Craig Hume, director at Utopia Computers, asks: how much do you value your staff and talent?
In September last year, one of Utopia’s team turned 21. He had been with us for around six months and had proven himself to be a more than capable individual. We had, by default, paid him the minimum wage. At this time the minimum wage for a 20 year old was £5.03, meaning he was going to move up to £6.50 per hour in October.
It was at this point I considered, why was it that this team member is worth any more to me today than he was yesterday when he was only 20? The truth was that he was worth more to me than the £6.50 the government was now suggesting we pay him. Then it struck me, what was I really saying to my team by paying them the minimum wage? In hindsight, I was saying that they were worth no more than the minimum to me, and if I could get away with paying them less I would. Whereas in reality, this could not have been further from the truth - he was certainly worth more than that.
Going on at the same time was the Scottish Referendum. People were shouting out for the government to give answers and pull people in Scotland out of poverty. It was this combination of circumstances that drove me to thinking, perhaps a large part of this puzzle was that profitable companies should step up to the mark and reward their teams for the hard work that they are putting in?
Having looked at the numbers with Utopia accounts manager, Katherine, my fellow director Mark and I decided that the Living Wage was the way to go for the company. We arranged an appointment with our accountant to make it official. Interestingly, she told me that my proposed pay rises would hit Mark and I’s dividends and that she would probably advise against going down this route.
We took her feedback on board, but decided against it, and in October 2014 Utopia became Scotland's first computer manufacturer to become Living Wage accredited and the very first company in Ayrshire to do so. The experience has been a great one. It has taken my team and I on a journey that we would never have been able to predict.
We now have much closer ties with national politics, we have hit the local, national and television press, our customers comment almost every day about how great it is that we are a looking after our team and importantly there is a great vibe at Utopia. The team are buzzing and it has to do with the fact that they know they are being paid a fair wage for a career that they are passionate about.
It has to be said that I don’t believe the Living Wage should be compulsory. I think there are plenty of businesses out there that have just started up, or are perhaps going through a transitional period, and in turn can’t afford to reward their teams in this way. I do however think that there are plenty of companies who are paying the individuals at the top a premium, and could afford to spread that wealth through the ranks.
For Utopia, since implementing the Living Wage, we have seen increased productivity, our entire team is happier in their roles and importantly in their day-to-day lives. Three of the younger members of the team are now thinking of moving onto the property ladder and importantly they know that Utopia values them, meaning we should be able to continue our fantastic staff retention.
So I end by asking you this: how much do you value your staff and talent? How much do you pay them and why? For those of you who already pay your teams over the minimum wage, think about becoming Living Wage accredited. The process is quite straightforward and the more people that hear about the Living Wage, the more pressure and focus there will be on profitable companies to step up to the mark, and finally start doing their part for our society.
If anyone wants to know more about Utopia’s experience, feel free to get in touch. I am passionate about poverty eradication and welcome any opportunity to discuss this further.
About the author
Craig Hume is director at Utopia Computers.