Happy Monday! Were you excited and ready for work today? Was the weekend long enough? I keep hearing from people that they are putting in more effort and longer hours than ever before. Workloads are increasing, but companies aren’t hiring. We all know that overworking employees leads to progressively diminishing returns.  But, when is more work simply too much?

Compensation professionals are always working on the next salary increase and bonus pools. We fret over the most advantageous way to allocate these precious funds while keeping our employees productive and engaged. Perhaps we should step back and ask ourselves if we are spending our money on the right people. Maybe it’s time to hire a few more people rather than paying more to our increasingly thin and exhausted teams. Can we, and should we, really try to squeeze out a bit more work?

Imagine workload as a series of stones ranging from small to inconceivably large and heavy. With basic motivation most people will choose to pick up a small or medium stone. Combining the motivation of good pay and the potential risk of job loss can get the majority to strain to pick up the heaviest rock they can. What if the next one is even heavier? What if it’s simply too heavy to lift?

Many of us may already be at this point. We may be asking people to do more work, at a higher quality, than is physically or mentally possible. They may be able to lift the load once or twice, but not on a consistent basis. If this is the case more pay will not fix the problem. The only way to lift the rock is to bring in help.

We may forget that many people have been performing at the edge of their capacity for a long time. Even the best employees will succumb to exhaustion. Corners will be cut. Small tasks will be avoided. Random steps in critical processes will be skipped. Nothing will be immediately noticeable, but the results will accumulate. Unexpected things will start going wrong. Your best employees will trickle away to competitors and your worst employees will simply throw their hands up or choose smaller rocks to lift.

Now is the time to start addressing the number of staff members you should be paying, rather than the amount each person is paid. Instead of adding a few more dollars to everyone’s pay, add a few people to every team. You may need to ask your executives to step up and make a “donation.” In many industries executive pay has recovered. In some industries it even exceeds pre-crash levels. Explain how dollars spent augmenting your staff today will result in better compensation for everyone tomorrow. This is seldom a fun or enjoyable conversation, but it beats the alternative.

Sometimes the stone is too heavy for all the money in the world. If you’re already there, you need to act now.

Executive Pay and the Emperor's New Clothes

Offer the World First and Money Second. "Small Company, Big World"