How Much Should You Pay Your Employees?

by Laura Labovich on January 26, 2017


Last week, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett vetoed the County Council’s move to raise the minimum wage to $15, granting a reprieve to businesses and dealing a blow to low-wage workers at the same time.

Minimum wage increases are generally seen as progressive, so why would a liberal Democrat like Leggett make such a move?

“I remain concerned … about the competitive disadvantage [the bill] would put the county in compared to our neighboring jurisdictions,” Leggett wrote.

The debate across the U.S. continues to rage — will minimum wage increases put companies out of business? Or will they help boost the economy by providing more workers with a living wage?

But, in the absence of a required minimum wage increase, how do you know that what you’re paying right now is, in fact, enough?

Plainly speaking, you will likely know if the amount you’re offering is too little if you get too few applicants. However, what if you get a lot of applicants, but few from experienced professionals? If your talent pool appears unqualified, it could be time to give a higher base pay a test drive.

And, what if your talent (especially your top talent) is fleeing?  If your best workers are ‘exiting stage left,’ implementing exit interviews across your departments is priority number one. An employee’s reasons for leaving can vary.

  • Do they feel that advancement opportunities are few and far between?
  • Do they feel disempowered?
  • Is the workplace dismal or discouraging?

Gathering honest feedback is your best bet when facing a retention crisis. Ultimately, if your employee is unhappy with his salary, the company will end up paying for that salary increase in other ways: namely, on the back end when recruiting for a replacement.

All these concerns unquestionably come into play. But in the end, it usually comes down to two things: the boss or the money. Workers will routinely drive farther and endure other hardships to earn heartier paychecks.

Getting this right is critical to the success of your business. Finding and training new people can be costly. According to, the cost of losing one employee is “16% of annual salary for high-turnover, low-paying jobs (those earning under $30,000 a year). For example, the cost to replace a $10/hour retail employee would be $3,328. 20% of annual salary for mid-range positions (earning $30,000 to $50,000 a year).”

Fix Internal Equity Issues

Before you concern yourself with what your competitors are paying, take a close look at your payroll; your employees are much more likely to become unsatisfied when internal equity is out of whack, than when their friend at a company next door is getting paid a bit more.

If you don’t think you can afford bumping up your employees’ base compensation, consider offering better benefits: more days off with pay, the opportunity to telecommute or perks like the ability to use frequent-traveler benefits for personal use.

And, if you haven’t analyzed your compensation structure, now may be the time. Charge human resources — or an employee, if you don’t have a whole department — with the job of defining each job and its accompanying expectations. That way, you have a document you can pull out and turn to when questioned, and that can help ensure that pay, especially for your top talent, is competitive and fair.

Don’t Guess, Find Proof

Geography plays a big role in compensation determination. The salary in Bethesda, Maryland, is going to be substantially higher than the salary for a similar job in Bangor, Maine.

To get your finger on the pulse of your industry and its accompanying wages:

  • Do research. Look online at sites like Indeed and Monster and see what they have to say about what professionals in your area are paid.
  • Network with industry professionals. Nothing compares to the hard data you’ll get from chatting up people in real companies. No, you won’t get the breadth of information that websites can reveal, but your facts and figures will be straight from the horses’ mouths. Join associations, attend seminars and don’t be afraid to ask: “What are you paying your top executives?”
  • Ask for a salary history (but don’t take it as gospel). It is only a rough estimate; their last job could have required less responsibility, it may have been a freelance position, or it might have been in another city., was a freelance opportunity or was in another city. Use this number as a guideline. (Ultimately, this could only be a short-term strategy, as the practice of asking for salary history may be banned as, just last week, “Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney signed a pending wage equity law on Monday that will prevent Philadelphia employers from asking job applicants to disclose their salary history, a measure intended to prevent discrimination and ensure equal pay for women and minorities.”)

Knowing how to retain the best employees is one of the little-known secrets to running a successful business. And, often, the best way to accomplish this is to pay them just a little bit more than the company next door.

Engage Your New Hires from Day One

by Laura Labovich on January 11, 2017

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How to Engage Your New Hires From Day One

The first day as a new hire is not unlike your child’s first day of school. Nerves and excitement can be at an all-time high, so it’s important for human resources and anyone on the new hire’s extended team, to capitalize on his vibrant energy for his new “home.”

