Just Wages – An Issue of Business and Community Trust

coins in hand

As we look toward the future, society and businesses must recognize the symbiotic relationship formed between them. No business can survive long-term without the support of the community which it serves. In addition, no community can survive or thrive without businesses which employee and provide for the common good of the community. The combined reality of these two statements often goes unrecognized by communities and business owners. A crucial link between a business and the community its serves are the people it employs. Paying a just income is fundamental to the financial and sometimes physical welfare of the employee, as well as the health of a business’ culture and the maintenance of strong community ties.

First, let me state that purpose of this article is not to advocate for government intervention into wages, salaries or bonuses. This article should guide business owners on how to identify and pay just wages.

Why should we better define and enact just and fair wages as business owners? The facts show that improving compensation will benefit the health of our businesses and improve our bottom lines. A Gallup study conducted in 2015 showed us that 44% of the employees surveyed would consider leaving their current employer for a higher wage of 20% or less. Even more painful to consider, 37% of employees considered “highly engaged” would consider leaving their current employer for a higher wage of 20% or less. In most cases that would be a wage increase of less than $7,800 per year.

The substantial cost of hiring and training new employees should make any business owner pause. The Sasha Corporation conducted four different studies that found the average cost of training new employees is over $9,000. This does not include the amount of productivity lost during the training period or the time it takes an employee to become proficient at their role in your company.  A just and fair wage will save businesses money and allow them to retain and attract the best employees while insuring a return on the initial investment of training new employee.

How do we define a just and fair wage? In defining a just and fair wage we must look at the equation from three points of view: the business, the employee and the community. The business owner, having put their own person capital at risk, has a right to have a profitable return on their investment. Without a profitable return, the business owner will be unable to pay just and fair wages. Next, the employees work to live and provide for themselves and their families. Earning a just and fair wage provides hope for their future and supports the philosophy of the dignity of work. Unfair wages or lack of work strikes at the very core of human dignity. Paying a just wage will also remove an element that sometimes contributes to toxicity in a company culture. A just and fair wage creates greater incentive for a willing employee to increase personal productivity. Lastly, the community must understand and attempt to strike a fine balance between businesses and employees. An unprofitable businesses will often vacate the community they serve, while a community that has an underpaid employee base will become impoverished, not only in goods, but in morale and spirit. This will end in the long term decline of any community, large or small. In short, a just and fair wage will create a balance between the business owner, the employee and the community while providing for the common good and insuring mutual financial prosperity.

As a business owner whose business depends on guiding other business owners on how to properly compensate their employees, I know if you are reading this, you are asking how do I apply this thought process in real life.

Consider the following item as you build your compensation plan for your team:

  1. The living wage for your market.
  2. Profitability of the business.
  3. The five key performance indicators for the team member.
  4. Quality control indicators by position.
  5. An individual employee’s contribution to profit and/or expense control.

These five basic items can help build a fair and just compensation plan for your team.

The living wage is your starting point. This information can readily be found online. The average living wage in the USA is approximately $15.15 per hour. If you have team members that are below that starting point, consider how to move them to a higher base pay or identify opportunities for them to increase their pay through performance bonuses.

Business profitability is a key component in any performance based compensation system. Profitability is typically a key indicator of the health of a business. Each industry has its own unique targets for profit and profit margins. These should be taken into consideration. If the business is not profitable, it would be a failure of fiduciary responsibility to pay any member of the team bonuses until it has become profitable. Any balanced performance based compensation plan should include company profitability as a one of the primary measures for bonus payouts.

After considering the living wage and profitability, identify each position’s measurable Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s). Measurability is crucial, as this will give the employer and the employee specific accountabilities and targets. Generally, by identifying measurable KPI’s and removing ambiguity, employees will focus on improving the most important aspects of their job and increase productivity. Consider placing a priority value on each of the KPI’s as a way to direct employees toward the most important aspects of their role in your company.

Caution: Be careful what you measure, you will get it. Productivity alone cannot be your only measurement. Including quality components will eliminate mercenary type behavior and increase product output quality for your customers. Include measurable items such error rates, product failure rates, regulatory compliance or items specific to your industry that will improve product quality and service.

