The term “wage floor” refers to the minimum entry-level salary for a position at a company. When we established our wage floor at Agendrix, this decision worked smoothly with the various roles at our company. Until we hired an administrative officer.
A conversation with Sébastien Charland, our Director of Finance and one of the fervent proponents of progressive working conditions at Agendrix. 🦸🏻
Where did the idea of a wage floor come from?
Two years ago, we set our first strategic objectives for Agendrix, from a revenue, product and HR standpoint. One of our missions was to leverage our passion to build the best tech-company culture in the Eastern Townships. 🔥
To achieve our goal, we had to make it measurable. But how do you measure a good corporate culture? We set up quantifiable perks that aligned with our values and that we could enhance over time.
A 35-hour work week. Four weeks of vacation per year from the first year of employment. Wellness days and more holidays than recommended by the CNESST. Group insurance competitive with that of big companies. Budgets to encourage exercise and an ergonomic work environment. Group RRSP program.
While all these benefits were very nice, there was a problem: salary also had to be part of the equation. An employee who can’t make ends meet will be unable to enjoy life to the fullest, even if they have the time to do so.
How did you find the sweet spot?
Our figure of $50,000 was no accident. When I started my career, some of my friends were only making about $40,000 a year or less. Even with a college degree! They were struggling to pay the bills. The situation was even more discouraging when I helped them draw up a budget. 💸
A few years later, we brought in a financial planner at Agendrix for an internal talk.
He literally said that if any of our employees was making under $50,000, it wasn’t worth trying to maximize an RRSP or pursuing any other savings strategy. Instead, their focus should be on our budget, and our budget only. I found this surprising and demotivating.
Fortunately, this was not the case for any of our employees. But from that moment on, it became very clear that $50,000 should become the wage floor at Agendrix so that our team can really take advantage of the perks we offer.
Our vision at Agendrix is to build a world where every worker feels valued and is able to lead a balanced life. It is a point of entrepreneurial pride for us to be able to offer a guaranteed minimum income thanks to our wage floor.
So, what was all the internal debate about the administrative officer position?
At the time the administrative officer position was created, our working conditions had evolved significantly—including with our 35-hour work week.
We had never had a comparable role on our team before. After some research, we found the median salary for this type of position to be $37,000.
Is it possible to inspire more people-centred management at work when some of our employees may be struggling to pay the bills?
We ultimately concluded that this benchmark is an indicator—not an absolute. Like any indicator, it can be ignored when it doesn’t make sense in context. This helped close our internal debate.
What impact do you anticipate for Agendrix with this statement?
When you make this kind of decision, it’s because you believe you can and want to have a positive impact. For our company, the impact was on the lives of our employees, on the image of Agendrix, and even on the job market, more broadly speaking. Our focus is on more people-centred management, and allowing people to be financially comfortable seems to be a one step in this direction.
Of course, money can’t buy happiness. But lacking the money you need is definitely a detriment. A good corporate culture requires a salary that gives employees financial peace of mind.
Do you see any risks?
Nothing ventured, nothing gained! Some people might think that we blindly pay people a lot of money—that we’re too pro-employee, and not sufficiently pro-business. That we will attract candidates who observe the law of least effort.
But it’s exactly the opposite. With our conditions, we strive to attract talented and successful people. At Agendrix, everyone gives it their all! We view Agendrix as a sports team of sorts. Everyone contributes their own strengths, and together we raise the bar. 🚀
So how do you avoid attracting people who will be incompetent or a bad fit? It’s all about making sure you have a robust recruitment and onboarding process. We take the time to choose the right candidates. We can’t completely eliminate the risk of hiring people who won’t fit—but we’re able to greatly minimize it.
What are the opportunities?
The bet we’re making is that it is worth investing in a strategy to improve everyone’s life in the long term. We offer peace of mind and well-being, as a token of our trust. Our team reciprocates by taking us further.
We have the receipts to prove how well this works. Even in a labor shortage context, we manage to receive nearly 80 applications when we post certain positions. And our ratio of qualified candidates is often over 10%. Seems to me we’re doing something right!
Another one of our tactics is to post salaries in our job listings. I find it bewildering that in 2022, it’s still taboo to talk about the salary in a job posting. Recruiters: if the salary is so competitive, why isn’t it listed?
Would a wage floor be viable for other industries?
Not all companies can afford a wage floor like ours, and we are aware of this.
But if our approach can influence even one merchant or manager to improve their working conditions, it will be mission accomplished for us. If we can get the world of work to rethink the minimum wage, revisit baseline conditions, and be more concerned about wellness, even better!
A solution to the labor shortage?
Labor shortages are a major issue these days. And in our opinion, they are poised to become our new reality. We must adapt and evolve.
In the restaurant industry, for example, some have started to adopt tip pooling to help better share tips. However, when everyone is treated equally, this can limit the potential of high-performing servers. More often than not, the top servers will leave, and the talent will level down.
Floor wages have increased drastically for cooks lately, up to $25-30 per hour. Restaurant owners must obviously adjust their prices. But this also makes it possible to leave all the tips to the waitstaff.
The top servers are satisfied and offer better service. This can boost sales, satisfaction and customer loyalty. It’s an example of win-win and how to better distribute wealth.
Work should at best contribute to happiness, and at the least not harm it. Work to live, rather than living to work.
The same principle applies to us at Agendrix: by raising salaries, we redistribute the wealth rather than making exponential profits that only benefit our shareholders. We invest this money in our people. After all, they are our greatest asset.