Whether you live payday to payday or have never searched for coins in the couch, everybody loves payday. It just feels good. In part because you have worked hard and deserve it. Reward for effort. There is another element, acknowledgement of your value. While payday is a transaction that exchanges money for time, I think it is far more than that. I think it allows us to feel like we added value and that we ourselves are valuable. Money can be linked to our feeling of self worth and the more often we get paid, the more the reinforcement of our self worth.
The role of the employer is to find the balance between the needs of the client, the budget, profit, timelines and most importantly the team and the individual. This is a healthy tension that is not always easy to get right. Everyone must feel needed, valued, psychologically safe and have the opportunity to perform.
In professional services, most of us need to log our time. Generally, we hate it. Having to account for everything we do causes us to question our value and question whether we are trusted. Often it can cause us to question ourselves. Is what I just did billable? Would I pay for it if I was the client? Did they get value from that email/conversation/meeting/brief? It can leave us tense. Knowing that someone is going to review it, can make it worse.
Each week we review the time logs for each team member for the week prior. The context is both a reminder to complete them and a request for integrity in our project budgets and invoicing. We cannot always remember what we did yesterday, let alone last week. So how do we strike the balance? We ask people to log time as it happens, which is not always possible as it seems less urgent than everything else we have on. As a result, we review everyone's logs on a Monday and the message we provide is consistent – if you are unsure what the time was, list it as non billable. Simple as that. That's how we find the balance.
You might think 'that sounds expensive, what about the margin?' Our response is that you cannot have a margin if you do not have a client. Integrity and client retention are more important than profit. I believe that this approach empowers our team, has them value themselves and their time and is the basis of balance and a supportive environment. One of our main values is ‘Put people first’.
Our vision is to be the agency of choice for the brightest minds in digital. This provides the context for all that we do. When reviewing how we could improve things for our team, it seemed natural to consider whether we could pay people every week. While it raised concerns about cash flow, we realised that invariably individuals face cash flow issues at times too. Could increasing the number of times people get paid actually make a difference? We surveyed the team and most said that it would. So we did.
We also moved payday to Monday to make Mondays great again and provide a positive start to the week.
The surprising fact has been that several team members have reported that weekly pays have provided a major positive impact on their finances as it has allowed them to focus on their finances more regularly. Some also reported that they relied less on credit as pay day was seemingly (or actually) always only a few days away. While others who have never had a budget, now report that they do. For several it took a few weeks to get used to, as several direct debits and spending habits needed to be adjusted. For others it didn't make that much difference, but they felt that overall it was a better experience as it was easier to manage finances on a weekly basis.
The fact that we do both time log reporting and payroll on a Monday is a coincidence. We moved payday to Monday to make Mondays great again and provide a positive start to the week. However, it is a coincidence that I like. We refuse to have billable targets for team members as it creates pressure to focus on numbers rather than on the client/project/team. So the request to complete time logs and being paid on the same day is a subtle link that I think is effective.
Personally I found it better as well, both in terms of my personal budgeting (have finally paid off my credit card) and the focus on reigning in aged debts to ensure we can afford payroll each week. Processing of payroll is also easier, as we now pay five days in arrears, rather than seven days in arrears and three days in advance (if there is sick leave on a day paid in advance, you have to go back and adjust it the next fortnight). Pro tip: remember when moving to weekly pay to halve any salary sacrifices that are automatically set up.
October happens to have five Mondays which equals five pay days. This may be a drain on our cash flow (particularly as Melbourne Cup week is notorious for low cash flow), but it will be positive cash flow for our team.
If payday is a happy day for most people, then 52 happy days are better than 26 and 26 are definitely better than 12. We have few opportunities to ensure people feel valued, paying people every week is the simplest thing (apart from thanking people every day) that you can do to positively impact your team. If your team is happy, your clients are bound to be. Double happiness (and hopefully double rainbows).
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