The February ethics question asked what constitutes "fair" working relationships between employees and their companies -- especially in the area of obligation to employees.
It referred to the American Geological Institute's recently released suggested set of ethical guidelines, which said (under the heading of "Employees") "Geoscientists should treat their employees with respect and trust with concern for their well-being, provide an acceptably safe and congenial working environment and fair compensation.
"They should properly acknowledge employees' professional contributions and should encourage professional career development."
This led to the questions of the month:
What does "fair compensation" mean to you?
How does an employer meet this olidgation during a downsizing?
What constitutes reasonable encouragement of professional development?
Traditionally, compensation has been viewed as the amount of base pay (salary) an employee receives. AAPG annually publishes salary surveys (see page 52) that enable members to judge where they reside in relationship to their peers. The annual survey lists pay scale factors such as years of experience, geological degree (BS, MS, Ph.D.), and size of firm as categories that members can examine.
Companies determine pay levels from a combination of factors. The main factor is the company's ability to pay based on its current or projected business performance or profitability. Another factor is the competitive rates of pay for firms of similar size within the industry.
"Fair compensation" could be considered to be compensation somewhere close to the average pay for the various categories listed in the survey.
Another way to view compensation is the total benefit one receives by employment, both tangible and intangible.
In other words, it is more than just the paycheck the employee receives -- the "total compensation" concept includes the benefits package available to the employee and their families and also the work environment. The total package includes leave, health and welfare, and retirement benefits. The total package varies from company to company.
The work environment also varies from company to company. A desirable work environment is one that is committed to work/life balance, safe working conditions, ethical business conduct, open communications, fair treatment and diversity.
In times of downsizing, employers may -- and we hope, will -- offer outplacement center services and reasonable severance packages. These packages differ greatly from employer to employer. I have heard stories of some individuals who when "severed" did not receive anything for their years of service! On the other hand, the packages currently offered by major companies appear to be fair.
(However, is anything fair about getting fired?)
Reasonable encouragement of professional development is an environment that allows for continuous learning opportunities both inside and outside the company.
Learning opportunities can take many forms, such as:
- On-the-job training.
- In-house schools.
- Professional society short courses.
- Conventions and technical conferences.
- Society luncheons.
- Field trips.
An environment that encourages participation in these activities is beneficial to both the company and the employee.