Lastly, consider the employee’s individual contribution to your company’s profit and/or expense control. This is typically not difficult to measure. It is not unusual for your most productive employee to know and have access to this information even if the business owner does not. This last component can give your employee a sense of destiny control and begins to build an ownership mentality that improves work ethic and the company bottom line.

In summary, creating that balance between the employer, the employee and the community is vital. It will require creative thinking and team collaboration and at the end of the rainbow you will find improved bottom lines, increased employee loyalty and retention and a stronger community.

Thank you,

Jay Toups


Retail Management Resources, Inc.


The Memo – By Jack Yoest (A Must Read)

The Memo – By Jack Yoest

Over the last 30 plus years of my business career I have read hundreds of books on leadership, management, organization, sales and more. From this point forward I will place Jack Yoest’s book within close reach as a guide. Jack has written the quintessential leader and follower’s guide for any person involved in any organization or business.

Yoest does a fantastic job using the top secret memo that is credited with winning WWII to build the frame work for his book. Biblical quotes build a foundation for ethical leadership and followership. Well researched and documented accounts from historical figures keep the reader’s attention and make this a book for anyone to enjoy irregardless of background or interests.

Jack’s use of humorous, humble personal stories and a strong ethical standards gives the reader the direction and encouragement they need on their way to success. I honestly found myself saying out loud, “Yes I made that mistake.” or “Exactly, Jack! I get it.” as I read this book. I will be buying several copies to hand out to friends and business associates!

Great work, Jack Yoest! 

Ken Blanchard, look out Jack Yoest has arrived!

Jack, I am humbled and honored to count you as a supportive friend.  Congratulations on a job well done! 

Link to The Memo – By Jack Yoest 

“Getting Our Happy Back” – Motivating the Team

“Getting Our Happy Back” – Motivating the Team

Team motivation! An engaged team will significantly improve any company’s bottom line. The primary responsibility of executive management is to engage the team in the business of growth and profit. This article will examine recent studies on workplace motivation and how they can be implemented on today’s heavily regulated banking environment.

Highly motivated teams outperform their peers at all levels. Gallup conducted a comparative study in 2014, concluding that companies with highly engaged teams outperformed their peers in the following areas:

  • 147% higher earnings per share
  • 41% fewer quality defects
  • 48% fewer safety incidents
  • 65% less turnover (low-turnover organizations)
  • 37% less absenteeism

These facts alone indicate a fiduciary responsibility to get a handle on the team engagement level.

Motivating and demotivating factors must be understood. Columbia Business School, one of the premier business think-tanks worldwide, has conducted numerous published studies on team engagement in the workplace. Their studies indicate key motivators as:

  • Verifiable Truth
  • Team Education
  • Control
  • Intrinsic value
  • Praise and recognition
  • Performance-based rewards
  • Loyalty
  • Good communication practices

Demotivating factors include:

  • Coercion
  • Public reprimand
  • Punitive practices
  • Low pay scale
  • Poor communication

Looking at the facts presented by Columbia Business School studies gives us indicators on where to start “Getting Our Happy Back” in each of our organizations. Eliminating the negative factors to motivation will help create a positive work environment.

Coercion and public reprimand as a practice must be eliminated at all levels. This behavior will cause a cancerous trickle-down effect throughout the organization. Members of the team that use these practices should be identified and addressed in writing if needed.

The banking industry has undergone significant changes over the previous five years. As an industry, the path forward offers opportunity for growth. Bank executives must continuously look for opportunities in increasingly creative ways. Helen Keller once said, “When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.”

Punitive practices are often subtlety imbedded in most organizations. The heavy burden of federal regulations has bank executives understandably reeling. How these issues are addressed will pave the way for the future of the company.

Management must change the process of addressing regulatory issues in the industry and inside banks. One item that can be quickly address is how success is measured. Most regulatory measurement systems are gauged based on failure. This can be easily adjusted to measure success. For example, a 4% loan portfolio exception rate will produce less favorable results than reporting a 96% loan portfolio accuracy rate. Studies have proven people will run toward the positive number and avoid the negative.

Low pay scale can be addressed in multiple ways. Industry leaders must acknowledge the living wage and begin to work toward moving our entry level workforce to the living wage.

Louisiana Living Wage Statistics: (Range based variances in market.)

Adult:                              $10.03 – $11.04 per hour

Adult w/2 children:          $22.68 – $24.68 per hour

2 Adults w/2 children:      $22.18 – $24.06 per hour

The expense of taking this action could be financially daunting. Fiduciary responsibility requires a thoughtful approach. There are two immediately possible approaches. As employee turnover occurs, first identify opportunities to consolidate positions and responsibilities and reward high performing employees with additional responsibilities and raises. Second, implement a monthly or quarterly performance bonus plan allowing greater pay for those members of the team that exceed tracked performance expectations.

Poor communication is an issue all organizations must address. The steps to improving communication have been a dealt with in a previous article. Effective communication is the lynch pin to building a strong culture based in trust.

As the demotivating factors are addressed, positive motivating actions must be instituted. Team education, control, and intrinsic value are addressed from here on.

Effective training has been proven to increase productivity by 20% or more while reducing employee turnover by the same rate. The key is having a training plan/budget and a manager responsible for implementing it.

Here are some items to consider:

  • Access to banking and financial publications
  • Training plans by position
  • Class room training
  • Webinars
  • Banking association training
  • Partnering with other organizations to share the cost of training

Training will prove to be a positive return on investment.

Control, or the ability to make decisions close to the customer, has been seriously limited in the current heavily regulated environment. Moving authority close to the customer will give the team a positive sense of control and flexibility when helping their customers.

Establishing a simplified thought process will help decide what requires greater control.

  • If there is a significant regulatory risk, centralize and control.
  • If there is limited or no regulatory risk, decentralize authority close to the customer.
  • If there is an increased need for fast decisions, decentralize authority close to the customer.

Excessive use of controls will limit your ability to gain business and discourage your team from pursuing new business.

Intrinsic value has traditionally been thought to lie at the heart of ethics. Philosophers use a number of terms to describe such values. Something’s intrinsic value is the value that is has “in itself,” “for its own sake,” or “in its own right.” The majority of your team wants to comprehend how they can contribute to the greater good of society and the company. Helping the team understand their value is much more than giving them a financial reward. They need to understand the impact of their position on the success of the company and their community.

Effective techniques include:

  • A Simple two line mission statement
  • Published core values
  • Define the financial impact of the bank on the community
  • Create an internal spotlight on business and consumer customers and the positive impact the bank has had in their lives.
  • Teach the team to express how they of benefit the community

Defining the impact employees have on the greater good can and will change how the team looks at their work life.

The fact remains highly engaged teams will significantly improve the profit and growth of every company. The monetary and inherent rewards will far outweigh the effort required. Build and execute a plan of action. As world renowned motivator Zig Ziglar has stated, “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing. That’s why we recommend it daily.”

If you would like to read our three previous posts on culture building your can follow these links: What is the “Culture Building” Talk All About?, Building a Strong Company Culture and Identifying, Defining Successful Cultural Behavior, Culture Building: The Middle Manager Perspective and The Path to Success: Communicating the Culture.


The Path to Success: Communicating the Culture

The Path to Success: Communicating the Culture

Effective communication is the lynch pin to building a strong culture based on trust. A 2013 survey conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development concluded that less than 29% of workers have a high level of trust in their company’s leadership. This failure in trust can most often be traced back to a failure in communication. Communication from management is often unclear, inadequate, or inconsistent.

Common misconceptions senior management often have about communication:

  • Employees don’t have a grasp of the difficult issues.
  • There is no need to communicate unless it is critical.
  • Employees should only hear positive information.
  • Middle managers consistently share information.

These misconceptions often lead management to make poor communication decisions. A company without strong communication creates an information vacuum. The team will readily fill this vacuum with misinformation and conjecture. Executive management must stay ahead of this “grapevine” while building a strong culture.

