18 January 2007

"Service Fodder" or Valued Employee?

(Wow! I was reading an ongoing debate on George Loper's site and responded to George with some of my thoughts. He actually posted them. I feel honored. So, here it is, reprinted from George's blog, for those of you who don't follow it.)

Dear George,

According to the Washington Post, the minimum wage bill passed the House of Representatives, 315 to 111. The proposed new minimum is $7.25. So, it looks like William Lyster will be firing employees relatively soon.

In his analysis, Mr. Lyster finds it ironic that the Living Wage campaign will necessarily result in fewer jobs. In his response, Mr. Foster finds irony in the concept that Mr. Lyster would bother to keep an incompetent employee on the payroll at $5.15, but wouldn't at $7.50. [Read whole ping-pong exchange at minimum wage index.]

I find irony in the whole debate. Mr. Lyster complains of disaffection among low-income workers, especially in the service industry, characterizing them as either new, uneducated, or possessing addiction problems which result in a lack of concern for and loyalty to their jobs.

I find the opposite to be generally true--disaffection comes not at the beginning of the job, but after the employee has been poorly managed, devalued, and/or mistreated. The term "cannon fodder" refers to footsoldiers put on the frontline in harm's way because they are considered expendable. In the workforce, we are creating "service fodder" by treating our entry-level workers as expendable. Both customers and employers show a jaw-dropping lack of respect to anyone earning poverty-level wages in the service industry.

If an employer invests in his/her employees--and investment can come in many ways, e.g., higher wages, increased educational opportunities, perks and benefits, kindness and consideration, competent management, positive work atmosphere, flexible scheduling, creative scope--then s/he will earn their loyalty and concern, which will, in turn, increase their happiness and involvement in their workplace regardless of their pay scale. Happy, involved workers generally give better customer service.

And since "loyalty" seems to be a buzzword for Mr. Lyster, I should add that loyalty is earned--it can not be taken for granted when most jobs are "at-will" contracts. It might be useful to think of each rung of employees as the "customers" of the next level above--what are you doing to keep them?

Just my two cents.

Tatyanna Patten (electronic mail, January 11, 2007)

No comments: