I watched the tv programme Show Me Your Money on Channel 4 one evening. It was a documentary about the pay strategy (or lack of it!) of Pimlico Plumbers in London. The company was established in 1979 and over the years, the attitude to pay and reward has been haphazard to say the least! In the words of the MD, if someone looked like a good worker, they’d pay him or her more. If he or she looked like a lazy b*stard, they got paid less. Hmm, a fair system in other words – not.
The end result was a complete mess. The MD’s solution was to ask everyone to reveal their salaries to each other. Having done that, those who were paid more than their colleagues would then voluntarily give up some of their salaries to help them out. Or so the theory went.
I’m not sure if Charlie the MD had really thought this strategy through or if it was a case of “wing it and see what happens – it’ll still make good telly”. In essence, he and the company had created a problem for their employees and yet he looked to the employees themselves to fix it. Genius.
Although a number of employees went through stages of feeling disgruntled, annoyed and generally unappreciated, they still managed to sort out the situation to satisfy the majority. Some people did in fact agree to give up part of their salaries which was quite amazing when you think of it. They didn’t have to do it but for whatever reason, they agreed to it. The team of mechanics used their initiative and came up with £31,000 of cost savings rather than have any member of their team take a cut in their salary. The MD was suitably impressed as they covered the costs of the salary adjustments with some funds left over for training.
I’d have liked to have seen the programme come with one of those “please don’t try this at home” warnings, mainly because I wouldn’t be at all surprised if other employers are thinking about doing something similar. It’s an attractive thought – let everyone in your business find out exactly how subjective and arbitrary you’ve been with their pay and even better, let them sort it out amongst themselves. You don’t have to take responsibility for your own failings and you come out smelling of roses. AND it makes for great telly.
I’m all for transparency in salaries but I’d have preferred to see a structured approach to looking at discrepancies amongst teams and a way for the company to take responsibility for sorting out a situation that they created. Or is it just me?