I received an e-mail earlier this morning from a friend -- let's call her Sally -- exclaiming that she finally got what she deserves from a recent salary negotiation. Sally is in her early twenties and works as a medical technician at a very large East coast teaching hospital. She is also pursuing a MS degree during her evenings and weekends, and entered her current position a few years ago upon graduating with a BS degree. Her expertise and job responsibilities have steadily grown over this period, and the institution has increased her remuneration by small annual percentages. Two weeks ago, the division director presented Sally with yet another small increase for the coming fiscal year. Despite the current employment climate, Sally said "thanks, but you’ll have to do much better than that."
Many of her friends to whom she related this encounter said "girl, you're crazy -- with all the cut-backs in funding and lay-offs that are going on, where to do you get the chutzpah to ask for more of an increase than everybody else?" While I don't know how Sally responded to her friends, she outlined her value to the department based on knowledge of internal procedures and protocol, attained level of skill and high work ethic to the director, requesting a minimum increase of 15% -- and got it.
What's the point? First off, far too many organizations compensate staff as if they're a commodity -- defined by Wikipedia as "some good for which there is demand, but which is supplied without qualitative differentiation across a market." Worse yet, they fail to realize that by not remunerating outstanding talent according to their organization value, they are nurturing sub-optimal performance over the long and short haul. This is especially egregious when a given job description is best performed by individuals who are not aggressively self-focused or "just in it for the money" -- the antithesis of a good sales rep, for instance. The rub here is that many great employees are undercompensated and exploited by a combination of poor management and a lack of sufficient self-esteem.
Great employees are like great suppliers. The raw material, design, production and delivery are easily priced, but most of us are not running gas stations. Outstanding organizational performance is accomplished and sustained in large part via consciously nurturing the very best resources -- and the human one is paramount. Sally did herself and her organization a great service. Just imagine how much more productive and creative her unit could be if management becomes proactive in the realm of compensation and justly rewards their more timid top performers.