Monday, December 2, 2013

How much money should I be making?

From what I talk to my friends, I understand that the concern in the Sri Lankan IT industry is that often its workers, despite long and hard work, the need for continually leaning to keep-up with the rapidly changing technologies, do not earn enough to enjoy a decent standard of living. The post war Sri Lanka, after effects of CHOGM, the rapidly rising cost of living that erodes the real wages and the stagnant or declining family incomes have given rise to the clamour for a more decent and fair wage structure in the industry. There is an industry strategy to base its competitive advantage on skilled work force and better labor standards, both of which needs a corresponding recognition of the value of the workers through adequate, livable and fair salaries.

It is also very true that most of us incur several hidden costs arising from our employment in IT industry, which is not readily apparent in the market determined wages. Compare to other industries, the hidden costs arising from our employment is high in IT industry and in this background, as no sector specific living wage has been calculated.

Living wage is not the same as minimum wage. Minimum wage is the lowest wage permitted by law or by a special agreement. A living wage is a wage which is high enough to maintain a normal standard of living. Usually, according to Google,

Living Wage = (Average household size x Adjusted cost of basic needs/person + (Income x Savings Multiplier)) / Average number of income receivers per house hold
Living wage = (Adjusted cost of basic needs) + (Income X Savings Multiplier for savings + EPF + durables) + (a Constant for embedding the worker in the family unit + hidden cost)

Our wages would be reasonable according to the above equation, if we stupidly avoid calculating the hidden industry specific costs. For example, for me, as a software engineer, I’m required to browse internet, I need to have a computer and reasonably fast internet connect, a smart phone, money to go team outing with project members, contribute to the organizational charity events, clothing, books & magazines, professional trainings .etc..

Last couple of month I was asking around other people as to how much they are getting paid. A cleaner salary is around 20-30 grand a month in Abanse (shift basic); a Taxi driver makes 45 thousand a month while he has to pay lease 17,000; a Marketing executive in garment industry with 4 years of experience makes 55 thousand a month basic salary + commission approximately 30-70 thousand a month depending on time of the year; an assistant bank manager in a private bank with 5 years banking experience gets 120 thousand basic salary + 25 thousand for vehicle + paid holiday once an year; an intern job in a bank pays you 15 grand a month; a graphic designer with 4 years designer experience in a private advertising agency get 85 thousand basic.

My problem is, I don’t know how much salary I should be getting paid. Do you know how much your co-workers get paid at your company? I think you should. I mean, who is being protected by secret salaries? Certainly not the employee—the more transparent salaries are, the more accurately an employee can assess his or her value to a company.

I thought that companies benefit from secret salaries and that’s why they keep them secret, but the reality is that, if salaries were 100% accurate—perfectly pegged at the employee’s worth to the company—then the company would have no problem revealing all salaries. I know valuing an employee’s worth is not an easy job, yet that’s why the HR is for, right? The human resource team is the team responsible a company’s growth and its failures. As I see in the companies I have the close visibility, some senior managers hire college graduates as HR executives and let them run with whatever they got. Those people come and start to tell us what should be done in other departments(in some cases). The only people who benefit from confidential salaries are the human resources department. If they make an error, they can hide it. No one will know. And then they can make ten errors. Because no one knows if the secret salaries are hiding one error or one hundred.

At this time of year, companies are completing annual/quarterly reviews for employees, and many people are looking forward to promotions and salary raises. When they get it as they expect, everything is just fine and they will be motivated to work harder and enjoy the little happy things they get out of an employment. But, if they don’t get what they expected or what they deserve and told an unseasonal reason as to why they didn’t get it, there comes the part an individual and the company he/she works for gets really affected negatively. I agree, nothing motivates people as money does and not everyone deserves to be promoted or get salary rose.

If it’s a bad economy and people know other’s salary too, I don’t think they would be much worried about their salary knowing that everyone gets paid low. Person who was underpaid was not so much jubilant about a potential raise, but upset about his current underpayment. But honestly, I think that person will work much harder if everyone knows the truth.

There are four kinds of people who work in any organization as far as I see, in terms of salary and competence. First kind - working hard, competent, qualified, experienced and getting paid high – as they deserve. Second kind - working hard, competent, qualified, experienced and getting paid low(less than they should be getting paid) as they lack the ability to let others know that they work better. Third kind - lazy, incompetent, has a bad personality, but just by talking (boasting about their work) and claiming credits form others unfairly and getting paid more. The fourth kind – lazy, incompetent .etc. and getting paid less as they should be.

Sadly, we seem to have many of the second and third kinds of people in Sri Lanka. From what I know, people like to work and they want to make the best things, at least most of us. It’s just a matter of enabling them to do so would make any company better.

The other issue I see in Sri Lanka in terms of employment is that most of the HR professionals seem to value qualification over expertise whereas it’s seems to be the other way around in western countries. May be it’s their inability to evaluate a person’s skill set; they tend to go with qualification.

This type of issues drives me crazy because they are, in fact, real reason why many of us are struggling and they are not applicable to a small percentage of any organization's staff who can whine and talk HR. I’m going to quote here a comment I read in linked in
 “Management thinks: ‘This guy (or gal) will do whatever we ask in his current position and at his current wage; there is no reason to promote him much less pay him more money.’ The carrots of promotions and pay increases, oddly enough, are more likely to go to the entitled, under-performing and whiny employees who only work on a quid pro quo basis, while the sticks are reserved for those employees who give and don't count the cost. “ - Mike Bach (in a Linkedin comment)

A part of me asks myself “Why are you complaining? Why do you want to write about this on your blog no body reads? :)” The other part replies “I’m not. I’m just trying to express my frustration of existing ‘very real’ problem in a form, which can be read by others and relate to. This should help them understand this issue a little bit better and I know there would be people those who could make changes in evaluating people and rewarding right people and transform people’s life, industrial health & our country for better.
Pretending to work and posing for photo 8 years ago at my first job
Pretending to work and posing for photo, 8 years ago at my first job

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