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How would you respond when employees complain about wages on social media?

Recent posts on social media show just what your employees think of your company’s pay structure — and it’s far from positive. What would you do?

Recruiting and retaining quality employees isn’t a new struggle in your market. While the talking heads on TV seem to think this is a problem only brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, you have verifiable proof that finding and hiring top talent is a problem that goes back as far as your 30-year-old company. Maybe it’s the market you serve. As the only building supply distributor in a fourth-ring suburb that houses mostly big box discount stores, you’ve just never had folks knocking down your door to work at a lumberyard. But thankfully, over the years you’ve kept a loyal skeleton crew intact and happy enough to develop some long-term employees.

Now, however, you worry that may change. Your general manager, Dan, texted on a recent Sunday evening, asking if he could meet with you first thing Monday. While you have a standing meeting with him every Monday mid-morning, he wanted to make sure to get on your calendar early. You felt dread in your stomach immediately as you suspected he was asking to meet with you to give notice of resignation.

Your initial fear proved baseless when Dan said he was more than happy in his current role and has no plans to leave the company. Others, he said, are planning just that. Dan explained that over the weekend, his wife found some social media posts from one of her old high school classmates who works for you. This classmate said that they were frustrated at their job and asked for recommendations on where else they may find work in the area.

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Just one person (especially this one in particular) venting on Facebook didn’t mean much to Dan, he said, until his wife showed him that other employees had commented on the post. Dan then produced his cellphone from his pocket and showed you screenshots of several of your employees trash-talking their wages and sharing job postings from a nearby big box discount store’s distribution center. Sure enough, forklift operators, order packers, CDL drivers, and managers all started at a significantly higher rate than you currently offer.

In the past, it has been easy to point out the significant role your company plays in the community, the family-like atmosphere you’ve built, and the fair wages you offer as a means of keeping most any team member. Now it’s apparent you’ll have to cross wages off that list of positives. Even more concerning is that employees on the comment thread who you’d never guess were unhappy were blabbing about your pay structure. You ask Dan to forward you the screen shots of the comments and tell him you’ll address it. What you don’t tell him is that you’re not sure how to tackle the issue.

What would you do?

• TALK IT THROUGH. These employees need to know that you have evidence they are disparaging your company. Bring them into your office and talk about the issue. Hear their side.

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• GIVE WARNING. Each person on this thread needs fair warning that talking publicly about wages will not be tolerated. Let them know they’ve been warned, and you won’t stand for it again.

• EVALUATE WAGES. Clearly, they’re on to something. While they went about it in the worst possible way, they have brought a serious issue to light. Maybe it’s time for a wage review.

• GIVE THEM A BUMP. Get ahead of this distribution center’s hiring spree and match their wages…or top them, if possible. If people are unhappy, at least it won’t be because of low pay.

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What would you do?

SOMETHING ELSE?
If you’d take a different plan of attack, email your suggested solution to James@LBMJournal.com. If we publish your reply, we’ll send you an LBM Journal mug.

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