Reports increasingly show that retention is positively tied to a smooth new hire experience. According to, 22% of employee turnover occurs within the first 45 days of hire; as a result, the on-boarding process must be a well-thought-out, white-glove type of exercise, especially since HR does not tend to welcome the idea of looking for a replacement on day 46.

What can you, as a human resources professional or a hiring manager, do to engage new hires and get them heading in the right direction, feeling confident and productive right away?


Hiring Manager To Dos

Let’s start with the person who will work most closely with the new hire: the boss. Sure, it is ideal if the first day on the job is not the first time you’re seeing your new employee; but let’s face it, in the real world that’s just not always the case. If you will be managing an employee whom you’ve only read about from a manila envelope, reach out right away and set up a meeting. Pronto. As in, before he arrives on site on day one.

Give your new employee an office tour; direct him to the restrooms, break rooms, printers and mailrooms; walk him to his new office or cubicle; and introduce him to his neighbors. And, while having a thoughtful welcome sign or balloon is not necessary, it sure provides an inviting and memorable touch.

Try to set up this meeting in the middle of the day so you can plan to take him out to lunch afterward. Invite key colleagues with whom he’ll be working. Not only is this a nice gesture and a chance for you to get to know one another, but it will also quell the ever-present stress most new hires experience in anticipation of the first day on the job.

Human Resources Manager To Dos

Systems rule when it comes to onboarding; having a system in place to ensure onboarding is a smooth experience for each and every one of your employees is priority number one. Avoid costly image mistakes. Don’t let poor planning become a public-facing story about onboarding failures like this one. If you don’t create the system before you need it, the next story you see about your onboarding practices might be on

If your job description does not include onboarding proper, ensure that each employee is assigned an HR person who is passionate about onboarding new hires and is eager to drive the process from beginning to end. Scrambling at the last minute is perceived poorly by the new hire, and first impressions about your company do, in fact, matter a great deal. According to Onboarding New Employees: Maximizing Success, produced by SHRM, “new hires [were] 69% more likely to stay at a company for 3 years if they were part of a well-structured onboarding program.”

Consider providing essential benefits information and the employee handbook via email prior to the first day (when legally acceptable, of course) so as not to overburden your new hire on day one!

When setting up the schedule for the first day and beyond, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does the new employee have a key/key card/access code to get into the building and office?
  • Can he find his workspace? Is a proper workstation set up and ready to go with a working computer, keyboard, mouse, telephone, pens and paper?
  • Has a company email been established, and can the new hire now access systems, databases, etc.? Can he get into the company intranet?
  • Have you arranged 1:1 meetings for your new hire with key stakeholders, manager(s), colleagues, and direct reports?
  • Does your new hire have an informal or formal mentor?
  • Is there a scheduled check-in date on day 30 to ensure that the transition has been smooth?
  • Are employees briefed about the new hire’s arrival and asked to help make it a cordial environment by making introductions?
  • And, lastly, could I get excited about working here!?

Seamless Integration for New Hires Improves the Employer-Employee Relationship

Established companies have methods for smoothly integrating new hires into the fold that they revisit and tweak them as necessary. A happy employee is a productive and successful employee. Setting the stage for a warm, trusting relationship between employee and company takes only a tiny fraction of the time and effort it takes to find and train a new hire. Make this a priority, and your company will save time and money, and employee-employer relations will blossom!

24 Career Experts Share Their Top Resume Tips

by Laura Labovich on October 29, 2016

In a post via Jobs2Careers, I was fortunate to be featured in an article about Top Resume Tips. Here’s a snapshot from the post:

The first step in your job search is writing (or updating) your resume, and it’s also the most difficult. We asked 24 of the top career experts for their best advice for creating your resume and their answers are like a master class in resume creation. They’re not just career experts, they’re highly experienced Certified Professional Resume Writers, authors, Certified Job and Career Transition Coaches, and people who get paid to do what you can’t always do on your own—stand out in a crowded candidate pool.

Read on here!

I’m super excited to announce that “Find Your Fit,” the 2016 book from the Association for Talent Development book (ATD) is on pre-order right now! I’m very proud to be a featured author alongside several national career experts, many of whom are my friends. In the book, I touch on networking for job search, debunk some job search myths, and share time-tested techniques for making networking events more productive and less painful.

Here’s a bit more about the book:

You want—no you need—a new job. But not just any job. The job. So you polish your resume till it shines. You apply for countless openings, tailoring your message to each. You search for the hidden job market, although it remains very well hidden. And the response? Well, it’s underwhelming. To top things off, maze-like online application systems appear designed to keep you and the perfect job apart. What’s going on? Well, you’ll have to read it to find out….