In today’s culture of instant communication and the ability to rapidly gather information, it is often difficult to stay ahead of the grapevine. The best hope to stay ahead is to build a process that will manage the flow of important messages quickly and effectively. The good news is there are many new and effective forms of communication media. Combined with tried-and-true techniques, they will give management the ability to direct and effectively communicate the culture.

Even in smaller organizations, it is important to have a process to manage the flow of information. Organizations with strong cultures assign a member of senior management to guide communication within the company. This simple step will significantly strengthen your culture.

Once responsibility is assigned, a process can be built. It is crucial to understand that building and communicating the culture is a fluid process. This requires a methodical yet flexible approach.

Consider embracing these best practices:

  • 99.5% of employees text. Use mass text messages for fast or emergency communication.
    • For example: “Computers are down. We will notify you when systems are restored.”
  • Webinars/Videos for short technical training sessions or for companywide announcements.
  • All companywide communications are archived on the company’s intranet.
  • Critical information is delivered by voice/meeting. Never by email.
  • Email is used only as form of back up communication.
  • Potentially negative information is always delivered in a meeting format.
  • Create a special email address for information management.
  • Monthly Newsletters to build a positive flow of information.

One of the primary failures of communication today is the overuse of email. If the “boss’s” communication can be dismissed with the click of a mouse, it can be dismissed all together.

The most effective communication must be delivered in the medium preferred by the recipient. This fact alone should change how information is conveyed. In today’s fast-paced world of instant communication the effort to converse must be multi-faceted. Using a combination of media will insure the team hears and absorbs the cultural message. Using this method over time will improve the team’s performance.

As the culture is constructed, understand the target audience and how they will view the multitude of messages they receive on a daily basis. Using multiple forms of media will control the flow and quality of information, strengthen the culture, and create a high performance team.

If you would like to read our four previous posts on culture building your can follow these links: What is the “Culture Building” Talk All About?, Building a Strong Company Culture and Identifying Defining Successful Cultural Behavior and Culture Building: The Middle Manager Perspective.

Culture Building – The Middle Manager Perspective

Culture Building – The Middle Manager Perspective

Middle managers are often the work horses of any company. Because they have shared points of view with executive management and the non-exempt members of your team, they are often “stuck in the middle.”

Over the last several months I have had a series of conversations with middle managers across companies of all sizes. In these conversations there have been three common themes: stress is high, the work is not as rewarding as it used to be and they want to love their careers again. This begs the question, “How do we address their concerns?” If we choose listen, they will tell us.

Although some of the concerns have differed from company to company, there are four reoccurring topics: education, success, work environment, and value. It is important to understand the middle managers concerns because they are “stuck in the middleand speak for the workers of the company. Focusing on these four areas will generate support from management teams and help build a strong positive culture.


The majority of managers and workers agree that companies do an adequate job educating their workforce. Surprisingly, most employees desire more education for their jobs. Senior management must start thinking like millennials when it comes to education. Millennials have had the internet at their fingertips their entire life. They consume vast amounts of information in short periods of time. If they do not have it, they will actively search for it.  With regards to education, they want to understand the “why” behind their job. They no longer accept the “because I said so” approach to management.  They want to understand the inner workings of the decision-making process so they can better participate in it.  Several recent studies show that this generation of workers has a lack of reverence or trust in authority.  Failing to educate on the “why” will exacerbate this lack of trust and cause serious damage to the company culture.


Throughout this series defining success has been among the most common topics. That said, it should be no surprise success was top of mind for nearly 100% of these managers. What may surprise executives most is that managers are not feeling very successful. The driving forces behind this are decreased customer traffic and regulatory reform. Organizations must take a step back and reassess what success in the future will look like and redefine it for the management teams. The strenuous regulatory environment is here to stay for the foreseeable future. In many businesses traffic volumes will continue to decline due to our customers’ usage of technology. Once the vision of success is clear the team must be educated in both word and defined behaviors.


Most middle managers view environment as something more than how the work place looks or feels. For them it is more introspective, coming down to one word: authority. Managers want the authority, within limits, to make decisions for their teams and customers. They want the authority to create a more dynamic and exciting work place. 

