One of the pressing issues of our time is the minimum wage. The point at which the minimum wage should be set has always been in contention, and now more than any time in recent memory, it’s become a contentious issue.
Whatever the outcome, leaders in business and government and all other institutions who are prudent enough to put themselves in the shoes of workers at the lower levels of their organizations will recognize the importance of the minimum wage as a serious labor issue and understand its consequences.
The answer to this emerging issue (the first time of any significance since the minimum wage battles of the ‘60s) is already being addressed by the Los Angeles’s City Council, which recently voted to raise its minimum wage from $9 to $15 dollars an hour by 2020. Los Angeles joins other cities and states that have raised their minimum wages such as San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, Alaska, and South Dakota.
But it’s not simply minimum wage itself. The scheduling of working hours exposes some pretty drastic and unfair practices, such as on-demand scheduling–making it impossible for employees to plan time with friends, families, parent-teacher conferences, doctors visits, much less have a second job–and “clopening,” the practice of scheduling an employee to work a closing shift at night, then have that same employee work an opening shift the following morning, with only a few hours of sleep.
The spread of minimum wage battles is not confined to government. Companies such as Facebook and Walmart have already raised their lowest wages, and the question now becomes who will follow and when.
It strikes me that this issue will not fade or disappear without serious attention by leaders of our country’s institutions and a resolution of the problem that takes into consideration both fairness and profit. Leaders everywhere are either now examining or preparing to examine this issue and make decisions that will affect their organizations and the country as a whole. The emerging question now, especially for businesses, is how to go about it.
Start with Principles
When you conduct your business rooted in moral principles, you see everything through its prism. For example, when your boss or colleagues are successful, you are not threatened. Why? Your job security does not come from what contemporaries do; it comes from the moral-fiber within you. You share recognition and power. You visualize an ever-enlarging pie, where all share in the gains of the company, and at all levels of the organization.
That thinking extends to minimum wages. Yes, an organization must hold down costs, but not unjustly at the expense of its employees’ contributions — in particular its lowest earning employees. The close-fisted approach is an abject dismissal of principles and it yields both poor operating and financial results. In essence, the assumption about limited resources is flawed. The abundance mentality produces more profit, power, and recognition for everybody. You go from a scarcity to an abundance mentality by desiring mutual benefit.
In the matter of wages, effective leadership is not “my way or the highway” anymore (if it ever was to begin with). This may have worked in some organizations for shortened periods of time, but it’s an obsolete notion that fuelled the rise of unions in bygone days and led to unproductive and lasting discord.
Today, effective leaders influence others, creating a culture where people want to do things. A thirst for power or stinginess at the expense of your fellow employees will lead to your downfall; striving to share the rewards of success will put you at the top of your game. Indeed, organizational wage goals should always be considered from the viewpoint of both profitability and fairness to employees. And, yes, it’s probable that many organizations may be unable to provide the higher minimum wages we’re seeing today, but many more will be able to absorb the extra cost by reducing operating costs elsewhere. The spirit of American ingenuity is alive and flourishing. Give it enough room and it will get the job done.
We often read about leaders who pursue power above everything else; it does not serve the organization well. You always need to ask yourself: What can we do to make the organization, team, group or department better? With this clearly in mind, you will willingly share the fruits of the company’s labor with all members of the organization. Keep this factor well in mind when determining your organization’s minimum wage. Equity should rule your decision.