USA Today asks a very troubling question: “Is the annual pay raise dead?” When clients ask me about the job market, I tell them that the problem isn’t jobs. It’s getting paid. Wage increases have ticked up at about 2%, which for most people is not enough to cover increased costs. Bob Sullivan of CNBC, the author of the USA Today article, cites an expert from AON Hewitt, who said, “Base salary increases are flat. We don't see the prospect of that changing much at all in the next several years.” Rather than annual salary increases, many companies are turning to bonuses as a way to reward productive employees while better controlling labor costs.
The article goes on to state that employee turnover is high and “critical-skill” employees are hardest to retain. Go figure. Why should employees be loyal to companies that only care about the bottom line? They are following market forces just as their employers are. I agree with an expert quoted at the end of the article who urges workers to know and refine their most marketable skills. But I’ll take it one step further: Rather than hope that your current employer rewards you with a bonus, always be ready to find a better employer if your compensation is not fair or if a better option is available. Treat your career like a business.
The job numbers from last month are exciting. The unemployment rate is down to 5.5%, which is good in itself. However, there is even better news. Bloomberg reports that leading retailers are struggling to keep their lowest paid employees. It will take a while for employers to move the needle up on salary, but this is a good start. Bloomberg depicts the current situation as a conflict of interests between investors and employees. I disagree. As lower paid workers make more money, they will spend, which means everybody wins. The article also demonstrates how much it costs a company to replace employees. The raises leading retail companies have given to their employees can be seen as a way to save costs related to turnover. The news is good. Let’s be happy for a little while.