Ikea’s Voluntary Pay Raise Experiment Deemed a Success

This photo taken Wednesday, June 3, 2015, shows an IKEA store in Miami. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
This photo taken Wednesday, June 3, 2015, shows an IKEA store in Miami. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

June  25, 2015– In March of 2015 this forum reported that regardless of the contentious minimum wage battles that have been plaguing the City, State, and Federal governments this year that some major corporate employers were voluntarily implementing pay increases for their hourly workers. (http://newyorkovertimelaw.com/blog/10-companies-that-have-vowed-to-raise-their-minimum-wage/)  Ikea, the furniture giant,  was one of the employers on that list.  The preliminary results of their voluntary wage experiment have been examined and what they reveal is dramatic and enlightening.

Ikea’s Chief Financial Officer, Rob Olson, has announced that as a result of the positive consequences of their voluntary wage increases that they intend to implement a second round of such wage hikes.   Ikea’s pay increase structure was based upon the relative cost of living in the various jurisdictions where it maintained stores.  Stores where the cost of living was the highest implemented more aggressive increases, creating greater financial parity among its U.S. Employees.

Olson made the announcement after summarizing what Ikea saw as the noticeable benefits to their company following the  implementation of the increase.   The first was a dramatic decrease in employee turnover from prior to the increase.  This factor alone reduced the company’s spending on the recruitment and training of new employees, whereby, balancing the cost increases of higher salaries.  Perhaps less tangible but, maybe, more significant was what Olson cited as the ability to recruit more qualified candidates for open positions.   The increase resulted in a noticeable increase in the hiring of more qualified applicants, which resulted in better employees, according to Olson.

So, while others debate the positive and negative consequences of wage increases and their impact on corporate employers Ikea seems to have settled the question as to whether major employers can sustain the impact of wage increases for their lowest earners.  They, clearly, can.

To view the entire article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/24/ikea-minimum-wage_n_7648804.html

Mixed News For Employees As 2nd Fiscal Quarter Begins

Photo by David Castillo Dominici.  Image ID: 100157605
Photo by David Castillo Dominici.
Image ID: 100157605

April 9, 2015-U.S. workers, as they attempt to understand what is happening in the American job market, are being confused by mixed economic signals which, simultaneously, forecast an economic expansion and economic slow down.  For many workers these mixed economic signals have made financial planning for their family’s future a nightmare.

Last week’s economic indicators foretold of some instability in the employment sector.   For the first time this year unemployment claims increased over the prior month’s filings, indicating, potentially, that an increased number of Americans were out of work.  Similarly, the hiring numbers for new employees also indicated a contraction over the, more robust, prior six months. These two factors, in isolation, could be the signs of a real economic slowdown and trouble for working families that have not yet recovered from the depths of the Great Recession. However, it may be too early to judge the state of the economy based on these factors because the relative increases, and contractions, were not significant enough to demand panic, yet.  There could be a number of fluctuating components, from the weather, to increased eligibility for unemployment filing, that may have contributed to these alarming figures.   The real test of whether this is a trend, or an anomaly, will be the results of April’s figures in these areas.

Meanwhile, there appears to be some hopeful signs for American workers as some of the country’s largest employers have begun to raise their minimum wage, voluntarily, above the Federal and state standards.   Employers such as Walmart, McDonalds, and AETNA have all begun implementing these increases, with other companies, likely, to follow suit.  While the raises they have instituted are not close to the wages some labor groups and government officials have been calling for, they are a positive economic trend for employees.

For employees looking to improve their standard of living by seeking higher wages, within, or outside of their current positions it may be a difficult time to forecast what the remainder of 2015 will bring.  For many, perhaps, fear of a second wave of economic downturn will inhibit their willingness to leave the security of their current position for a new, higher paying job.   It may also impede their confidence in seeking an increase in wages in their current employment, if they are employed. The net result may be a kind of economic stagnation and paralysis that is the result of the insecurity caused by years of economic fear and struggle for American workers.

 

 

 

 

Improving Workplace Productivity

 

Freedigitalphotos.net
Freedigitalphotos.net

April 2, 2015

What can be done to make American workers more productive?”

It would seem the simplistic answer to this question might come down to three things; money, money, & more money; however, recent studies of the American workplace seem to indicate that there are other, non-monetary components that contribute to employee productivity.  In fact, according to Ronald Friedman, author and Phd. specializing in workplace psychology, meeting workers’ emotional needs is just as significant as meeting their financial needs when it comes to employee productivity.

In a recent article from the Huffington Post entitled, “5 Surprising Things Ways To Be More Productive At Work” some of the following non-monetary suggestions were made to improve the workplace environment and productivity of American workers. These included:

1. Introduce Plant Life into the Work Environment– Studies have shown that plants in the workplace create a more pleasant and productive environment. Any type of foliage will do.  It is best to suit them to the environment, lighting, and the workers’ abilities to care for them when choosing plant types.

2. Temperature Control– Creating a comfortable temperature through thermostat,  or clothing, adjustments is vital to productivity. One study even found that typists made less errors at 71 degrees F than at lower temperatures.  The key is finding a comfortable temperature that works for the whole staff. Fighting over the thermostat is not conducive to a healthy work environment.

3. Save Your Exercise for the Gym– Whether it is to save time, or because workers are under the impression that physical activity during the conduct of business was beneficial, exercise on the job, actually, decreased worker productivity according to one analysis. Workers that ran on a treadmill while conducting business did neither, particularly, well.

