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A recent article in The Denver Post focused on the growing gap between living costs and average hourly pay in metro Denver. It painted a picture of what’s been a long-standing and recurrent struggle for the average working citizen: How to make ends meet. How to do something more than survive.The article cites a study out of the Colorado Fiscal Institute, which measured and evaluated the “stretch” average workers face in angling for a better quality of life.

And the results were startling.

A dishwasher in the metro area making the median of $9.17 an hour, for example, would have to work about 61 hours in a given week simply to attain to a “basic living”. Other employees in similar positions – cashiers, or even child care workers – were reportedly required to work 59 and 47 hours per week respectively, just to approach basic living standards.

It’s A Retention Issue. A Productivity Issue. A Humanity Issue.

It seems like a lofty task – to do something about the growing gap. But we have some definite and valuable suggestions. And the first is right in line with the issue at hand:

Avoid Minimum Wage

Pay rates are only one feature of a comprehensive – and wholly healthy – workplace culture. But they’re a big feature. They speak to your commitment to your talent, to your investment in their lives (and of course, to the business you do together).

Consider what offering the minimum wage communicates to your employees. That you’re only interested in paying your talent the bare, legal minimum for the work they do every day. Even worse – it may appear (even implicitly) that if the company could get away with offering any less than the lowest, it would.

The wages you offer should be deliberate, considerate, and talent-focused.

Talk About the Future

Your employees are people. They have the same dreams and aspirations you have. They want to mature, to grow, to be promoted and to keep on growing.

One of the most effective initiatives for fostering a rich working environment is to facilitate an accessible internal dialogue about the opportunities available in your organization. Whenever possible – promote from within. People want to feel a part of, not apart from.

Recognize Your Talent

Deliberate wages do a lot to demonstrate your appreciation. But there’s more to do – and it’s not all monetary.

Systems for recognition and reward do wonders for loyalty and morale. Team-building activities or peer-submitted “employee of the month” campaigns are a time-tested staple in binding the ties of a professional family atmosphere.

Rewards can be as simple as an office potluck, or winning a parking spot for a month.

Participate

Healthy companies are citizens in their own right. It’s always a good idea to give back to your community, or to participate in any local or community initiatives (insomuch as it’s possible and sensible). Even electing to take part in your community’s emergency response initiatives promotes a sense of relationship.

Allow and encourage your employees to take part in corporate-to-community activities. It promotes purpose, and a sense of professional dignity more substantial than working “the grind” for a weekly check.

Be Concerned, Be Pro-Active, And Be Authentic.

Lowering turnover and making a real difference requires real, authentic initiative. Your talent-focused efforts should be valid, pro-active and sincere.

So work with your employees like the vital assets they really are. It makes the difference in morale and in their quality of life. And that mean’s loyalty, productivity, and retention.

Read the full Denver Post Article here.