Managers believe helping customers is paramount to success and want the authority to do so.  Most managers understand they have the authority to make decisions. That said, the harsh regulatory or managerial environment has taken its toll on how they view this authority and fear reprisal for its usage. Restoration of authority will go a long way to improving company culture.


The teams’ idea of value is having a positive impact as a person and worker. This generation of workers sees value as something more intrinsic rather than monetary. This generation of middle managers has a strong desire to have a positive impact on their company, community, and customers. For this group the job is more than just making money.  They want to understand and see the positive impact of their work on others. 

It is clear that the millennial middle managers have grown up in the greatest era of wealth ever known to mankind and because of this they sometimes yawn at profits. Companies that can link their profit to a positive impact on the community and its customers often have strong positive cultures.  

In summary, the middle manager today is the heartbeat of the culture. Take the time to listen to them with an open mind. Building a strong middle management team is the present and the future of the company. Because they are workers, managers and leaders, their perspective on the culture is based on the day-to-day realities of the workplace.

If you would like to read our three previous posts on culture building your can follow these links: What is the “Culture Building” Talk All About?, Building a Strong Company Culture and Identifying and Defining Successful Cultural Behavior.

Identifying and Defining Successful Cultural Behavior

Identifying and Defining Successful Cultural Behavior

This article is part three in the series on “Culture Building”. It is hoped that this will offer an effective guide to culture building. The previous articles discussed the reasons to build strong internal culture, its positive effects and the steps to building a strong culture. The links are available here: “What is the “Culture Building” Talk All About?” and Building a Strong Company Culture.

This will article focus on how to identify and define successful behavior inside a culture. Helping your team understand what is and what is not successful will ease the process of building a strong internal culture.

Webster defines behavior as: the way a person or animal acts or behaves, the manner of conducting oneself, the response of an individual, group, or species to its environment.

The definition of behavior in a culture is the way your employee responds to the company culture. This response is either positive or negative, depending on how the employee views the culture, position and the company. For example, an employee who does not believe in the company’s culture might overstep boundaries or ignore defined protocol. Employees who believe in the culture will go the extra mile to achieve company success.

Great leaders recognize we cannot change people. We can only change how we interact and manage them to maximize productivity in a positive motivating culture. We can build and motivate appropriate behavior and eliminate unacceptable behavior. Thus, identifying good behavior is paramount to success in a culture. This will allow the company to reward success more effectively and create repeatable positive behaviors inside the company culture.

How do we identify good behavior? There are two sets of identifiable behaviors. One is the behavior that is readily apparent in team members who are good employees. These behaviors will usually spring from core values and can be defined in simple day to day actions.

For example: Attendance, appropriate greetings, team work, mutual respect, organization, etc…

It is important to note that we must specifically define behaviors by stating what, when, and how often.

“Team members must arrive at work five minutes prior to their scheduled start time.”

The second set of behaviors are those that impact productivity. These are less easily identified. Behaviors that impact productivity are often specific skills that may change based on an employee’s position in a company. This will require more in-depth assessments and measurements. These are accomplished through detailed observations, interviews and outcome based productivity measures.

Once the correct behaviors are identified the real work begins: defining success for the team. There are several moving parts that define success. They include:

  • Behavior based job descriptions
  • Team minimum standards
  • Annual evaluations
  • Specific written goals
  • Formal reward and recognition
  • Informal reward and recognition
  • Career promotions

Defining success is more than just putting in writing what is successful. Management must reinforce this definition of success by recognizing and promoting team members that successfully execute the defined behaviors. Although this may seem simple it is crucial to building your company’s culture. Your efforts can be undermined by promoting and rewarding employees that do not exhibit the desired behaviors of your culture. Thus, your regular actions and interactions will over time define success in your company.

A positive motivating culture is with the reach of every company. It starts with your actions. 

Building a Strong Company Culture

Building a Strong Culture

This is part two in a seriess on “Culture Building”. It is hoped that this will offer an effective guide to culture building. The previous article discussed the reasons to build a strong company culture and its positive effects. Here is the link: “What is the “Culture Building” Talk All About?”

