your city is. Certain groups loudly complain about underfunding of your parks and bike paths. Other groups scream about the lack of resources being allocated to at-risk youth programs. Still other groups are mobilized against the tax breaks being offered to corporations considering relocating to your area. It’s unfair. . . unconscionable. . . an outrage!

What do you do?

As difficult as it might seem, you ignore the highly-orchestrated hysterics of the political activists and seek a dialogue with the vast majority of residents and potential residents who are focused on their daily lives and not engaged in the life-and-death struggle for public resources.

The surprising fact is that the majority of citizens who constitute the backbone on any community typically neither love nor hate it. They are rational people who recognize that reality lies between the extremes. They’re turned off by the rhetoric and confusion, not by your city.

Unfortunately, their silence doesn’t drown out the apoplectic cries of the highly publicized “victims.”

This is the apathy versus the hate equation. You might think that most people “hate” you and your city. They hate everything you’re doing, and hate everything you stand for.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

But the sad part, is not that people hate you, but that most people don’t seem to care.

On the one hand, you’ve got a super loud, but small group of people. On the other, you’ve got a very quiet, very large group of people who are very detached from what you do.

And that is the group you need to hear from, because they’re the ones who will ultimately help you find the best choice for your city.

As researchers, we are often called on to help city managers learn the opinion of the majority of their city’s population. They want to learn what the majority really wants, rather than ignoring them in favor of those loud few.

That’s why you as a city manager needs to understand the important — very important — difference between hate/anger and apathy from your constituents. One is louder, but the other is more powerful.

Because if you end up angering the apathetic group, they’ll remember it come Election Day.

Check back for our next post, as we discuss some of the different scientific research methods city managers can use to learn the true will of the people in making the best decisions.

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