4. Ambient Lighting and Noise– Low lighting and some level of noise have tested as positive to worker productivity. While blocking out all noise may seem like a good way to concentrate, it seems that the complete absence of noise is not the optimal environment for being productive.

5. Lose the Angles– If you have any say in the furniture in your work environment it seems that studies reveal that softer, rounded edges to furniture are more conducive to productivity than sharp, hard edges like conventional business furniture.

There are numerous factors that contribute to worker satisfaction and productivity. Financial compensation and remuneration are, certainly, important considerations; however, they are not the only ones. Most American workers, spending most of their waking hours in a workplace, are more productive when the environment of that workplace provides them with emotional comfort, security, and non-monetary features that increase their happiness.

Creative approaches to improving work environments can be keys to employee retention and satisfaction.

Detroit Man’s Work Pilgrimage Reaps Big Reward

February 5, 2015–  Traffic Jams.   Crowded mass transit.  Trains running late.  These are just a few of the reasons many employees,  justifiably, complain about their commute to and from work.  One man who never complains about his commute, and has never missed a day of work in 10 years, is James Robertson.   Robertson, a Detroit resident, unlike many of the chronic complainers may have the most valid reason of all to begrudge his walk to work.   That is because it is a 21 mile journey.  James Robertson has faithfully, in various stages of inclement weather, managed to walk this pilgrimage to the factory where he works full-time since 2005, without missing a day.

While Robertson has often been praised by his employer as a model employee,  it wasn’t until earlier this month that his dedication paid off.  When the story broke in the Detroit Free Press last week it caught the attention of 19 year old Evan Leedy on Facebook.  Leedy was so moved by Robertson, a stranger’s, dedication that he set out to raise enough funds to alleviate his inspiration of this daily journey.

To date, Leedy has raised, over, $150,000 for his mission of rewarding Robertson’s dedication, including several offers from car dealerships for free vehicles for this, previously, unassuming, quiet, picture of hard work and loyalty.  While Leedy and Robertson had not had the chance to meet prior to the campaign, the Detroit Free Press did arrange a meeting where Robertson expressed his, overwhelming, gratitude to the benevolent teenager.

James Robertson appears to be a model employee and citizen.   The story of Evan Leedy’s mission is, equally, powerful.  Perhaps the more gratifying story would have been if Robertson’s employer had been as proactive as Leedy in rewarding the efforts of this unique employee.

President Obama Grants Early Holiday Gift to Federal Workers

December 11, 2014-  President Obama signed an Executive Order on Friday granting all Federal agencies and Federal employees a Federal holiday this year on Friday, December 26, 2014.   With the Christmas holiday falling on a Thursday this year this order amounts to a four (4) day, paid, Federal holiday for Federal workers.

This action by the President is not unfounded in Presidential history despite the fact that this action comes in response to a circulated petition among Federal employees which initiated the request of the White House.   While the petition failed to garner the requisite 100,000 signatures which would require some review by the President it did receive support from thousands of workers.

Federal Directors have the right to require employee attendance in the interest of National Security, National Defense, health and safety, on a case by case basis.

It is unknown whether any State or municipal governments will follow the Federal government’s lead in this regard.

For a copy of the full Presidential Executive Order please visit:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/12/06/executive-order-closing-executive-departments-and-agencies-federal-gover

What Are U.S. Employees Most Thankful For?

November 20, 2014–  Next week, across the United States, loved ones will gather together and pause to take time to consider what they are most thankful for. People will reflect on their relationships, their loved ones, and their lives, as our nation celebrates Thanksgiving.

In the spirit of the Thanksgiving season OfficeTeam.com, via an independent research firm, conducted a survey of U.S. workers to discover what they were most thankful for at their places of employment. The survey, specifically, excluded an employee’s salary as a response with the anticipation that the gainfully employed would always be most thankful for having a job, at all. The results tell an interesting story, and create, perhaps, a guideline for employers to employee satisfaction programs that are not centered, solely, on monetary incentives.

The number one response for, almost, 1/4 of the respondents was “Friendly Co-workers“. In respondents between the ages of 18-34 years old this social component of a workplace environment captured 1/3rd of the top responses. For employees in the, over, 65 year old age bracket this category was tops, with, almost 50%, of the respondents. It seems that positive socialization was, clearly, a key factor in employee satisfaction and thankfulness across the country and across the age spectrum, perhaps, surprisingly, over a number of other work conditions.

In second place, employees were thankful for “good benefits programs“. The fact that this placed second may be a product of the fact that employees didn’t see this factor as valuable as the social environment in the workplace; however, it may also be a reflection of the fact that many of the companies surveyed didn’t have benefit programs at all, or, at least, ones worthy of thanks.

Additional thanks were recorded for an easy commute, supportive managers, flexible hours and some, miscellaneous, categories; however, none of these recorded gratitudes came close to the numerical results for the first two categories combined.

While it may be hard to draw too many conclusions from the results of the survey, it does seem to indicate that social factors ought to be a consideration of employers in examining their workplace environment. For full-time employees who spend, more than 1/2 of, their waking hours on the job, the social environment appears to bear considerable weight in an employee’s perception of their job and, most likely, on their productivity.

Creating a positive work environment is a win-win for employers and employees as it is no cost benefit program that makes employees feel better about their jobs. The complexity for employers is that it requires an uncommon level of complexity and attention towards hiring practices in order to illicit whether or not a prospective employee will fit into the corporate culture without engaging in discriminatory practices or rights violations. This is a delicate, but attainable, balancing act which most employers are not currently willing to embark upon; perhaps because they were, previously, unaware of how THANKFUL it would make their employees.

Happy Thanksgiving.