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Working hard doesn't guarantee you a job anymore

PBy Carol Kleiman

Chicago Tribune

Working hard: If you grew up believing that if you worked hard your job tenure would be safe for a lifetime, you may want to revisit that philosophy: Being diligent may not be enough.

"Workers in all pay ranges and ages will bear the brunt of cuts if their capacity to fulfill their jobs has not kept pace with market conditions," said Bob Megargel of Bellevue, Wash., owner with his wife, Val, of a Merry Maids home cleaning franchise and a Home Instead Senior Care franchise.

The businesses employ 100 people.

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Megargel, who has a bachelor's degree in business administration, says that "many employees I've worked with throughout the years never thought it necessary to continue their education after high school or college. They fail to realize that to prosper in a rapidly changing business environment they have to learn the skills necessary to adapt."

The business owner praises "doctors, accountants and attorneys who learn more about their professions and continually reinvent themselves." And that, Megargel says, is what employees must also do.

"Companies need more than someone who 'works hard,"' he said. "They need employees who can think, design and innovate."

His conclusion: "Hard work alone isn't good enough anymore!"

My conclusion: But it's still a good start.

The payoff: Variable pay is a monetary bonus based on your achievements that is given on a one-time basis and doesn't increase your basic yearly salary. And when companies first started offering it, employees weren't that enthusiastic: They wanted a raise, a higher annual salary.

But more recently, with pay increases that are low, employees are enthusiastic about getting any extra money.

Yet, according to Hewitt Associates, a global human resources consulting and outsourcing firm based in Lincolnshire, Ill., "although 80 percent of 111 organizations surveyed nationwide offer broad-based variable pay ... not all are reaping the full value of these programs."

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The firm reports that in fact "41 percent of companies with single-digit revenue growth said the cost of their variable pay programs outweighs the benefits." Additionally, 25 percent of these firms said variable pay did not improve business results, and 26 percent said they actually led to adverse results.

Is variable pay in danger of disappearing? Probably not. Especially since, according to Paul Shafer, a senior consultant for Hewitt, employers "are spending more than $54 million a year on this type of pay."

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