The Case For Paying Employees for Extra Work

Over the last several years it has become commonplace for management to ask their full-time employees to work more hours. With the adoption of cloud software and ease at which employees can now login and work from anywhere, the new normal seems to have become a 60-hour work week.

With a mounting fear of burnout, and the reality that working too many hours will lead to a decrease in the quality of work, companies are seeking alternative solutions to motivating employees to work longer hours. Doug Wilson, CEO of the Chicago-based Breakthrough Technologies, and his leadership team came up with a novel solution to motivate their employees to want to work overtime -- pay them to work more hours.

At Breakthrough Technologies this program is called Planned Staffing Shortfall or PSS for short. I interviewed Doug to find out how this program works and how any business can apply these techniques.

How does Planned Staffing Shortfall or PSS work?

Doug Wilson: When we have a project that is going to require 40 extra hours of work over the next month, we offer employees the opportunity to accept the project and get paid hourly above and beyond their normal pay. People can engage as partners with us and make decisions that have an effect on their lives. Employees are asked if they would like the extra work and they can say yes or they can choose to opt-out if they are having a tough week, or, say, getting married in a few weeks. There is no penalty for [saying no] and no stigma connected to that decision. They sign an agreement with us and we pay them hourly for the extra hours.

If another business was looking to create a similar program, what should they be thinking about before they start offering PSS?

Doug Wilson: Project management is so important. About two and a half years ago we really started to improve our project management capabilities. We began using all kinds of tools to become a better-organized company. What we found was now that we had all this information about our projects, we could do something with it. We looked at a project on July 1 and said, “We need more hours in August to complete this project.” With that knowledge, I can approach my staff and tell them we have a shortfall in staffing hours and give them the option to take those extra hours. You can imagine without those insights this project doesn’t work. You need to have your project management really organized.

What if you really need something done last minute. Are you stuck if no employees are willing to take the work?

Doug Wilson: Of course not. If we need someone to work we can still tell our employees that they need to stay and work those hours. Since our employees don’t think that we are going to work them ‘til they quit, they are more willing to work the extra hours if we need them to.

What has been your biggest learning experience or something that surprised you about this program?

Doug Wilson: The biggest challenge has been educating people. Even though they get trained on it when they start, oftentimes we have to remind them the extra hours are something they can choose to take.

For Breakthrough Technologies it is clear: Pay your employees for the hours they work, above and beyond their expected 40 hours, and you will reap mountains of benefits in creativity, productivity and retention. By giving people the option to choose their overtime, you have empowered them to take ownership of their position and projects -- something every employee needs.

Jabez LeBret is the author of the Amazon No. 1 bestselling law office marketing book How to Turn Clicks Into Clients. As a partner at Get Noticed Get Found, a legal marketing agency, over the last nine years he has delivered over 800 keynote addresses in six countries. His main area of expertise is managing Gen Y in the workplace, advanced Facebook strategies, LinkedIn strategies, Google+, SEO, local directory optimization, and online marketing.

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