The shift to remote work during COVID-19 makes it tempting to pay some people less because of their location, but that strategy could backfire

In his monthly column for BCBusiness, Richmond-based employee engagement and internal brand communications expert Ben Baker shares his insights into how to communicate value effectively within an organization, so people want to listen and engage. In the end, it’s about developing leaders who can create influence through trust.

At the start of the year, working from home was considered a luxury for the privileged few. COVID-19 changed that. The pandemic created both a catalyst and an environment where convention got thrown out the window and technological innovation came to the forefront, enabling remote workforces to be productive and even thrive.

We can all agree that the new reality isn’t perfect, that there will be challenges and mistakes along the way. However, the genie is out of the bottle, and bringing everyone back to their desks in one place probably won’t happen.

With that in mind, companies are asking what’s next. If employees don’t have to all be in the same location, and if we can manage them remotely, what does that mean for our workforce? All of a sudden, geography doesn’t matter. Where people are has little to do with their value, so businesses are starting to look at how they can take full advantage of a large unemployed talent pool.

A recent CTV News story talks about Facebook and other companies moving to higher and lower pay for remote workers, depending on where they live. If this becomes the norm, I believe it will push employers to go bargain-hunting for staff rather than recruit and develop the best and the brightest.

The basic idea: if an employee working from home is based somewhere with lower living or labour costs, we should be able to offer them less money for the same position and boost the bottom line.

This is a dangerous way of thinking.

Yes, it will save the company money in the short term, but I’d argue that it could cost them far more in the long run.

People know their value, or at least they should. In today’s business world, information about the average wage for any job is a few mouse clicks away. No matter where she resides, a programmer knows the salary range she should expect, based on her experience, coding languages and industry. She doesn’t think she’s worth less money because she lives in Smithers and not downtown Vancouver.

People are worth what they bring to the table, period. In this new economy, skill, experience and ability to perform, not geography, should determine your salary.

If a company pays someone less because of where they live, it’s setting itself up for failure. Why would anyone be loyal to you and give you their best work if they think you’re underpaying them? Why would they stay with you, and why would they tell their friends, who might also be exceptional at what they do, to come work for you?

Now is not the time to go looking for bargain employees; this is the time to level up.

Look for the best employees you can find, no matter where they are, and pay them what they’re worth to take your brand to the next level. Now is the time to invest in your people. If you do that, they’ll invest in you and your clients.

Here’s wishing everyone health, safety and long-term success.

Connect with Ben here to discuss how to provide your people with the skills and mindset they need to lead teams effectively into the new normal.