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ICAN/ATEX: When is the Proper Time to Give a Raise?

April 10, 2015
KEYWORDS budget / employees / payroll / raise
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Many cleaning professionals visit the International Custodial Advisors Network (ICAN) Ask the Experts (ATEX) page for insight. We deliver advice to help you perform your job.

Friday's QuestionICANATEX Logo

I have a small commercial cleaning company with two part-time employees who help me clean. I pay them US$8 per hour. Both are good employees, but one is exceptional. She loves her job, has only missed one day in the past year, is very thorough and diligent, and oversees things for me in the rare event that I can't be there.

She has been with me for one year and is hinting at a possible raise. I'm new at this, so I'm not sure what the proper protocol is in this situation. I have a very tight budget, but she definitely deserves to be rewarded for her work. She is a model employee.

Is one year too soon for me to give her a raise? What is the proper amount? I was thinking 50 cents an hour, but does that seem cheap? I was on commission for years before going into business for myself, so I'm totally unfamiliar with what is fair for hourly workers.

Friday's Answer

If your starting pay is only $8 per hour, I would suggest a 25 cent merit raise after the first 90 days, a second one at six months, and a third one at one year. Establish guidelines regarding punctuality, attendance, cooperation, customer satisfaction, and quality. Dependable workers are not easy to come by, and you want to reward your top employees to keep them motivated.

- Gary Clipperton, president National Pro Clean Corp.

Editor's note:
The minimum wage in North Carolina is still at $7.25, so you are doing well in starting people above that. However, as Gary says above, it is wise to increase pay on a regular basis once a person has demonstrated capabilities that you wish to hold onto. So, in answer to your direct question, one year of employment is NOT too soon to give her a raise. It is, in fact, a bit late.

If this woman was working for me (in New York State), she would probably be in the $10 to 12 an hour range, and I would be exploring the possibility that she could move into a supervisory position that would allow me to build my business by taking on more work and adding more employees. If you find a loyal and capable person such as this, you want to allow them to develop their strengths in your business, not elsewhere which is where she will be forced to go to make a better living if she can't make it there with you.

Now, some sermonizing.

We, unfortunately, are working in an industry focused on low prices and do-enough-to-get-by efforts. Often, customers seem to demand something for nothing and sometimes we fall into that frugality mentality and try to supply their unreasonable wants. That is why so many come into the industry as labor-brokers, providing only minimum wage opportunities, minimal training, stringent but harsh supervision, and relying on "self-employed" employees to turn a profit.
When you say you are on "a very tight budget," I start to wonder why. Are your personal living expenses so high, you must take every earned dollar for yourself? Or, more likely, are you being beaten down by the market to providing almost break-even services? In other words, are you making any profit after your personal and business expenses are taken out of the invoice payment from every account?

If the latter is the case, you need to do a "cost of living" increase on each of your accounts. The key to growth and stability in cleaning is to provide a quality-focused service that stands out from those described above. The fact that you are even asking indicates you are not of that ilk.  

Better people = better attitudes = better service = better pay. Work with your sound employees to build a business you can all prosper with.
Lynn E. Krafft, ICAN/TEX Editor

View additional hiring & staffing questions and answers from ICAN/ATEX here.

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