Column: The shoe is now on the other foot

Douglas Pepin

BY DOUGLAS PEPIN
GUEST COLUMNIST

Over the last year I have noticed noise about professional performance, compensation and retention. It appears that history may be repeating itself, but with an added cultural twist.

After the last recession many professionals felt left behind in both pay and professional worth. Many received only small increases, if they received them at all. This was not the fault of the organizations, which were doing everything they could to weather the storm and survive.

Some employers also failed to provide costly continuing education and prepare their professionals with new advanced skills that would be needed in the future. This reminds me of a story where the Operations Director asked the CEO, “What if we put all this training in an employee and then they leave?” The CEO’s response was, “What if we don’t and they stay?”

When the recession ended, the fastest way to make up for the pay gap was for employees to leave their current employers for an equal or advanced position at a 10 percent to 30 percent higher salary, versus remaining where they were and receive an average pay increase of only 3 percent to 5 percent. Again, the baby boomers who were loyal to their employers were seldom able to make up the difference, and their kids noticed.

Now, let’s fast forward to today. We’re at a time when the economy is thriving after a long and deep recession. The loyal baby boomers are leaving the workforce in record numbers. Those left are just waiting to achieve their retirement goals.

What’s sad is that many employers fail to understand that the culture of the workforce is rapidly changing. When the boomers are gone so goes the ingrained loyalty. Those advancing into management positions saw their parents get left behind by their employers, or forced out of the workforce entirely. Boomers “lived to work” versus the upcoming generation’s “work to live” attitude.

The shoe appears to now be on the other foot. Employers are being forced to show loyalty to their employees. Employers are being forced to provide “work-life balance.” Employers are being forced to provide a friendly, harassment-free work environment. Employers are being forced to provide interactive professional management. Employers are being forced to be competitive in “total compensation.” Employers are being forced to engage with their employees.

When employers are loyal and provide these things to their employees, maybe, just maybe, the employees may show loyalty in return.

Today’s workers have been said to lack work ethics and have been called lazy. I couldn’t disagree more.

It may take some time, but once the employer demonstrates that it is loyal to the employee, it will get loyalty and an exceptional work ethic in return. Remember, the shoe is on the other foot.

Douglas Pepin owns Advise-HR LLC, a business and human resources consulting firm in Stillwater, serving the Greater Twin Cities area.