Seed World

Is Hourly Pay the Enemy of Efficiency?, Part 2

Gro Alliance

A third-generation seedsman, Jim Schweigert grew up in the family seed business and was exposed to industry issues at an early age. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in public relations from the University of Minnesota and worked for corporate public relations firms in Minneapolis, Chicago and Atlanta before joining the family business full time in 2003. He has since been active in the American Seed Trade Association, the Independent Professional Seed Association and earned his master’s in seed technology and business from Iowa State University. As president, Schweigert manages client contracts and crop planning, as well as business development and new market opportunities. His unique background and experience make him one of the seed industry’s leaders in innovation. As such, he was honored as Seed World’s 2009 Future Giant and currently serves as chair of the board of directors for Seed Programs International.

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In my last article, I discussed the challenges of motivating hourly employees to improve efficiency.  Hourly employees may miss out on overtime hours when the time to complete a project or execute a process is reduced.  This can make it difficult for hourly employees to bring forward efficiency ideas.  I suggested that it would be better to have those employees responsible for driving efficiency to be paid on a salaried basis.  In this article, I will explore the possible pitfalls of that approach.  As the saying goes, there is no silver bullet!

Salaried employees think about work differently than hourly employees.  They don’t punch a timeclock, and many don’t keep track of their time throughout the year.  They tend to think about their work in terms of output and results, rather than the hours put in. This can be beneficial when it comes to driving efficiency as salaried employees benefit when they can get the same amount of work done but in less time.

Salaried pay, however, can create an issue during seasonal peaks where additional hours, at the office or in the field, are unavoidable.  It’s then when salaried employees become very good at keeping track of the additional hours worked!  They also have a tendency to forget about the times they left work early during the slower periods.

This is just human nature.  The trick for the company is to make sure salaried employees see their work in terms of the entire season and not just focus on the extra hours worked during peak times.  Allowing salaried employees to have a bit of flexibility, when possible, is a great way to reward them for the long hours.  Allowing a little time off here and there to go to a doctor’s appointment, pick up the kids from daycare or leave early for a long-weekend will be remembered when they put in the extra effort commonplace during planting, detasseling, harvest, and packaging.

Hourly and salaried employees who see a benefit to their efforts, and understand that the company appreciates those efforts, are much more motivated to bring forward ideas to improve efficiency and overall performance.  Establishing open communication with employees and communicating “the why” will also help employees understand how their efforts support the company, and ultimately their career.