As a result of the book launch, there are a few promotions I’d like to share:

1. There will be a GoodReads giveaway starting on October 7th… eight copies will be given away to people who sign up on the site. Here’s the link!

2. Monday Motivators! Job search is hard enough, but Mondays seem to make it even harder. Click here to get a little inspiration in your inbox every Monday. Finding a job is hard. Re-energize your search with motivational career tips and tools each Monday for the next five weeks. These weekly motivators will come from career expert contributors to the new book. With a little help, you’ll be motivated to:

-Identify the job you want.
-Get your resume ready.
-Show off your interview skills.
-Network effectively.
-Gain experience and move up.

3. Lastly, you can read a sample chapter here!

We’d love to hear what you think about the book and how it impacts your job search! Until then, happy reading.

Summer Job Search Tips

by Laura Labovich on June 15, 2016

Summer Is no Time to Take a Break from Job Hunting

The lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer are coming, right?

Not if you’re in the market for a new job!

You might hear that it’s fruitless to search for a new job during the summer, that everyone’s on vacation, no one’s hiring, etc., etc., but that’s just not true. In fact, this rumor may have been started by people who’d really like to take the summer off and hang by the pool, then get cracking again when the leaves start to turn.

And that’s where you have the advantage — it’s not that fewer jobs are open in the summer, it’s that fewer people are looking for them. Let’s face it, who wants to be unemployed all throughout the spring, when it rains four out of every five days, and then get a job in a windowless cubicle just as the sun comes out? Why not wait a few more weeks? Here are a few reasons not to:

  1. Your bills will be lower. If you’re home all summer, you’ll have to run your air conditioner all day, and that will mean much higher electric bills. Let your employer pay to keep you cool.
  2. You’ll beat the rush. Your chances of finding a job are better if you look for one when no one else is looking. A job that opens in September could get 3x as many applicants as one in July — less competition equals better chances of being hired.
  3. You’ll have more money. Maybe you have enough to tide you over for the summer, but when it comes time to go holiday shopping or plan a vacation, the extra cash you made over the summer will make your downtime all the rosier.

OK, so now you know WHY you should look for a job in the summer — now you need to know HOW. It’s similar to looking for a job at other times of the year, but you need to make a few important tweaks for your summer search.

  1. Make a schedule. Having kids home from school or vacations planned may complicate your search, but don’t let your challenges come to a screeching halt. Work around them. Schedule some time each day to make or return phone calls, send out emails and queries or otherwise knock on doors, so to speak. A window from 9-10am, and 3-4pm is good, and will still get you plenty of time to work on your tan. Do this while the kids are at camp, outside playing, at a friend’s, etc. On days they aren’t doing any of these things, pop their favorite movie in the DVD player and get to work. (Hint: Do the phone calls first, before they start in with, “MOM, he’s hitting me!”)
  2. Never stop networking. Summer is a more social time because the weather is nicer and travel is a popular summer activity. Every time you go to a party or a barbecue, be prepared with a list of companies you’re looking to target: and ask for introductions. You know how it is here in Washington — sooner or later someone will ask you where you’re working now, and there’s your opportunity.
  3. Take a contract job. This may not be what you ideally have in mind — doing the work of someone who is vacationing in Europe — but it’s the perfect time to sharpen your skills, or learn a new skill.  Many companies hire temporary workers over the summer to fill in for all the workers who take vacation at this time, and it’s an opportunity you shouldn’t let slip away. Even if it doesn’t lead to an immediate job offer, six months down the road when one of their employees leaves, they may call you.
  4. Consider your industry. If you’re in education, you know all the important hiring goes on in the summer. Teachers and administrators need to be in place by the end of summer. August is time many principals and department heads are desperate to quickly fill positions suddenly left vacant by employees by a teacher relocating or not returning for this reason or that.Other fields, like accounting, see a slowdown in the summer and use this time to recruit new talent. Consider what your field is like in the heat of the summer.

In short, no industry is lazily snoozing away their summer. They need good, talented workers, year-round — they need you! Don’t be daunted if you don’t get a return phone call right away. The hiring process might be interrupted by vacations, but the hiring itself is not. Keep track of who you spoke to last and when it was, and call back in a week or so when they have likely returned from their trips.

So go ahead and climb into that lounge chair with a good book and a drink with an umbrella this summer — after you’ve finished your job search for the day.