This article will explore the necessary steps in building and maintaining your company’s culture. Once it has been defined, communication, training and monitoring will ensure that the culture will grow and prosper. All four steps are crucial elements in building a strong culture.

The old axiom “You do not know what you do not know” can be effectively applied to communication within a company.  Most companies need to significantly improve communication. Tonya Slawinski, Ph.D., president of Support Solutions Inc., stresses the importance of communication in an effective working environment.

“Communication is an ongoing process rather than a static event,” says Slawinski. “Employees have a high tolerance for change if kept in the loop. When communication breaks down, rumors run rampant and will directly impact productivity, focus and ultimately the finances of the company.”

The National Business Research Institute released a study in March 2014 that identified poor or nonexistent communication as the number one complaint from employees in the workplace. Because of heavy­ business regulation and constantly changing customer behavior, businesses must improve their company communication or they will be unable to adapt to their evolving industry.

Our teams require messages to be communicated in multiple forms in order to grow in understanding and for the message to take root. Reinforced messages lead to proactive action.

Communication must be both verbal and written. Fortunately, most organizations have at their fingertips the necessary tools needed to improve communication quickly and easily: people and technology. A frequently missed component of communication is assigning a team member responsibility to manage companywide cultural communication.

Structured plans for communicating the culture should include:

  • On-site Executive Management visits
  • Scheduled communication
  • Training
  • New team member orientation
  • Newsletters
  • Regularly scheduled email updates
  • Planned messages for team meetings
  • Webinar updates

Without a clear plan, communication efforts will fall short. An integral part of the plan is teaching the team how to execute the mission, vision and values of the company.

Employers can no longer assume their team believes or understands how to achieve the mission, vision and values. Each member of the team comes to work with a history that could conflict with the company’s goals. Even experienced employees need training. The team must be instructed on how to become successful within the defined company culture.

The Social Research and Demonstration Corporation released a study in August of 2015 concluding that there is an average 91% retention rate among well-trained team members. Furthermore, for each retained employee the company achieves on average a $2,200 increase in incremental revenues.

The numbers speak for themselves.

The focus of the training should be on technical and soft skills. Although on-the-job training is cost effective, it tends to perpetuate bad habits or outdated procedures that lead to internal problems. Banks must develop a skills-based training plan by job position.

Soft skills are a frequently overlooked area of training. Most cultural development training programs will include soft skills.  Below is a list of training that will help build a positive culture:

  • Defining the Company’s Culture
  • Team Building
  • Interpersonal Communication
  • Leadership Skills – Coaching and Motivation
  • Exemplary Customer Service – Reactive vs. Proactive
  • Relationship Building
  • Business Etiquette

Training is an ongoing process. Do not forget that the team is the company’s most valuable resource. Invest in the team and they will give a solid return on the company’s investment.

The last piece to the puzzle is a monitoring progress. Consider the management phrase, “Inspect what you expect.” This has never been more relevant. Ideal behavior and actions are defined through communication and training. Monitoring will allow the reinforcement of good behavior and redirect behavior that does not fit in the culture.

Monitoring should come from an optimistic point of view. If the company monitors from a “Got You!” point of view, it will create a negative environment, increase employee turnover and decrease employee action. No member of the team wants to look over their shoulder all the time.

Monitoring takes two primary forms: inspections and critical measurements.

Key Elements of Inspections:

  • Conducted on-site; planned in advance
  • Surprise visits rewarding good behavior
  • All members of management required to participate
  • Always positive and upbeat

Types of Critical Measurements:

  • Customer Retention
  • Employee Retention
  • Accuracy over Errors
  • Employee Surveys
  • Customer Surveys
  • Management Assessments

Building an inspection process will help the team members know exactly what is expected of them by continuously defining and reinforcing the vision of success.

In conclusion, building and maintaining the culture requires a focused effort. The goal is to create an enjoyable and productive work environment for all team members and draw customers to your company. The end result will generate increased revenue and an uptick in employee retention.