Memo to Management

The case for over-paying

My son is being recruited by a huge global company. You’ve heard of it, for sure.

In his first interview, he was asked his salary at his current job, and he answered honestly. He was told that figure was “at the lowest end” of the position for which he was being recruited.

In his second interview, when asked, he told them a salary figure he wouldn’t turn down.

A couple of days later, this guy called my son and offered him a job — at $5,000 less than his current salary. When the offer was politely rejected, the guy seemed surprised, and said he was “going to HR to find the best package he could get.”

Years ago, at KIMN, our best air talent was offered a job at a competitor station.

He handled it professionally. He was courteous enough to be honest about the offer, and also honest about what it would take to keep him at KIMN.

Our company, knowing the number he had given, deliberately came back with an offer $2000 less than he wanted.

Our talent left, and joined our competitor. It wasn’t the money, he explained, it was the principle.

Two stories from two totally different industries…

What possible good can come out of this kind of management behavior?

Why would you want to hire someone, or keep someone you value, whom, by your actions and decisions, you have already demotivated?

Don’t you want every new hire walking into your building feeling like s/he landed the best job on earth? Don’t you want them to feel special and appreciated as they never were at any previous employer? Isn’t that to your benefit?

I learned a valuable lesson from the loss of my key talent at KIMN. From that point on, I over-paid for the talent I really wanted.

If I knew they were making $100,000 and wanted $125,000 — I would find a way to offer them $130,000.

They always felt like they got the best deal. They felt wanted, needed.

Once, one of my clients, staffing a new station, told me to get them the “best talent available” for each daypart, even for their Creative Services/Production Director. When I told the GM what I thought it would take to get “the best,” she said she would find a way to make it work financially, and she did. They “over-paid” each talented person they hired.

That station had it all: a great GM, a brilliant PD, the best radio staff in America, with great air talent in every daypart, even over-nights and weekends! It doesn’t seem possible from today’s perspective, does it?

They went on to force an established competitor out of the market, become ranked #1 25-54 and dominate the ratings for a decade.

You say these are different times, and indeed they are.

But the psychology of hiring and motivating employees is not different.

You want each employee and new hire, no matter what they do, to feel wanted, to feel unique.

So, Bob Pittman, Dan Mason, David Field, Peter Smythe…

I hope, somehow, you see this, and realize the value in over-paying. The numbers aren’t as important as the psychology. I understand that the available dollars in each market have been drastically cut over the past 2-3 years. The pool is more shallow. I get that.

But I think you know the truth in what I’m saying, and I hope you find a way to make each employee of your company feel wanted over any other candidate.

It’s actually good business.