Companies & Industries

When Do You Deserve Extra Pay?


Training other employees may not be part of your job description, but it is part of your job responsibility if your boss asks you to do it

Dear Liz,

I have been in my job for about a year and generally like it. However, more and more often my manager has turned to me to train the new employees, and that doesn't feel right to me. Isn't that her job? I have a lot of knowledge about our processes in this company and lots more knowledge about the subject area I'm teaching to these newcomers, collected over several years working for other companies. If I'm passing that along to this employer's newcomers, shouldn't I be compensated for that? What is your view?

Thanks,

Darrell

Dear Darrell,

There is a subset of workplace responsibilities about which the question "Shouldn't I be paid extra for this?" typically comes up. Out-of-town travel is one. On-call availability is another—and, depending on your job title and description, there are laws that cover who must be paid (BusinessWeek, 10/01/07), and how, for on-call situations. A third category is employee training. Lots of people feel that they should be compensated for passing along their knowledge, above and beyond whatever they're paid for doing their regular, nontraining job. So I can understand where your question comes from.

As you probably know, the company gets to set wages, and if the wages meet the minimum wage laws and satisfy other wage-related regulations, like the Fair Labor Standards Act, then the company has a lot of latitude in deciding how much to pay its team members. (The Fair Labor Standards Act is the one that designates which employees must be paid hourly wages vs. a regular salary—although it covers a lot more ground than that.) In fact, supervisors themselves don't have to be paid more than the employees they supervise, strictly speaking. Most companies, of course, do pay supervisors more than other folks, so they can attract and retain talented supervisors. But it isn't required by law. And companies don't have to pay employees who train other employees a penny more than the folks they are training. It's a question of supply and demand.

Like Any Other Assignment

If you're asking whether, apart from what the law requires, I think employers should pay folks who train newbies more than folks who don't, I'll tell you, though I fear I may disappoint you. I don't think that training other employees is any different, as job assignments go, than creating a report, launching a new product, designing a marketing project, or editing a user manual. It's work that the company needs to have performed. I must admit that I can't agree that sharing one's knowledge with another employee is work that should be compensated any differently than any other kind of work that we do. Some people like to do training, and some hate it. So there could be job-satisfaction issues for you that would make you feel, "If I were getting paid extra for this, I could stand it."

You should definitely bring up the topic with your manager. Ask him or her what the future looks like, training-wise. Will this become a regular part of your job? If it will, and if you hate doing it or resent sharing what you know, then maybe you can suggest an alternate plan—sharing the training responsibilities among several of your colleagues so the burden doesn't fall just on you, for instance. If you love the training work but would like to see a career/salary improvement path in it, ask your boss about that. Starting a conversation is the first step. An easy conversation starter is the question, "So Jane, I notice I've been doing a lot of new-employee training lately, and I wonder what you're thinking about those responsibilities over the longer term. Do you see me becoming more of a regular trainer?" That should get you started.

Cheers,

Liz

Liz Ryan writes her "Career Insight" column and answers readers' questions every week at www.businessweek.com/managing/. She is an expert on the new-millennium workplace and a former Fortune 500 HR executive.

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