Wages vs. Talent

Wow…I can’t believe it’s April already! It has been a very busy year so far and I’m grateful to see things going so well.

I’ve been thinking a lot about several subjects all at once and trying to decide how each of them should go into this blog. I finally realized that they’re all related, and I should quit thinking about it and get to writing. You’ll find that quite a few of the things I have to say are what most business owners are thinking but don’t necessarily say. Hopefully you’ll understand it’s all good.

There’s always some debate about wages in the business world. Employees want/need a certain amount of money, and employers want/need a certain amount of talent and effort. Employment is essentially a type of business transaction. Simple enough, right? So why all of the debate about what a person’s time is worth, and what should be expected of them? Really it’s because every person is different and brings a different combination of talent, ambition, and productivity to the table. If we were all the same it would be a very boring world.

With that said, there’s a movement to see Minimum Wage increased. Let’s think about “who” minimum wage applies to. These are people that come to work the minimum amount possible, bring the minimum amount of talent to the table, meet minimum standards of appearance, and give the minimum amount of production to their employer. These are people that will NEVER work for Amerivet Services. Amerivet Services doesn’t do the minimum amount of anything. So why do I care what these people are being paid? Quite honestly, I don’t, except for the fact that in business situations with defined revenue streams, these people are putting a drag on what other, more productive employees can be paid. In my opinion, people that only contribute the minimum shouldn’t work for any company because they’re a drag on the employment system. They need incentive to do better.

Now, on the other end of the spectrum, and apparently another subject of debate, is Prevailing Wage. Quite honestly, I like the concept of prevailing wage, because it helps ensure that certain workers make as much money as their union counterparts though they’re not necessarily union employees. Theoretically this is the result of a person’s hard work to better themselves, bringing incredible talent, productivity, and service to the table. The down side of this is that, much like union agreements, it assumes that everyone is the same and performs equally. To me, it’s up to the employer to decide if a person meets standards that qualify them for Prevailing Wage, and then send them packing if they don’t.

Quite honestly, Amerivet Services is growing to the point where we’ll eventually need good, talented people on a regular basis. I have no problem paying Prevailing Wage to the right people. The wrong people need not apply.

So, who are the right people? This is a huge problem for me, and for quite a few business owners that I’ve talked with. It’s a big project to find talent in this world. Governor Snyder has said plenty of times that there’s a shortage of skilled labor in Michigan, and I agree with him. If you log onto the Michigan Talent Bank and look around, there are more resumes of people who qualify for Minimum Wage than for Prevailing Wage. In the words of one business owner I know, the Talent Bank has everything except talent.

Now before you get all worked up over this statement, let me explain my thoughts on resumes: In the 11 years since I retired from the Air Force, I’ve had to constantly try to reword my resumes and marketing documents in an attempt to translate my military experience to something that civilians can understand. After all, military skills are good to have around, if only civilian employers could understand how they can benefit from them.

After several looks through the Talent Bank, and looking at the resumes people send me, I’ve discovered that veterans aren’t the only ones with a communication problem. I think there are talented people in the world that just don’t know how to communicate and market themselves. Lots of people go to resume writing classes and yet it seems that the resumes don’t get any better. That’s because the technical side of resume writing is less important than communicating your skill set in different ways so different potential employers can see that they need what you have to offer.

So with all this in mind, I don’t believe there is a dire need to increase minium wage, though there is a need to increase the skill sets (social skills too) of those who qualify for it to the point where they are “overqualified” and can go off and be successful in the world. However, I’m not convinced that “ambition” can be fully taught to adults outside of military Basic Training without someone yelling that you’ve violated their rights.

Initiatives to train people in skilled labor fields will hopefully bring more talent to the Talent Bank, and Michigan will be a better place because of it. As those people become trained, I hope they’re all worthy of Prevailing Wage and understand that skill is wasted if you don’t use it in a productive way.