3 strategies for negotiating salaries after minimum wage hikes

wage feud business

As plans to increase the minimum wage surge ahead in states such as New York and California, operators eventually will feel the reverberations shake up labor costs for more than just hourly workers. As associate wages gain on manager salaries, operators will have to answer a call for reciprocal increases. FSD spoke with operators who advised going gently into the brave new world of heightened labor costs, investing in talent and making cuts elsewhere; however, they did offer three perfectly proactive tactics to make the process as seamless as possible.

1. Keep talking

Even though operators are required to post the regulations, that doesn’t mean staff will understand them; so offer a wealth of information about the facts of minimum wage laws. Michael Osborne, dining services supervisor for manufacturer Corning Inc. in Corning, N.Y., says staff often receives misinformation about the laws and to whom the rules apply, so it’s important for directors to be informed and accessible. “You have to constantly communicate,” Osborne says. “That information is powerful, and if they understand what it is and why it is, they buy in better.”

2. Plan ahead

When planning for the fiscal year ahead, include foreseen wage increases not only for hourly staff, but across the workforce as a whole. As culinary and nutrition services’ business manager for Minneapolis Public Schools, Michele Carroll negotiates contracts every two years with a union, which gives her team time to create an action plan. “If I knew that increase to hourly rates was coming, I would definitely account for that in my budget, and budget all other salaries to increase at the same proportion,” Carroll says.

3. Don’t be stingy

Treat salary negotiation as a mighty retention tool. “To achieve operational excellence, we need to be prepared to offer competitive wages to attract the most desirable employees,” says Joe Urban, director of food and nutrition services at Greenville County Schools in South Carolina. Urban says biting the bullet and investing in your people helps manage food, labor and supply costs; employee turnover; and HR issues. “All of these areas reduce operational expenses and far outweigh the cost of paying operators a competitive salary,” he says.  

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